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The Washington Independent

The Biggest Wins in Poker History

The Biggest Wins in Poker History

Outside of organised sport, poker is one of the most popular pastimes on the planet by players from Las Vegas to Laos and everywhere in between. One of the many reasons for poker’s popularity is the riches that the game can offer to those successful enough to consistently win the top prizes.

Amandeep Coleman
Jul 23, 2021

Table of Contents

Outside of organised sport, poker is one of the most popular pastimes on the planet by players from Las Vegas to Laos and everywhere in between.

One of the many reasons for poker’s popularity is the riches that the game can offer to those successful enough to consistently win the top prizes.

Traditionally the biggest poker prizes were restricted to professional tournaments like the World Series of Poker.

Thanks to the rise of online poker however, amateur players have also been afforded the opportunity to win life-changing sums of money from their poker exploits.

In this article we take a look at four of the biggest wins in poker history encompassing victories from household professional names to celebrities and online enthusiasts. 

If you’ve ever won big playing poker or narrowly missed out on a huge pot, let us know in the comments section below.

Huge Building

2019 Triton Super High Rollers Series – Triton Million 

In the summer of 2019 the glamorous Park Lane Hilton in London was the venue for the most lucrative poker tournament in history.

The Triton Million High Roller Series is the brainchild of legendary Malaysian gambling facilitator Paul Phua.

The 57-year-old poker lover began organising high-stakes tournament in Macau in the early 2010s before co-founding the Triton Million High Roller Series, which would become the biggest buy-in tournament on the planet.

In 2019 the tournament made its way to London where players were asked to part with £1.05 million to buy-in, £50,000 of which went to charity. With 54 players entering the 2019 edition of the tournament the prize pool stood at a staggering £54 million.

The final two of Aaron Zang – a previously unheard of financier from Shanghai – and Bryn Kenney from Long Island, New York decided to split the remaining prize pool equally whatever the outcome.

This meant that Zang, who ended up as the winner, actually took home less in winnings than his opponent due to having less chips when the deal to split the pot was brokered.

Zang is unlikely to have worried about that though as his win scooped him a phenomenal £13,779,491. Second-placed Kenney finished the Triton Million with £16,775,820 in his back pocket which stills stands as a world record for winnings to this day.

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(The official aftermovie of the 2019 Triton Million, the tournament responsible for the biggest win and runner-up prize in poker history.)

2016 Monte Carlo One Drop Extravaganza

In 2016 the Big One for One Drop moved to Monte Carlo, Monaco where it was open to recreational players only. 

Don’t let that fool you into thinking that the tournament was open to the likes of you and I though as the buy-in stood at a whopping €1 million.

The eventual winner Elton Tsang from Canada could not only comfortably afford the buy-in, but also afford to employ professional poker player Mustapha Kanit as his coach.

That guidance proved crucial as Tsang defeated 25 other players including Anatoly Gurtovoy in a heads up to bag himself the top prize of €11,111,111.

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(Since winning the Monte Carlo One Drop Extravaganza, Elton Tsang has become somewhat of a household name in high-stakes poker.)

2012 WSOP Event 55

In 2012 American professional Antonio “The Magician” Esfandiari went into the Big One for One Drop with a healthy chip lead but a string of top level opponents to beat.

British player Sam Trickett who is currently the twelfth-highest earner in all-time tournament play was hot on his heels throughout the tournament.

As Bobby Baldwin, Brian Rast, Guy Laliberte and Phill Hellmuth fell by the wayside, Trickett remained, eager to push Esfandiari all the way for what would at that time be the biggest tournament prize of all-time.

In the 85th hand of the tournament, Trickett and Esfandiari went all-in with Trickett needing any diamond card on the river to complete a flush and scoop the top prize.

The river turned out to be a heart which meant Esfandiari won with triple 5s, helping himself to $18,346,673 in the process.

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(Antonio Esfandiari discusses how it felt to win $18 million back in 2012.)

2006 WSOP Main Event

15 years ago the World Series of Poker Main Event was held away from Binion’s Horseshoe for the first time, taking place at the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino.

The change in scenery was marked by a humongous prize pool of $82,512,162 which stands to this day as a record for the highest prize pool in tournament play history.

Going into the tournament, Jamie Gold was just another faceless player in the huge pool of 80,000+ entrants. 

2006 WSOP Main Event

The then 37-year-old had no reputation as a poker professional and had only won big once, scooping a $54,000 prize in a $225 buy-in tournament in 2005.

In 2006 though, Gold catapulted himself to stardom by effectively bluffing all the way to the WSOP Main Event table which he went into with 51,100,000. His closest rival was Allen Cunningham who by comparison had a miserly total of 13,680,000 chips.

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(Jamie Gold’s 2006 WSOP victory was built on bravado and mind games, something he relied on heavily in the final hand of the tournament.)

That huge chip advantage proved crucial in getting Gold to the final hand of the tournament, when he used his reputation for bluffing to his advantage. 

Holding a Queen pair, Gold pulled of an incredible acting performance to convince his opponent Paul Wasicka who was only holding a 10 pair that he had nothing and was bluffing. Wasicka went all in and lost to crown Gold as the best poker player on the planet and the lucky recipient of $10 million in prize money.

Since then Gold appears to have returned to poker obscurity, not adding much more to his total career earnings. To be fair, with $10 million in the bank from one tournament Gold probably didn’t have too much motivation to improve his game!

Amandeep Coleman | Amandeep had never known a moment when she wasn't reading or making up stories, having been born into a family of readers. She took out a pencil and notebook during the now-famous blizzard and started writing down one of those stories. It was there that I began my professional life. Her first book was written after several rejections and manuscripts. She is a member of many writers' organizations and has received several accolades from her peers and the publishing industry. The New Yorker recently dubbed her "America's favorite novelist".


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