The $10m Question: 9 Facts about Poker's Biggest Money Winners

jamie gold 3207
The answer to most of the questions.

How many players do you think have won more than $1 million in live poker tournaments over the past 40 years?

A couple dozen? A couple hundred?

The truth is the number is 1,385 different poker players. That's quite a flabbergasting figure.

There are towns in the world with fewer inhabitants than there are poker players that have hit the magical $1m mark.

These days, though, just hitting the milly-mark isn’t enough to "be someone" in the poker world.

To be in the crème de la crème of that big group of the biggest winners (and presumably the best players), you need to aim a little higher.

Welcome to the $10m Club

We've set the benchmark for this article at 10x the $1m mark: AKA the 10 Million Dollar Club.

Erik Seidel
Opposite of one-hit wonder.

The number of players that have accomplished this feat is considerably smaller.

In fact only 43 have managed to surpass the $10m mark in their live careers and most of them are considered the biggest stars in the poker world.

Still, we had questions.

Who was the first $10m winner? Who won the most in the shortest time frame?

Who's the most consistent player? Who are the One-Hit Wonders?

While “Jamie Gold” is the correct answer to almost all of those questions, we'll get into way more detail with the following 9 facts about the biggest poker winners in history. 

1. Where Do $10m Winners Come From?

Poker was and is a very American game. While Europe, Asia and South America are slowly catching up, most of the big poker winners hail from the US.

A full 27 of the 43 players (62.7%) that have made more than $10m come from the US. Only three other nationalities are featured more than once in this club: Canada, Germany and (maybe a bit surprisingly) Denmark.

The Canadians have the privilege of holding the top spot on the All Time Money List with Daniel Negreanu, who has cashed for the stupendous amount of over $32m in his career.

The two Danish players, by the way, are Main Event winner Peter Eastgate and currently retired triple WPT champion Gus Hansen.

Nationalities

2. Who Were the First to Reach Eight Digits?

It wasn't until 2006 that the first player breached the eight-digit barrier and it was, of course, no less a figure than Jamie Gold.

Gold won the biggest WSOP Main Event of all time and took home $12m to skyrocket him right to the top of the All Time Money List.

Joseph Hachem
Hachem second over the line.

The next player to reach $10m was Joe Hachem, also in 2006.

Hachem won the WSOP Main Event in 2005 for $7.5 million and surpassed the eight-digit mark when he won the WPT Five Diamond Classic in December of 2006.

For over a year those two were alone in the $10m club but in 2008 Phil Hellmuth and Phil Ivey both joined them.

Incidentally, they managed to do so in the very same tournament - the 2008 LAPC Main Event - which Ivey won. Hellmuth finished 6th.

Later that same year Allan Cunningham and Daniel Negreanu also piled in to the $10m club.

Eight years later the club has lost some of it's exclusivity, with 43 players now and more joining the list every month it seems.

The newest three members - Philipp Gruissem, Ole Schemion and Dan Smith - joined less than a month ago as all surpassed the $10m mark during the EPT Grand Final in Monaco.

Chart Jamie Gold

3. Who's Won More than $10m in One Tournament?

Antonio Esfandiari

While some players needed hundreds of cashes over dozens of years to accumulate more than $10m winnings, other players made that much in just one tournament.

Huge Main Events, High Roller and Super High Roller tourneys made this possible.

Five times a player has scooped $10m+ in a single tournament. One of them didn't even have to win the tourney to get there.

These are the five highest payouts in poker tournaments so far:

  • July 2012: Antonio Esfandiari – WSOP $1m One Drop – $18,346,673
  • June 2014: Dan Colman – WSOP $1m One Drop – $15,306,668
  • July 2006: Jamie Gold – WSOP Main Event – $12,000,000
  • July 2012: Sam Trickett – WSOP $1m One Drop (2nd place) – $10,112,001
  • July 2014: Martin Jacobson – WSOP Main Event – $10,000,000

The relevant date for our statistics is the first day of the tournament, not the last. That's why Jacobson's winnings are attributed to July (start of the ME 2014) and not November (November 9).

