The Rich Li$t

The Rich Li$t

Monday, 16 September 2013

Meet poker's biggest tournament earners.

We present poker’s all-time tournament rich list; the absolute crème de la crème of tournament poker, with figures collated by the Hendon Mob Database. The problem with a tournament rich list, of course, is it’s all gross profit: we don’t know how much these guys spent in tournament buy-ins to get themselves on this list. Are they going to tell us? Not bloody likely! Predicting how much a player has earned from tournament poker is an enormously tricky subject.

Is it possible to extrapolate a player’s true net worth from his live tournament winnings? Well, the short answer is, obviously, no. We could say, for example that super-successful players, such as the guys on this list, might have an ROI of between 20% and 30%. We can see this by looking at someone like Chris Moorman’s tracked online results. But it’s not as simple as dividing gross profit by an unscientifically-calculated ROI to come up with a net profit. In fact, net profit and ROI can bear little relation to each other.

Sam Trickett, for example, who has had a huge amount of success in high-roller tournaments with small fields will have a smaller ROI than, say, Phil Hellmuth, who has success in tournaments with big fields. Also, a live tournament player will have played less volume than an online grinder like Moorman, which could make their ROI a lot higher now that it might be in a decade or so, although this increases our respect for guys like Hellmuth and Seidel who been have consistently winning for 25 years.

Then, when you factor in things such as adjustment for inflation, tax, travel expenses, deals with backers, sponsorship, endorsements, cash game wins and losses, beer money, divorce settlements, and the fripperies and dalliances of modern living, you can see that our task becomes quite impossible. So, what do journalists do when unclear on the absolute facts? We speculate. Wildly.

1. Antonio Esfandiari - $25,578,279

What we do know is that $18,346,673, some 71%, of Antonio Esfandiari’s unimaginable haul of wealth came from his victory at the Big One for One Drop in 2012. But the actual percentage he had of himself in that tournament remains a source of speculation, and The Magician is keeping schtum. Rumours are (and they are just rumours) that he sold around 85% of himself at face value to a conglomerate of poker players. If that’s true, then he still made $2,752,000 that day, which would leave him with a grand total of $9,983,606 in career earnings. That’s still more than us.

TRL Esfandiari

2. Sam Trickett - $19,860,026

It’s almost certain that Trickett took home more than Esfandiari did at the Big One for One Drop, despite being a runner-up for $ 10,112,001. Sam had a straight 50/50 split with his backer and was freerolled into the tournament. Furthermore, as a Brit, he would not have been liable to pay taxes on his winnings, thanks to a lovely tax treaty between the UK and US which absolves us from paying tax on gambling winnings over there. Given Sam’s success in small-field high roller events, his ROI is probably smaller than, say, Negreanu’s, but he’s had the success exactly where and when it mattered. He’s also been a winner in the Big Game in Macau. Verdict: Sam Trickett is rolling in it.

TRL Trickett

3. Daniel Negreanu - $18,186,976

In July, Daniel Negreanu was kind enough to tweet his profit for the year so far. Over 51 tournaments, he said, his total profit was $944,126, with a gross profit of $1,842,206 at a cost of $898,080, for an ROI over that period of 105%.

Of course, we’d expect Daniel to have a big ROI, but we’re not sure it’s 105% over his career! In fact, we doubt he would have tweeted his results at all had he not been exceptionally pleased with them. What is interesting to note is that he cashed in just 11% of tournaments over this period and his longest no-cash streak was 12 games, which goes to show how expensive a lean period might be, even for the best players in the world. Daniel has had very few over the last decade, however, consistently winning big in large-field tournaments.

TRL Negreanu

4. Phil Hellmuth - $17,947,106
Who knows how much money poker mega-lord Phil Hellmuth has earned not just from poker tournaments but from endorsements and extra-curricular business enterprises too? He’s written “best-selling” books, he’s had his face on beer cans and he even had his own clothing line for a while. Few people cashed in on the poker boom more lucratively than Phil. But over the last quarter of a century he has also proved himself to be the best NLH tournament player in the world and he’s done that, at least in the last ten years, largely as a sponsored player, which saves a bit of bankroll.

Yes, he may have given a bit back trying to prove his credentials at high stakes cash, but nobody’s perfect. He’s now a free agent and is likely to sign a massive contract when the right site comes begging.

