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  • Ivey, Hellmuth, Negreanu Make Poker’s Big Three. Who’s #4?

Ivey, Hellmuth, Negreanu Make Poker’s Big Three. Who’s #4?

We love a good, late-night-at-the-bar-among-poker-friends debate here at PokerListings and we've got a good one.

Inspired by the NBA and its recent infatuation with building a team around a "Big Three," we got to thinking and have the sense, given the way the poker world has settled post-Black Friday, a clear "Big Three" has emerged.

Those three: Daniel NegreanuPhil Ivey and Phil Hellmuth. AINEC.

Not inherently a big three in terms of pure poker talent (although you could make a case for that, too) we're talking influence, visibilty, impact. Fan base. Presence.

Star power, really. "Face of Poker" status. And when you break it down in poker right now there's no one quite on the level of those three above.

But who's 4? Who's the Rajon Rondo of poker? Guest columnist James Guill runs through the candidates (in no particular order):

Sam Trickett

Sam Trickett

Some poker players will argue that Sam Trickett is, in his own way, the face of the modern generation of poker players - at the very least for the UK.

Since 2010 Trickett has been one of the most dominant poker players in the world in terms of consistency, winning at least $1 million in live tournaments each year.

Only Antonio Esfandiari has won more money in poker tournaments than Trickett since 2010, and although his runner-up finish in the Big One for One Drop is a huge factor, it's not the only one.

After finishing runner-up in the Aussie Millions $250,000 Challenge in 2012, Trickett followed it up earlier this year by taking down the event.

His new "High Stakes" documentary should also only drive his star power up. 

Antonio Esfandiari

Antonio Esfandiari

Speaking of Esfandiari, Antonio can stake his claim as one of poker's top guys for one simple reason: he's currently poker's all-time tournament money leader.

As of today Esfandiari sits atop of the money list with $24.14 million in earnings - a truly astonishing number.

Some feel his place atop the list is skewed, of course, based on the fact that $18.46 million of that total came in the Big One for One Drop at the 2012 WSOP.

While that's a completely different argument, keep in mind that he has two WPT titles as well as three WSOP bracelets.

He's also been a solid ambassador for the game for years as a guest commentator, ESPN analyst and now as the first face of licensed online poker in the United States.

Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi

Michael Mizrachi

In 2006 Mizrachi could have staked his claim on this list due to his sheer dominance at the table. Over the next three years, though, he dropped off considerably and was starting to become an afterthought until the 2010 World Series of Poker.

That year Mizrachi had one of the best years for a player in WSOP history. He won the Poker Player's Championship, made the final table of two other $10k bracelet events and finished 5th in the Main Event.

Mizrachi followed that up in 2011 with a bracelet win at WSOP Europe and then became the only man in history to win the $50,000 Poker Player's Championship twice with a win in 2012.

Once thought of as simply a hold'em expert, Mizrachi has proven he can play all games equally and has reestablished his dominance on the felt.

As an ambassador for Churchill Downs, the ISPT and the DeepStacks Poker Tour, among other things, he's not shy about getting his face out to the public either.

Erik Seidel

Erik Seidel

Seidel has been known as "the quiet champion" for decades in the poker world and for good reason.

However a series of wins and high finishes in High Roller events in 2011 thrust him into the limelight and he soon was dubbed "Seiborg" on the poker forums given his systematic destruction at the poker tables.

With a cutting sense of humor, impeccable taste in music, one of the funniest Twitter accounts in poker and a continued humbleness despite his impressive success, Seidel is a guy it's impossible not to root for.

Mike "The Mouth" Matusow

Mike Matusow

Love him or hate him, few can deny Matusow's skill when he is focused.

The oft-troubled and oft-opinionated Matusow is known by many casual fans for his antics at the table more so than his poker play. But this year Matusow reclaimed his spot near the top of the poker world with a win in the NBC National Heads-Up Championship and his fourth WSOP bracelet.

As far as recognizable figures in poker go few can match Matusow's national and international noteriety.

Vanessa Selbst 

Vanessa Selbst

Selbst is easily the most dominant female poker player in the world today.

She's overtaken Kathy Liebert for the all-time live tournament money lead for women and has been on a tear since 2010.

She made history last year by not only becoming the first woman to win an open bracelet event since 2008 (which was also her) but also by becoming the first woman in WSOP history to win a mixed event.

She followed that up this year by winning the $25,000 High Roller Event at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure.

