Richest Poker Tournaments in History

The World Series of Poker 2015 is not too far away now, with thousands of poker players all over the work gearing up for the Main Event. This is the biggest single event in poker and has been for some time. The buy-in is not the highest (although it is still an impressive $10,000) but the sheer volume of players that join this tournament means that the prize pool adds up to tens of millions with the winner several million for himself. It never used to be that way of course, and before the popularity of poker exploded the World Series of Poker was a fairly small event, often won by just a handful of people.


The first World Series of Poker was played in 1970, and for the first two years it was won by Johnny Moss. The grand prize was little more than the buy-in today (although we understand that $10k went a lot further back then) and it took twenty-one years of annual competitions for that prize to reach the $1 million mark. When it did, the tournament went to Brad Daugherty. It remained on one million for many years, with winners including Scotty Nguyen and Chris Ferguson. In 2003, however, it was up to $2,5 million. That year it was won by the legendary Chris Moneymaker, after which poker’s popularity exploded, and the WSOP wasn’t far behind.


These days other poker tournaments are doing their best to catch up to the World Series of Poker and many of them are getting very close. The World Poker Tour for instance has winnings that exceed $2 million, whilst many stops on the European Poker Tour are the same. There is also the Caribbean Poker Adventure, which is sponsored by the giants that are PokerStars, and many online tournaments, such as the Sunday Million, also run by PokerStars.

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Richest Poker Tournaments in History

So just which tournaments have dished out the most money throughout the years, and who were the lucky winners?

Well, the biggest tournament in poker history was the 2006 World Series of Poker Main Event, which had a record number of entrants and a prize pool of over $80 million. $12 million of this went to the winner, and that lucky man was Jamie Gold, who made his way onto the all-time earners list because of this solitary win. The biggest win after that was the 2010 Main Event, which was won by Jonathan Duhamel, a Canadian that scooped just shy of $9 million.

The 2011, 2008, 2014, 2012, 2009, 2007, 2013 and 2005 WSOP Main Events came next on the list, in that order, with a pot of $64 million for the 2011 competition, won by Pius Heinz, and $52 million for the 2005 competition, won by Australian Joe Hachem. The next highest pot was also a World Series of Poker event, known as the Big One and staged in 2012. The pot here was over $42 million and was won by poker genius Antonio Esfandiari.

The next non-WSOP tournament on the list is the 14th richest tournament in history. That was the Macau High Stakes Challenge which was held in 2012 and helped Stanley Choi to a pot of close to $6,5 million. The 2007 World Poker Tour Championship is not too far behind, winning nearly $4 million for Carlos Mortensen from Spain. Also in the top twenty is the Guang Dong Limited Asia Millions Main Event. This was held in 2013 and although it is not a name that many are familiar with, it is one that gave an impressive $4,4 million to its German winner, Niklas Heinecker.

The Pokerstars Caribbean Adventure in 2010 and in 2011 is also in the top twenty all-time richest tournaments, with a joint pot of $30 million, won by Galen Hall in 2011 and Harrison Gimbel in 2010, both Americans. The first entry for the European Poker Tour is not too far behind, and the biggest pot they have ever seen was in 2008, when the Grand Final gifted over $3 million to Canadian Glen Chorny.

The biggest online poker pot doesn’t quite make it into the top twenty, but it is not too far behind. This pot amounted to over $12 million and occurred in 2011 during the PokerStars 10th Anniversary Celebration — Sunday Million. The 2010 World Championship of Online Poker is not too far behind either, and this gave over $2,2 million to the winner. The same event in 2008 was also a very impressive tournament, netting a score of $1,2 million for Carter King, who took it down with the nickname ckingusc.

As you might have noticed, all of the big events have occurred in the last five years, and that suggests that poker is only getting bigger and bigger. Black Friday did dent the online game, but if anything it helped the live game, and the pots that have resulted have been huge. The Main Event is not as big as it was in 2006 and it probably won’t reach those heights again, but other tournaments are climbing all of the time and reaching those heights. This is a great time to play poker, and if you haven’t started yet, you’re missing out. Get yourself into a satellite straight away and who knows, you might be the next Chris Moneymaker, Jamie Gold, Phil Helmuth or even Niklas Heinecker…whoever he is.