TRL Hellmuth

5. Erik Seidel - $17,672,720

Erik Seidel is less likely to make money from endorsements than his almost exact poker contemporary Hellmuth; he’s a far quieter, less assuming kind of chap. However, he is the epitome of the successful tournament player, having proven himself on the circuit over a long period of time, adapting to the game when so many others have bitten the dust. In fact, there have only been four years since 1988 when he has failed to make at least six figures net from live tournament poker. Adjust that for inflation! As a clever, cautious man with his head screwed on, we reckon he’s made some pretty wise investments too. Respect to this guy!

TRL Seidel

6. Phil Ivey - $17,649,220

Phil Ivey, like his bankroll, is something of a mystery, which means people will always been fascinated with Phil Ivey and his bankroll. Unlike anyone else on this list, he has been consistently dominant at the biggest cash games in the world, both live and online, as well as in live tournaments. “People” used to speculate, before Black Friday, that, as one of the founder members of Full Tilt, he was worth around $100m. Post Black Friday, we’d have to slash that figure dramatically, since Full Tilt didn’t quite work out for him in the end. But what else might be pulling at Phil’s purse strings? A fondness for high-stakes craps, fast cars and expensive watches; a highly publicised divorce… And yet something tells us he’s doing juuuusst fine.

TRL Ivey

7. John Juanda - $15,113,768

Talk about getting it quietly! Mild-mannered John Juanda has been quietly crushing since 1997, consistently making ludicrous amounts of money, year in, year out. What’s interesting about Juanda’s results is that his biggest ever single score came from winning the WSOPE in 2008 for £868,800. Everyone else on this list has had much bigger paydays. While Esfandiari’s biggest score represents 71% of his lifetime earnings, and Jamie Gold’s 98%, Juanda’s WSOPE victory represents just 5.7% of his total haul. This truly underlines his consistency.

TRL Juanda

8. Michael Mizrachi - $14,519,039

Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi was unstoppable in 2005, winning the LA Poker Classic for $1.8m, final-tabling another WPT event and cashing seven times in the WSOP. By the time he appeared at the 2010 WSOP, there were persistent rumours he was broke and owed money to backers. But the Grinder was back with a vengeance that year. First, he won the $50k Players Championship Event 8 Game for $1.5m. Money problems sorted. Then he had three more cashes, including two final tables, before making the November Nine in the Main Event, eventually busting in fifth for $2.3m. In 2012 he won the Players Championship for the second time for one of the greatest comebacks in poker. So, if the rumours that he was broke in 2010 were true, we can speculate that Mizrachi’s true net worth will be a lot lower than his Hendon Mob figure. We can also speculate that he is still doing rather nicely for himself.

TRL Mizrachi

9. Jamie Gold - $12,245,468

Now here’s a thorny one. Jamie Gold won $12m at the 2006 WSOP Main Event, the biggest and richest Main Event ever, and the second richest live tournament of all time after the One Drop of 2012. The $245,468 he’s earned outside that tournament accounts for just 2% of his lifetime earnings. But how much of that $12m did Gold get to keep?

Gold was in the film business when he entered the 2006 WSOP, involved in production and managing talent, and had been recruited by Bodog to provide celebrities willing to play in the Main Event. Gold got together with Crispin Leyser, a British poker player with celebrity contacts, to aid him in the task and promised him, Leyser later alleged, half of his winnings in the Main Event. Following the tournament, Leyser attempted to sue Gold for half the winnings and the pair eventually settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

TRL Gold

10. Joe Hachem - $11,828,080

Like his predecessor on this list, Joe Hachem is here by virtue of his victory in the WSOP Main Event. In 2005, after six years grinding at the Crown Casino in Melbourne, Hachem decided it was time to try his luck at the WSOP and took his bankroll to Vegas. There, he came tenth in a $1k NLH tournament for $25k which would cover his buy-in for the Main. Of course, he probably swapped a percentage or two here and there, as is normal, but certainly got to keep the lion’s share of the millions. A tight, gritty, disciplined player, there were no subsequent appearances on Late Night Poker recklessly splashing the cash. Instead, the following year he won the WPT Five Diamond for $2.2m. He has banked a healthy six figures every year since and remains sponsored by PokerStars, so “banked” is probably accurate. Smart guy.

TRL Hachem

Tags: Antonio Esfandiari, Sam Trickett, Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth, Erik Seidel, Phil Ivey, John Juanda, Jamie Gold, Joe Hachem, Michael Mizrachi