Chart Martin Jacobson

4. Who's Been at the Top?

So far five different players were at the top of the All Time Money List while having more than $10m in live cashes.

Erik Seidel
Once and future king

The first was obviously Jamie Gold, who took the spot after winning the Main Event in 2006 for $12m.

He held top spot for roughly three years and, believe it or not, after the UIGEA happened and WSOP numbers declined in 2007, people thought he might keep the spot forever.

Boy, were they wrong. In 2009 Phil Ivey eventually surpassed Gold  and battled with Daniel Negreanu for the top spot for almost two years.

Then, a 51-year-old high roller took the top spot: Erik Seidel. He held that spot until Antonio Esfandiari shot up by winning the mind-boggling $18m in the first-ever $1m One Drop event during the 2012 WSOP.

Esfandiari was also the first player to surpass $20m in lifetime winnings. But as staggering as Esfandiari's winnings might have been, he only held the top spot for two years.

Then Negreanu returned to the top once more after he finished 2nd in the second $1m One Drop event in 2014 for more than $8m. Shortly afterwards Negreanu also became the first (and so far only) player to surpass the $30m mark.

Timeframe - Top Spot on All Time Money List:

5. Who's Made Millions More Than Once?

What's a good tourney result for you? 100 bucks? $1,000? $50,000?

Phil Ivey
6x a million $ winner.

The 43 players were talking about in this article won at least $1m 122 times if you combine their results.

Two of them, Ivey and Negreanu, have scored seven-digit prizes on 6(!) different occasions.

And only two players have managed to make $10m lifetime without a single $1m cash.

Players in the $10m Club with the most (and least) $1m+ wins:

  • 6 – Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey
  • 5 – Dan Colman, Sam Trickett, Scott Seiver, Michael Mizrachi, Mike McDonald, Tom Marchese
  • 4 – Brian Rast, Dan Smith, Tobias Reinkemeier, Gus Hansen, Ole Schemion
  • 0 – T.J. Cloutier, Men Nguyen
Chart Daniel Negreanu

6. Who's the Fastest (and Slowest) to $10m?

We know Jamie Gold was the fist to reach the $10m mark, but was he also the fastest? For this stat we looked at the time it took the players from their first recorded live result until they surpassed the $10m mark.

T.J. Cloutier
And then there's TJ Cloutier.

As it turns out, Gold indeed was the fastest. By a landslide. It took him only 1.33 years to go from his first live cash to double-digit million winnings. The Main Event, which netted him $12m, was only the 10th event he ever cashed in.

No other poker player made eight digits that quickly. Danish Main Event winner Peter Eastgate was also quite fast, but it took him almost twice as long as Gold to go from zero to $10m - 2.5 years.

All other players played for at least five years before hitting $10m. Poker legends like Phil Hellmuth and Erik Seidel played more than 20 years before making eight digits in tournaments.

They, of course, started playing back in the 80s when even WSOP Main Event winners took home less than $1m.

And then there is T.J. Cloutier. He started playing tournaments in 1983 and it took him 307 cashes and more than 30 years before he finally crawled over the $10m line.

Apparently, slow and steady also wins the race in poker. Fittingly enough it was a $400 tourney in July 2013 where he finished 35th and min cashed which pushed Cloutier over the $10m line.

The fastest and slowest double-digit millionaires:

  • 1y 102d: Jamie Gold ( Apr 05 - Jul 06, 10 results before reaching $10m)
  • 2y 180d: Peter Eastgate ( Apr 07 - Oct 09, 14 results)
  • 5y 10d: Joe Cada ( Jun 09 - Jun 14, 19 results)
  • 5y 22d: Ole Schemion ( Apr 11 - Apr 16, 67 results)
  • 5y 54d: Sam Trickett ( May 07 - Jul 12, 45 results)
  • 17y 61d: Scotty Nguyen ( Nov 91 - Jan 09, 248 results)
  • 20y 125d: Phil Hellmuth ( Oct 87 - Feb 08, 195 results)
  • 21y 313d: Erik Seidel ( May 88 - Mar 10, 165 results)
  • 22y 234d: Men Nguyen ( Nov 87 - Jun 10, 420 results)
  • 30y 214d: T.J. Cloutier ( Jan 83 - Jul 13, 307 results)
Chart Men Nguyen T.J. Cloutier

7. Who's a One-Hit Wonder? Who Has Staying Power?

Like in sports or music, poker also produces a lot of one-hit wonders: Players that manage one big result but can't repeat that success. Or even come close to it.