As an outspoken advocate for both the LGBT and women's poker community she's an ideal representative for the future of the game.

Doyle Brunson

Doyle Brunson

While "Texas Dolly" has all but retired from tournament poker there's still no more recognizable poker player in the world.

Some might argue that he no longer deserves a place as a top guy in poker but all one has to do is watch the crowd of spectators and fans flock around the Godfather of Poker when he's in the poker room to dismiss that notion.

Doyle's past performance and his popularity as an ambassador for the game still earns him an honorable mention on this list.

Of course Vegas cash-game players may still argue the "honorary" part of that title.

Phil Galfond

Phil Galfond

If you were to poll today's generation of poker players on who the top three online players in the world are right now, Phil "OMGClayAiken" Galfond would certainly be on most everyone's top three list.

According to highstakesdb.com Galfond is #3 all-time in money earned online behind Phil Ivey and Patrik Antonius.

Galfond is considered by many to be the best Pot-Limit Omaha player in the world and even has a WSOP bracelet to his name depsite rarely playing tournaments.

With a great sense of humor and a real commitment to answering/giving back to his fans, if Galfond had a bit more television exposure this might be his spot hands-down.

Tom Dwan

Tom Dwan

There are few names more synonymous with online poker than durrrr.

The high-stakes poker world has virtually revolved around the internet wizard for years. He also holds the record for largest pot won on the now-defunct but much beloved GSN show High Stakes Poker.

He made headlines a few years back for his durrrr challenges with Patrik Antonius and Dan "Jungleman12" Cates although neither match has been completed.

Dwan has had mild success in the live arena but is still yet to break through with a major title.

Had he basically shut down the poker economy with his bracelet bets in 2010 things might be different, but a lack of recent exposure keeps Dwan out of the mainstream poker mind.

Viktor "Isildur1" Blom

Viktor Blom

See durrrr above. And then factor in severe aversion to media exposure and a continued reluctance to dive full steam into the live circuit.

Who can blame him, really, given his incredible online results?

But despite a few impressive High Roller wins and some memorable TV appearances, his face just isn't one the average poker fan would recognize.

Gus Hansen

Gus Hansen

A good case could be made Hansen is still one of the most recognizable and admired pros in the world but he's much more removed from the poker spotlight than ever.

Still a member of Full Tilt Poker's "Professionals," Hansen's also been on a major losing streak online and rarely appears outside of Macau/select European events.

Racketion may be big in Denmark but it's not going to increase your street cred/universal sports appeal in North America.

Jason Mercier

Mercier is an interesting pick in a lot of ways and ticks off a lot of important boxes when it comes to mainstream exposure and tournament success.

PokerStars pro, check. Consistent $1m+ winner live over the last 6 years? Absolutely, save for a rough year last year. Multiple bracelet winner with a hint of gamble/OFC degeneracy to keep him interesting? Check again.

Jason Mercier

He's even upped his professionalism/wardrobe game in the last year and seems more balanced and positive than ever.

But until he can draw a rail like Matusow - or even Johnny Chan for that matter - Mercier is stuck being poker's Sixth Man of the Year for the near future.

Anyone we've missed? Let us know in the comments.

2013-06-27 09:36:09

Seidel imo and it’s not even close really. Guy is straight up one of the best ever.

2013-06-27 07:51:31

Antonio only plays hold’em, and he’s admittedly great at the game. But this should disqualify him from an “overall” best player list, in comparison to most everyone else here.

2013-06-26 04:19:30

antonio esfandiari hands down

Sam Grizzle
2013-06-25 15:50:42

anyone post poker boom, players like Mercier, Trickett, Selbst, Blom, Galfond, and even Dwan, the general public has no idea who they are. . Scotty Nguyen,Barry Greenstein,Johnny Chan,Jen Harman,Eli Elezra,Sam Farha, etc all have more “star power”

2013-06-25 15:44:29

Antonio, and/or maybe Siedel I have no problem with the top 3 because they are rocking the bracelets recently.

2013-06-25 14:37:54


Sure, but having a “Big Three” dates back way further than the Bulls (Havlicek/Cousy/Russell, Magic/Kareem/Worthy, Bird/Mchale/Parish, etc).

Was referring more to the recent lust for modeling a team vision entirely around acquiring/building three ostensibly equal superstars.

2013-06-25 13:08:53

Bulls hada “Big Three” in the 90’s and the 90’s aren’t very recent (all things considered) – just sayin’

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