Modern-Day Poker Pros You Should Know

The rich history of poker may surprise those who only know about the game today. It’s been a wild ride, with poker going from a literal crime to a well-respected competitive sport. Along the way, poker’s competitive scene has also evolved. Tournaments like the World Series of Poker (WSOP) are highly publicized events, broadcast worldwide for everyone to see. 

There is no shortage of famous poker players, especially now. New players constantly crawl out of the woodwork, with countless people eager to prove themselves by taking down the biggest tournaments. Today, we’ll cover some poker pros every player in the modern era should know. 

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Daniel “Kid Poker” Negreanu

Perhaps the world’s most recognizable modern-day poker player, Daniel Negreanu is undoubtedly the current face of the game. He made a name for himself in 1997 with two wins at the World Poker Finals. A partnership with online poker company PokerStars and numerous appearances on poker TV shows like High Stakes Poker elevated Negreanu’s fame to extreme levels. 

His impressive reputation is backed up by his results, with over $50 million in tournament earnings putting him third on The Hendon Mob’s all-time money list. He has six WSOP bracelets and two World Poker Tour titles. He was also crowned WSOP Player of The Year for 2004 and 2013, the only player to receive this accolade twice. The Global Poker Index considered Negreanu the best player of the decade in 2014. That was also the same year Negreanu joined the Poker Hall of Fame. 

Phil Ivey “The Tiger Woods of Poker”

Phil Ivey is another one of the world’s most famous modern-day players. Unlike most, he specializes in cash games, frequently partaking in the Bellagio’s ludicrously high $4000/$8000 cash games. He’s also a formidable heads-up player, once making $16 million from playing against billionaire Andy Beal. While he’s incredibly skilled at cash games, Ivey is also no slouch in tournaments. 

He has 10 WSOP bracelets and over $38 million in tournament earnings, putting him 10th on The Hendon Mob’s all-time money list. At the table, Ivey is characterized by his iconic poker face and quiet demeanor, starkly contrasting with other poker pros. For his prolific career, he’s been nicknamed “The Tiger Woods of Poker” and was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2017. 

Phil “The Poker Brat” Hellmuth 

It’s hard to tell what’s more recognizable about Phil Hellmuth, his results or his personality. His most impressive achievements all come from the WSOP. He holds numerous records at the tournament, like the record for final tables and cashes. Most notably, Hellmuth owns the most WSOP bracelets by far at 16. The second place is a three-way tie between Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, and Phil Ivey at 10. Hellmuth also has over $28 million in live tournament earnings, putting him in 21st on The Hendon Mob’s all-time money list. 

The other most iconic thing about Hellmuth is his personality at the table. He’s one of the most controversial figures in the scene, very outspoken, especially when he feels he’s received lousy luck. This gave him the nickname “The Poker Brat”, and while his vocal attitude has landed him in trouble more than once, it also makes him one of the most memorable players in the scene.

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Viktor “Isildur1” Blom

As we venture into the age of online poker players, we must mention Viktor Blom. If you followed the online poker scene in 2009, you may know him better under his online alias: Isildur1. This then-anonymous poker account caused a storm in the poker community. The player had participated in all ten of the largest pots in online poker history and regularly went against professionals like Phil Ivey and Patrik Antonius, often coming out on top. 

When he had amassed over $1 million in online earnings on Full Tilt Poker, he was challenged by Tom Dwan, widely regarded as one of the best online poker players at the time. Isildur1 wiped the floor with Dwan, earning around $4 million from him. The meteoric rise of Isildur1 was one of poker’s biggest stories in 2009, and it was only in 2011 that Blom’s true identity was revealed. 

Justin Bonomo

Another player whose career started online, Bonomo is most known for having the most live poker winnings out of any player. He sits at the top of The Hendon Mob’s money list, with an astounding $60 million. Some of his tournament achievements include three WSOP bracelets and one circuit ring. Bonomo is also the youngest-ever player featured in a televised final table, having finished 4th at the European Poker Tour in France when was 19. 

He is one of the most accomplished members of this new generation of poker players, having been inspired by the World Poker Tour broadcast when he was a kid. 

Chris Moneymaker

It’s impossible to talk about modern-day poker pros without mentioning Chris Moneymaker, the player who started it all. His 2003 WSOP run shook the poker community to its very core. An amateur winning 2.5 million dollars in the biggest poker tournament of the year? The story only gets crazier knowing Moneymaker made it to the WSOP thanks to a single $39 entry fee. 

This qualified him through a series of satellite tournaments that gave him a free seat at the final table. Moneymaker’s win proved the legitimacy of online poker and inspired countless poker players, acting as one of the catalysts for the 2003-2006 “poker boom,” when the game exploded in popularity. 

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Feeling inspired?

If any of these players motivated you to play poker and potentially become a pro, you must remember that it takes time and practice. None of these players made it thanks to pure luck. You need thousands of poker games to build experience and be prepared for anything. All that being said, if you truly want to become a competitive player, go for it! These modern legends show that anyone can be a poker pro if they have what it takes.