Phil Hellmuth
The Brat has staying power.

Here, we once more we see Jamie Gold topping the chart. He won $12m in the Main Event. How much has he won in all other tournaments he played in?

Less than $600,000 – meaning his Main Event cash represents more than 95% of his winnings.

Compare this to Phil Hellmuth, for example. The Brat has made more than $19m but his biggest cash was "only" $2.6m (4th place at the inaugural $1m One Drop).

That's less than 14% of his total winnings. Definitely not a one-hit wonder, as his 14 bracelets and 115 WSOP cashes attests.

Chart Phil Hellmuth

 

Gold (who is currently working on improving his results with 2 WSOP final tables in the past 12 months) is in good company: Main Event winners Peter Eastgate, Joe Cada and Greg Merson all accumulated more than 75% of their winnings in one single tourney.

On the other end of the spectrum are the poker players that have been around a long time and have seen plenty of action over the years: Jason Mercier, Erick Lindgren, Erik Seidel, John Juanda and of course T.J. Cloutier – none of them won more then 10% of their total winnings in a single tournament.

Men Nguyen
Persistent.

Meaning, they've showed great results over a long time.

But nobody has been as persistent as Men "The Master" Nguyen. He might be a controversial figure in the poker business, but he certainly has an iron butt:

462 cashes, $10.5m in winnings and his top result is $412k (2nd place in a $5k WSOP event in 2010) – equaling less than 4% of his total winnings.

The One-Hit Wonders and Poker Evergreens in the $10m Club (percentage of biggest cash vs. total winnings):

  • Jamie Gold: 95% ($12m/$12.6m)
  • Peter Eastgate: 82% ($9.2m/$11.1m)
  • Joe Cada: 82% ($8.5m /$10.4m)
  • Greg Merson: 75% ($8.5m /$11.4m)
  • Antonio Esfandiari: 69% ($18.3m /$26.7m)
  • Erick Lindgren: 10% ($1m/$10.2m)
  • Erik Seidel: 9% ($2.5m /$26.7m)
  • John Juanda: 9% ($1.6m/$18.1m)
  • T.J. Cloutier: 9% ($0.9m/$10.2m)
  • Men Nguyen: 4% ($0.4m/$10.5m)
Chart Erik Seidel

8. How Many are Main Event Winners?

Eleven of the 43 members of the $10m club are former (or reigning) Main Event Champions:

Peter Eastgate
Winning the main helps.

Phil Hellmuth, Jonathan Duhamel, Martin Jacobson, Jamie Gold, Joe Hachem, Carlos Mortensen, Scotty Nguyen, Joe McKeehen, Greg Merson, Peter Eastgate and Joe Cada.

How big the Main Event is compared to other poker events becomes evident when considering this fact:

From those 11 players only one would have more than $10m if you ignore his Main Event cash.

We’re pretty sure you can guess who that one player is. In the past 10 years only three Main Event winners haven't made the $10m club (yet): Jerry Yang, Pius Heinz and Ryan Riess.

Chart Eastgate Hansen

 

Chart Carlos Mortensen

9. How Many are Women?

Vanessa Selbst
Just Vanessa.

Finally, we take a look at the ratio of women to men in the $10m club. This is a bit disillusioning: Exactly one woman has amassed winnings exceeding $10m.

This woman, of course, is Vanessa Selbst.

As a matter of fact, from the 1,385 players that have made $1m or more, only 28 are women – a little bit more than 2%.

Overview: All $10m Winners

Below is a table of all 43 players that have cashed for more than $10m.

