Ever since poker took off in popularity after 2003, WSOP Main Event has been able to consistently gather huge playing fields with large prize pools that only get larger and larger with each new year. Thanks to the Main Event, anyone skillful enough can take home massive prizes that they couldn’t even dream of. We have recently talked about Koray Aldemir’s triumph at the latest WSOP Main Event. While he was able to win the top prize of $8,000,000, you will be shocked by some of the entries on this list. In the following article, we have decided to compile the top 10 biggest WSOP Main Event winnings throughout the entire history of the festival. Without any further delay, let’s jump into our top 10 list of the biggest WSOP Main Event winnings.
10. $8,359,531 – Ryan Riess (2013)
Kicking off this list of the biggest Main Event winnings in the history of WSOP is the 2013 Main Event won by Ryan “The Beast” Riess. Riess was only 23 years old when he was able to defeat the field of 6,352 participants and eventually win the much-desired title of the WSOP Main Event. What’s even more interesting is that 2013 was the first year of serious live poker for Riess. As you can tell by his nickname, he is a pretty successful online poker player as well. The year 2013 was surely successful for Ryan Riess, as he managed to win the WSOP Main Event for the top prize of $8,359,531. Riess continues to play poker to this day and his current live tournament winnings are estimated to be over $15,000,000.
9. $8,527,982 – Greg Merson (2012)
The 2012 WSOP Main Event was able to gather an impressive field of 6,598 entries, which guaranteed a huge top prize. The main question was who will be so lucky to snatch the top prize and go home with huge winnings. Eventually, Greg Merson was crowned as a winner. He was awarded a hefty top prize of $8,527,928 for his triumph.
At the time of his victory, Greg Merson was still a young poker player and was considered to be a rising star. Before the 2012 WSOP Main Event, Merson would mainly focus on online cash games. However, 2012 became a breakout year for him. Besides his Main Event victory, he has also managed to win the WSOP $10,000 6-max Championship. Due to these achievements, Greg Merson was proclaimed to be the Player of the Year.
On top of that, 2012 was a turning point in Merson’s personal life as well. As he later confessed, he has struggled with drug addiction ever since he turned 17 years old. This battle was a tough one for Greg Merson, but according to him, he has finally managed to get rid of the addiction in December 2011, just a few months before the 2012 WSOP Main Event where he was proclaimed a champion.
8. $8,547,042 – Joe Cada (2009)
The 2009 WSOP Main Event was similar to the one held in 2012. Both events produced a similar number of entries, however, the 2009 Main Event was able to generate a larger prize pool of $61,000,000. On top of that, the 2009 Main Event was also won by a very young player. Joe Cada was only 21 years old when he triumphed in the largest tournament series in the world. This was his very first year when he was allowed to play poker legally, as the minimum age limit at most casinos is 21.
Joe Cada was able to overcome a large field of 6,494 entries and take home the top prize of $8,547,042. Moreover, he has become the youngest player to win the WSOP Main Event. There were also several other interesting stories surrounding the 2009 WSOP Main Event. For example, Darvin Moon, who finished in second place, was one of the main talking points of the tournament. In some ways, his story is similar to the one of Chris Moneymaker, as many fans believed that Moon’s victory would lead to another poker boom worldwide. Even though Darvin Moon has managed to take home $5,200,000 for his second-place finish, this did not lead to a large influx of poker players around the world.
Another interesting story was all about Phil Ivey. At that time, Ivey was one of the best poker players in the world, but he was still waiting for the WSOP Main Event breakthrough. However, in 2009, Phil Ivey has managed to make it to the final table and he could already feel the victory with fans rooting for him all over the world. Unfortunately for him, he was unable to hang around for too long and was eliminated in 7th place when his AK went up against Darvin Moon’s AQ.
7. $8,711,956 – Pius Heinz (2011)
Germany is known for producing many skillful poker players that achieve great things during international tournaments. You might be surprised to learn that it was only in 2011 when a player from Germany was able to win the WSOP Main Event. This honorable winner was Pius Heinz, a young poker regular born in 1989, who was managed to top the field of 6,868 entries and take home the top prize of $8,700,000 for his first-place finish.
Like many players on this list, Heinz has never been into live poker. The German poker pro preferred online poker, as he considered live poker to be too slow-paced and boring. However, Heinz still decided to take a shot at the 2011 WSOP Main Event and enter Day 1A. He didn’t expect much and was ready to leave early on. But Heinz didn’t realize that luck was on his side and that soon enough he will emerge as a winner just several days of play later.
Even though Heinz has managed to win over $8,000,000, his opinion about the live tournament series did not change much. Since his victory at the 2011 WSOP Main Event, Heinz has only chased in a few events and his total live tournament winnings are currently at $9,100,000.
6. $8,800,000 – John Cynn (2018)
The year 2018 has been a record-breaking one in the history of the WSOP. In that year, the WSOP Main Event has managed to gather a field of 7,874, which remains the second-largest field so far. With each player contributing $10,000, the total prize pool reached over $74,000,000. There is no doubt that this was a very important year for WSOP, as the numbers were on the rise once again and were able to beat last year’s count.
Obviously, most of the generated prize pool went into the pocket of the winner. This time it was John Cynn who won the top prize of $8,800,000 for his first-place finish. While it might not be the largest winning in the history of WSOP, it was definitely a life-changing amount of money. What’s interesting is that Joe Cada, the winner of the 2009 Main Event, was one of the players at the final table and had solid chances of getting his second Main Event bracelet, thus making history. However, that didn’t happen as he was eventually eliminated and awarded $2,100,000 for his fifth-place finish.
