The $10m Question: Nine Facts about Poker’s Biggest Money Winners

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.

Poker's $10m Winner's 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 GruissemOle 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 EastgateJoe 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 MercierErick LindgrenErik SeidelJohn 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 YangPius 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.

PlayerWinningsResultsFirst Result         TimeOne-Hit Wonder
Daniel Negreanu$32,315,817226Jul 97     10y 325d26%
Antonio Esfandiari$26,730,57084Feb 02     10y 143d69%
Erik Seidel$26,683,817241May 88     21y 313d9%
Dan Colman$25,239,80129Oct 08      5y 255d61%
Phil Ivey$23,856,035141Dec 98       9y 86d 15%
Scott Seiver$21,209,50892Aug 06      7y 249d24%
Sam Trickett$20,563,34763May 07      5y 54d49%
Phil Hellmuth$19,310,195277Oct 87     20y 125d14%
John Juanda$18,111,006237Aug 97     12y 302d9%
Jonathan Duhamel$17,605,72686Aug 06      5y 149d51%
Jason Mercier$16,422,563128Apr 08      5y 308d10%
Brian Rast$16,313,29054Jul 05      10y 0d46%
Steve O'Dwyer$15,230,464107Jan 07      8y 122d12%
Martin Jacobson$15,106,28563Oct 08      5y 251d66%
Michael Mizrachi$14,874,470147Mar 04      6y 101d16%
Tom Marchese$13,095,15667Jan 10      5y 141d12%
Mike McDonald$13,022,57187Nov 07      6y 79d13%
Jamie Gold$12,586,35831Apr 05      1y 102d95%
JC Tran$12,238,204142Mar 03     10y 128d17%
Joe Hachem$12,153,80372Aug 00      6y 112d62%
Carlos Mortensen$11,954,406151Dec 99     11y 51d33%
Scotty Nguyen$11,874,538287Nov 91     17y 61d17%
Vanessa Selbst$11,758,86773Jul 06      7y 332d16%
Allen Cunningam$11,632,374206Dec 96     11y 152d31%
Joe McKeehen$11,545,71298Aug 10      5y 146d67%
Greg Merson$11,371,97427Nov 07      6y 46d75%
Ike Haxton$11,371,67664Jan 07      8y 300d22%
David Peters$11,311,364148Dec 06      9y 37d20%
Igor Kurganov$11,244,90152Aug 09      6y 156d14%
Sorel Mizzi$11,148,823112Sep 06      8y 103d19%
Peter Eastgate$11,131,45022Apr 07      2y 180d82%
Joseph Cheong$11,102,12494Jan 09      5y 303d37%
Ole Schemion$11,084,89568Apr 11      5y 22d16%
Bertrand Grospellier$10,992,424104Feb 05      7y 114d18%
Anthony Gregg$10,860,18837Jun 08      7y 201d44%
Tobias Reinkemeier$10,539,68451Mar 07      7y 320d19%
Men Nguyen$10,504,630462Nov 87     22y 234d4%
Joe Cada$10,403,59826Jun 09      5y 10d82%
Gus Hansen$10,258,05343May 02      9y 243d17%
Erick Lindgren$10,236,288104Apr 00     14y 72d10%
T.J. Cloutier$10,225,191350Jan 83     30y 214d9%
Dan Smith$10,107,12572Jun 08      7y 314d20%
Philipp Gruissem$10,060,54136Aug 09      6y 253d14%

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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