Phil Ivey: The Best Poker Player to Ever Live

Published On: 18 July 2009 / Modified: 9 August 2018
Created By: Jason Mercier
Phil Ivey

Yesterday one of my poker buddies, who primarily plays cash games online for a living, asked me this question (which I hear quite frequently).

"Who do you think are the better poker players: cash-game professionals or tourney professionals?"

I thought about this for a few seconds. Obviously the kid wanted to hear that cash-game players are better, which I do think that they are ... but only in cash games. 

The thing is that cash game grinders are just generally better at cash games, and tourney grinders are just generally better at tourneys. It's that simple.

The real test of how "good" a poker player is must be determined by how well they can do in both settings.

The Best Poker Players Do It All

The "best" poker players in the world should be able to dominate in all aspects of poker. They should be able to crush in live cash games, live tournaments, online cash, and online tournaments.

Phil Ivey is the absolute perfect example of someone who is able to do this. Yes, I understand he doesn't play online tournaments. Obviously, he doesn't have to, but I think that if he wanted to, he could do very well at them.

Phil Ivey
We need a Phil on seven!

Phil Ivey, in my opinion, has to be considered the best player to ever live. People can make their case for Stu Ungar or for Chip Reese. I cannot comment on how either of those guys played because I never saw it myself.

But I do know that the players that they played against were far less advanced than the players that the average player has to play against nowadays.

Phil Ivey has been dominating the highest-stakes cash games, online and live, for the past 10 years, probably more like four years when it comes to online.

Just Look at Ivey

At the beginning of the WSOP, me and a few of my friends had heard that Ivey was taking action on himself to win a bracelet this year. We were interested and were planning on laying some odds.

Some things ended up preventing it, couldn't get in contact with him in time etc., and we ended up not making the bet. Thank God! He just ships two bracelets and makes the Main Event final table.


I don't usually give out this kind of respect to just any poker player, but Ivey, seriously bro, you deserve it man. What you have done this series is an inspiration to me, and should be to all professional poker players.

Whenever someone feels like they have reached the top of the poker world and that nothing else can be accomplished, just look at Ivey.

Congrats on making the final table, it's great for poker and I really look forward to watching it in November. I now have a reason to be excited about the WSOP main event final table. Good luck.


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doctaJ 2011-11-22 16:54:03

i dont think u'd find too many that wouldn't admit ivey is definitely in the top 5 of all time, and probably the best living poker player. i cant give him top of all time tho. like you said cases can certainly be made for stuey...

kidfrmOz 2010-06-11 17:45:41

i think phil ivey is in his own world when it comes to poker..his skills and style are not part of the new generation of poker nor the current generation and old school generation poker..i know poker has been changed throughout the years and new style of play has been emerged (mainly internet players). Even the current veterans can't really adapt to that style but phil ivey can adapt all sorts of styles of playing!! that's why he's the best

SonOfJorEl 2009-11-06 23:16:00

online is not real poker and if stuey was alive now he would have 15+ braclets ivey is great no doubt but undar all day..

Al 2009-10-17 07:28:00

Phil Hellmuth won the WSOP when there were only about 165 players..that's literally nothing today. He only has morer cashes and bracelets because HE ENTERS SOOO MANY MORE than any other of the pros. I would love to see the percentages, like a batting average, of Hellumuths $$$ in vs. wins..I think not so good.

pokerroom 2009-08-10 19:17:00

Lol he's my idol man :) i will bet on him next time !

Victor Arceo 2009-08-07 03:33:00

Helmuth sucks at cash games internet and most games other than hold em Ivey no weakness

Nolan 2009-07-25 08:31:00

Can't really disagree with anything here.

zyg0tic 2009-07-21 16:43:00

If you asked Hellmuth who the best overall poker player in the world is, he would say Ivey. I figure that's good enough.

Justin 2009-07-21 07:04:00

That is ridiculous. Phil hellmuth is by far and above the best poker player ever. 11 WSOP bracelets and 75 WSOP cashes. The facts speak for themselves. Ivey has never even won a no limit holdem bracelet. Stu Ungar didnt have to compete with the larger fields and the amateurs that the pros have to endure these days. Hellmuth #1!!!!!

keith moon 2009-07-19 01:07:00

+1. Would be incredible to see Ivey v. Ungar in their primes.

great series Jason, hope to see more good results for you in the future.


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