As mentioned previously, the title and the top prize of the $8,800,000 went to John Cynn, who is a professional poker player from the US. Before this win, his largest payday was $650,000 for his 11th place finish in the 2016 WSOP Main Event.
5. $8,944,310 – Jonathan Duhamel (2010)
The year 2010 saw 7,319 players participate in the WSOP Main Event. This was the second-biggest field at that time in the history of the WSOP Main Events and it stayed this way until 2018. Even though this year has managed to collect a very large field and a total prize pool of almost $69,000,000, the winner took home only the fifth-largest winning in the history of the WSOP Main Event.
This time, it was Canada’s Jonathan Duhamel who took home the top prize of $8,944,310 by outlasting a field of 7,319 players. Needless to say that he was also awarded the much desired WSOP gold bracelet. This has become Duhamel’s third WSOP bracelet of his career.
Unfortunately, his WSOP bracelet was stolen in 2011 during a case of a home invasion. Duhamel has managed to find his bracelet, as it was discovered by a street cleaner. However, the bracelet was in really poor condition and had several pieces missing. Eventually, the criminals were caught by the police, and his losses were compensated.
4. $9,152,416 – Peter Eastgate (2008)
The year 2008 Main Event was a historical one for the WSOP. For the first time ever the tournament didn’t last until the last man standing. Instead, the tournament series was suspended until November when players would return to the Rio casino and the winner would be determined. This concept became known as the “November Nine” and it lasted for a few years until the organizers decided to return to the original structure.
The 2008 WSOP Main Event was significant because it was awarded the fourth-largest prize in the history of the tournament series. There were nine players in total at the final table when the WSOP Main Event resumed. All of them were fighting for a huge prize of over $9,100,000. Eventually, it was Danish player Peter Eastgate who emerged as a winner. Even though this wasn’t the biggest WSOP Main Event winning of all time, Peter Eastgate did manage to become the youngest-ever Main Event winner at the time. However, as we mentioned previously, this record was short-lived as it was broken the very next year.
3. $10,000,000 – Hossein Ensan (2019)
The 2019 WSOP Main Event was able to gather up a huge field of 8,569 total entries. Unfortunately, this massive field of poker enthusiasts was unable to beat the record for the biggest WSOP Main Event win, which we will discuss a bit later. However, the prize pool did manage to exceed the $80,000,000 mark, which is an important milestone by itself. Needless to say that a large portion of this prize pool went to the winner. This time, it was Hossein Ensan who was lucky enough to win the top prize of $10,000,000.
Hossein Ensan is an Iranian-born German player. He is known for his quite unpredictable and bold playing style which constantly leaves his opponents guessing. Hossein Ensan went up against an Italian poker pro, Dario Sammartino in a heads-up play and eventually came out on top. He was awarded $10,000,000 for his first-place finish, which, unsurprisingly, was by far the biggest win of his poker career.
2. $10,000,000 – Martin Jacobson (2014)
Usually, the prize of the WSOP Main Event is directly correlated to the number of entries the tournament is able to gather. The more entries the tournament is able to collect, the bigger the prize pool will be. However, the 2014 WSOP Main Event was rather an exception. The 2014 WSOP Main Event was unable to collect a record-breaking field of entries, however, Martin Jacobson did manage to pocket $10,000,000 for his first-place finish.
For the first time in the history of the WSOP, the organizers decided to introduce a guaranteed payout of $10,000,000 to the winner, regardless of the overall prize pool it will be able to collect. While this was great news for the potential winner, it came at a cost of cutting down the winnings of the runner-up and other participants of the final table. Eventually, it was Martin Jacobson who came out on top of the competition and took home $10,000,000. But, poker pro-Felix Stephensen, who finished in second place, won “only” $5,100,000.
Due to this huge gap between the winnings received by the winner and the runner-up, the WSOP organization had to abandon this newly introduced idea. Other players were also in support of abandoning this rule. What’s even more unfortunate is the fact that Stephensen had to pay over 50% of his winnings in taxes. But Jacobson didn’t have to pay any taxes since he is a UK resident. In the end, Jacobson’s payout was four times bigger than his main opponent.
1. $12,000,000 – Jamie Gold (2006)
Finally, we reach the top spot in the top 10 biggest WSOP Main Event winnings of all time. The 2006 WSOP Main Event remains the biggest tournament series to date. This event has managed to collect a record-breaking field of 8,773 entries. This has resulted in the biggest prize pool in the history of WSOP. When the final day approached, it was announced that the winner will take home $12,000,000. For the first time in history, the WSOP Main Event winner would be awarded an eight-figure prize. This was a dramatic increase when compared to any previous years.
Eventually, it was Jamie Gold who navigated his way through this huge field and won the 2006 WSOP Main Event for the top prize of $12,000,000. What’s notable is the fact that Jamie Gold was an amateur poker player who has managed to get into the Main Event thanks to his deal with Bodog Poker. This decision turned out to be quite successful as he went on the hottest run in his entire career and won the largest WSOP Main Event in history.
However, his win was surrounded by some controversy. For example, there has been speculation that he had an agreement that half of his Main Event winnings would go to Crispin Leyser, who helped him get into the Main Event. Eventually, Jamie Gold agreed to pay Leyser, but the exact amount of money remains unknown.
This Main Event marked an important point in the history of WSOP. Even though some Main Events that came after 2006 would come close to breaking the record, none of them could actually gather a large enough field. As we’ve seen from this top list, it took all the way until 2019 before another Main Event would come close to breaking this legendary record.
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