Top 10 Richest Poker Tournaments of the Last 10 Years

11 December 2009, Created By: Arthur Crowson
Top 10 Richest Poker Tournaments of the Last 10 Years

There was a time when winning the largest poker tournament in the world meant you could afford that new sports car you always wanted.

Those days are long gone and in the mid-2000s tournament prize pools numbers that would make small countries blush.

To celebrate the end of the decade we’ve compiled a list of the biggest prize pool tournaments in the history of poker.

In other words – if you could have picked one poker tournament to win in the last ten years, it should be on this list.


#10 - 2008 WPT Championship, $13.2 Million Prize Pool

Gus Hansen

In a year where WPT attendance seemed to be down across the board, the championship event in 2008 still managed to pull in 545 entries who each put down $25,000 to play.

The tournament had several compelling storylines with Irishman Andy Black going deep and online sensation Tom “durrrr” Dwan bubbling the final table. But the real highlight was the final table that saw Gus Hansen nearly take down his fifth WPT title.

Hansen appeared destined to win the event and absolutely smashed the table (and the deck) on his way to heads-up play but couldn’t get beyond the soft-spoken David Chiu. Chiu made off with $3.3 million for first place.


#9 - 2008 EPT Grand Final, $13.3 Million Prize Pool


The 2008 EPT Grand Final was notable for several reasons – not the least of which was the $13.3 million prize pool. But it may well be remembered as the first EPT Grand Final that actually offered a bigger prize pool than its WPT counterpart.

It was perhaps a sign of the times that the rapidly expanding European Poker Tour would finally host a grand event that rivaled the best the famous WPT had to offer.

The 842 entrants would eventually play down to a final table of eight with big-name players like Isaac Baron, Luca Pagano and Antonio Esfandiari looking to take down one of the biggest prizes in the history of tournament poker.

Instead it was lesser-known Canadian Glen Chorny who walked away with the $3.1 million attached to first place. It's worth noting this event was the only EPT event to make this list.


#8 - 2006 WPT Championship, $14.6 Million Prize Pool

Vanessa Rousso

2006 was a good year for big poker tournaments and that was no exception for the WPT Championship. The 2006 edition drew 605 entrants to form a massive prize pool that was worth nearly $14 million.

Low-key poker pro Joe Bartholdi went on to win the event for a stunning first-place prize of $3.7 million but the event might be better remembered for launching the careers of several young poker stars.

Vanessa Rousso just missed the final table (finsishing in seventh place for $263,625) but would go on to become a Team PokerStars Pro and one of the most well-known female poker pros in the world.

Fun fact: Rousso and ninth-place finisher Chad Brown are now married!


#7 - 2007 WPT Championship, $15.4 Million Prize Pool

The Final Table

This was a strange one. Many thought the passing of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Act earlier in the year would severely impact attendance at the 2007 WPT Championship.

Instead it was the most lucrative event the WPT ever held with 639 entrants forming a prize pool just over $15 million.

The final table was a memorable one with Carlos Mortensen taking first place for $3.9 million and becoming the only player in poker history to win both a WPT Championship and a WSOP Main Event.


#6 - 2004 WSOP Main Event, $24 Million Prize Pool

Greg Raymer

In 2003 Chris Moneymaker won the WSOP Main Event and kick-started the so-called poker boom of the mid-2000s.

His effect on the game was obvious just one year later when the WSOP prize pool more than tripled from $7.8 million to $24 million.

It was a great year for viewer-friendly storylines as Marcel Luske bubbled the final table and Dan Harrington made back-to-back final tables.

A little known player sometimes referred to as the “Fossilman” went on to win for $5 million.

It's known as the Moneymaker effect, but it was really this tournament that put poker on the mainstream radar.


#5 - 2005 WSOP Main Event, $52 Million Prize Pool

heads up 2

In 2005 the WSOP Main Event prize pool once again doubled, proving that the poker boom was in full effect. 5,619 players entered the tournament with hopes of grabbing the $7.5 million first place prize.

2004 champ Greg Raymer proved he was no one-hit wonder by surviving all the way to 25th place before getting his pocket kings cracked.

Current Team Full Tilt Pro Mike “The Mouth” Matusow would make the final table only to be the first one eliminated. Ireland’s Andy Black appeared destined to win the event before blowing up on the world’s biggest poker stage. In the end it was Australia’s Joe Hachem who took top honors.

2005 also marked the end of an era as it was the last year the final table took place at Binions in downtown Las Vegas. The event has been held at the Rio ever since.


#4 - 2007 WSOP Main Event, $59 Million Prize Pool

The Big Dance

The 2007 WSOP Main Event generated a massive prize pool but it was actually the first time in many years the overall prize pool was smaller than the year before.

Thanks to new gaming laws in the U.S., online poker rooms were more restricted with the number of players they could send and as a result there were 2,415 less entrants.

The final table was also one of the weaker ones of recent memory as Scotty Nguyen finished 11th and the unknown Jerry Yang won the $8.2 million first-place prize.


#3 - 2009 WSOP Main Event, $61 Million Prize Pool

Phil Ivey and the best bluffs

The 2009 WSOP Main Event is easily one of the richest tournaments ever held. That said, it could have been even richer. Due to space limitations hundreds of players were turned away, buy-ins in hand, on the final Day 1 heat.

Even well-known players like Patrik Antonius, T.J. Cloutier and “Captain” Tom Franklin were told to try again next year.

Despite the setback, 6,494 players bought into the tournament and created one of the largest prize pools in history.

Joe Cada may have won, taking down $8.5 million and becoming the youngest Main Event winner in history, but the tournament will likely be remembered for poker superstar Phil Ivey making the final table.


#2 - 2008 WSOP Main Event, $64 Million Prize Pool

Peter Eastgate

After a brief dip in 2007, the WSOP got right back on track with the 2008 Main Event which drew 6,844 players. It was also the year the WSOP introduced the November Nine concept, delaying the final table until November in an effort to boost interest.

Some poker purists hated the change but you can't argue with results. ESPN's broadcast enjoyed a 46% increase over the preceding year.

Although the final table lacked a well-known player (sorry Mike Matusow in 30th), the skill level was high with Ivan Demidov, Chino Rheem and eventual winner Peter Eastgate. At 24 years old Eastgate became the youngest Main Event winner - a title he would hold for only one year.


#1 - 2006 WSOP Main Event, $82 Million Prize Pool

Jamie Gold

In many ways the 2006 WSOP Main Event was the perfect storm.

The U.S. had yet to change its online gambling laws and online poker rooms could still easily send players to the Main Event. That summer 8,733 players crowded the halls of the Rio and created the richest prize pool in the history of poker.

Celebrities were out in full force with Lennox Lewis, Tobey Maguire and Joanna Krupa putting their poker chops on display in the Main Event. One online room even tried to buy in a chimpanzee but was eventually denied.

Former Hollywood agent Jamie Gold would take the first-place prize of $12 million but his reign as champion was fraught with controversy as he had to settle with Crispin Leyser for a percentage of his winnings.

At the time this article was published the 2006 Main Event was the richest tournament ever held and it will likely be that way for some time. Here's hoping we're wrong.





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