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The Best Poker Players Of All Time

Feb 1, 2008
The best of anything is a matter of opinion and perspective, and this is absolutely true when trying to decide who are the best poker players. This also has to be broken into tournament play, cash game play, and the type of poker game. Some poker players are great in certain games like Holdem and not so great in other games. According to what is said about Chip Reese, the great poker player, many professionals think he would be the choice, even though his WSOP wins are not as prolific as Brunson, Chan, and Hellmuth. However, Reese won three WSOP tournaments before his death in 2007. In 2006, Reese won the prestigious $50,000 Buy-in Horse Tournament at the WSOP. The Horse tournament is difficult to win, as it combines several poker games in one tournament. These are Holdem, Omaha, Razz, Seven-card Stud, and Seven-card Stud Hi Low. Reese's long time friend, Doyle Brunson, considered him one of the best poker players he ever played against. That is high praise from a player many considered the Godfather of Poker. Brunson, Hellmuth, and Johnny Chan are considered the best when it comes to playing Holdem. Hellmuth has the most wins at the WSOP at this time with eleven wins all in Holdem.

The Poker Kid, Daniel Negreanu, after a failed try at Las Vegas poker when he was 21, has come on very strong in his play in TV tournaments like the WPT and other tournaments that were TV oriented. Negreanu is also considered a very tough cash game player, unlike Hellmuth who is considered an excellent Holdem tournament player, but an average cash game player. The top cash game players are supposedly happy to see him show up for the big cash games in Vegas.

T J Cloutier, another long time opponent and friend of Doyle Brunson, has long been considered one of the best players in the poker world. His consistency is amazing in showing up at final tables. His cash game prowess has always stood him in good stead. Like Brunson, he makes few mistakes, and players who win against him are usually just a shade luckier than he was in the tournament.

One of the long time faces at final tables is the player, Dan Harrington. He made the final table two years in a row against huge fields in the WSOP. That is a testament to his skill at playing tournament poker. In one website vote, he was voted the best player of the professionals.

Some of the recent winners of the WSOP main event have become money leaders, or very high on the list of earnings due to the huge 1st place prize money. However, few if any are considered the best poker player in the world at this time. It will take several years to see if these winners were a one trick player or have the real skill to get to final tables again.

The public has little knowledge of another group of players that are extremely good players. These are the players that take a seat in some of the biggest cash games in the world. Las Vegas has long been the place to play if a player wanted to play in a poker game which had the highest stakes Almost every day, you can see some of the best cash game players play in places like the Rio, the Bellagio, or the Venetian casino. These games are not only for solid players, but also for players with ample resources to play in a game where a bad day could be well over a $100,000 loss. This play not only takes money to play, but the courage to take that level of risk on the turn of a card. These players have to live with the risk that a better hand can crack a solid hand. Many of these player-participants are only known to the cash players and are rarely seen on TV. The only place some of them have been seen is playing in the High Stakes Poker program that is now on TV. But when you watch their play, you can easily see that they do not play bad hands. It is also obvious that they are not prone to making playing mistakes or bad calls. Some of these players cannot afford to play in tournaments, as they would lose too much time and would make less money than they do in cash games. The only time you will see them is in a game like High Stakes Poker, or in a big cash game in a casino. Yet, several of them could be rated in the running for best poker player. Their play warrants it as well as their annual winnings.

Conclusions

The best poker players of all time come down to personal choice and perception. Most of the well-known names in the current poker scene have shown they know how to play very well. Current old timers remember some of the old time players as the best they ever played against. The problem is most people never saw them play. Stu Unger was a kid when he first won the WSOP two years in a row. His play was the best, say the players who tried to beat him. Unfortunately for him, he was a drug addict and addicted to other forms of gambling like sports betting and horses. He disappeared from play after his second win, and when he came back for a third try, he won again. Three tries in the WSOP and three wins. That is an amazing record. The question that still goes unanswered is how good would he have been if he had taken care of himself and lived a less wild life. His talent was at a level that most players only dream about. His name has to be considered when discussing the best poker players. His mental skills were genius level as was his card playing skill. His weakness was his drug addiction. Make your own choice as to the best poker player. Your pick is as good as most.
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