The column Time shows how long it took each player to accumulate $10m in winnings and the One Hit Wonder column shows the proportion of the biggest single cash to the total winnings.

 

Player

Winnings

Results

First Result

         Time

One-Hit Wonder

Daniel Negreanu

$32,315,817

226

Jul 97

     10y 325d

26%

Antonio Esfandiari

$26,730,570

84

Feb 02

     10y 143d

69%

Erik Seidel

$26,683,817

241

May 88

     21y 313d

9%

Dan Colman

$25,239,801

29

Oct 08

      5y 255d

61%

Phil Ivey

$23,856,035

141

Dec 98

       9y 86d 

15%

Scott Seiver

$21,209,508

92

Aug 06

      7y 249d

24%

Sam Trickett

$20,563,347

63

May 07

      5y 54d

49%

Phil Hellmuth

$19,310,195

277

Oct 87

     20y 125d

14%

John Juanda

$18,111,006

237

Aug 97

     12y 302d

9%

Jonathan Duhamel

$17,605,726

86

Aug 06

      5y 149d

51%

Jason Mercier

$16,422,563

128

Apr 08

      5y 308d

10%

Brian Rast

$16,313,290

54

Jul 05

      10y 0d

46%

Steve O'Dwyer

$15,230,464

107

Jan 07

      8y 122d

12%

Martin Jacobson

$15,106,285

63

Oct 08

      5y 251d

66%

Michael Mizrachi

$14,874,470

147

Mar 04

      6y 101d

16%

Tom Marchese

$13,095,156

67

Jan 10

      5y 141d

12%

Mike McDonald

$13,022,571

87

Nov 07

      6y 79d

13%

Jamie Gold

$12,586,358

31

Apr 05

      1y 102d

95%

JC Tran

$12,238,204

142

Mar 03

     10y 128d

17%

Joe Hachem

$12,153,803

72

Aug 00

      6y 112d

62%

Carlos Mortensen

$11,954,406

151

Dec 99

     11y 51d

33%

Scotty Nguyen

$11,874,538

287

Nov 91

     17y 61d

17%

Vanessa Selbst

$11,758,867

73

Jul 06

      7y 332d

16%

Allen Cunningam

$11,632,374

206

Dec 96

     11y 152d

31%

Joe McKeehen

$11,545,712

98

Aug 10

      5y 146d

67%

Greg Merson

$11,371,974

27

Nov 07

      6y 46d

75%

Ike Haxton

$11,371,676

64

Jan 07

      8y 300d

22%

David Peters

$11,311,364

148

Dec 06

      9y 37d

20%

Igor Kurganov

$11,244,901

52

Aug 09

      6y 156d

14%

Sorel Mizzi

$11,148,823

112

Sep 06

      8y 103d

19%

Peter Eastgate

$11,131,450

22

Apr 07

      2y 180d

82%

Joseph Cheong

$11,102,124

94

Jan 09

      5y 303d

37%

Ole Schemion

$11,084,895

68

Apr 11

      5y 22d

16%

Bertrand Grospellier

$10,992,424

104

Feb 05

      7y 114d

18%

Anthony Gregg

$10,860,188

37

Jun 08

      7y 201d

44%

Tobias Reinkemeier

$10,539,684

51

Mar 07

      7y 320d

19%

Men Nguyen

$10,504,630

462

Nov 87

     22y 234d

4%

Joe Cada

$10,403,598

26

Jun 09

      5y 10d

82%

Gus Hansen

$10,258,053

43

May 02

      9y 243d

17%

Erick Lindgren

$10,236,288

104

Apr 00

     14y 72d

10%

T.J. Cloutier

$10,225,191

350

Jan 83

     30y 214d

9%

Dan Smith

$10,107,125

72

Jun 08

      7y 314d

20%

Philipp Gruissem

$10,060,541

36

Aug 09

      6y 253d

14%

Remarks: Data taken from Hendon Mob in May ’16. The statistics only consider winnings before taxes, shares, expenses for buy-ins and other deductions.

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