To many people, winning a million dollars playing poker is merely a dream; however, there have been some sick poker tournaments over the years with top prizes that were much, much bigger. Imagine winning $5 million or $10 million—or even $18 million in a single poker tournament win. In the poker world, these huge poker wins are not unattainable.
For most of the past decade, the largest poker tournament in the world has been the World Series of Poker (WSOP) $10,000 Main Event. Over the years this tournament has created some of the biggest poker tournament winners of all time.
Of the 15 biggest poker wins in history, 12 have come from the Main Event.
Numbers 4 and 5
So, without further ado, here are the 5 biggest wins in poker history based on first place prize money.
5. 2014 WSOP Main Event
The tournament began on July 5th and played down to a final table on July 14th. The final nine players returned in November to to determine a winner. Out of a field of 6,683—and with a total prize pool of $62.8 million—Swedish poker pro Martin Jacobson emerged victorious, winning the bracelet and $10 million. Second-place finisher Felix Stephensen earned nearly $5.15 million.
Take a look at the exciting final hand here (forward to 30:13).
4. 2006 WSOP Main Event
The 2006 WSOP Main Event holds the distinction of being the largest tournament in poker history boasting a total pool of $82,512,162. Due to the whopping number of players—8,773 that year—there were four separate starting days. The four groups played down to two, then to one, and eventually the final table of nine began on August 8. On August 10, Jamie Gold became world champion winning $12 million. Paul Wasicka—whose pocket tens didn’t provide him the same satisfaction as did Jacobson’s in the previous clip—finished in second place, earning him an impressive $6.1 million.
Gold enjoyed a substantial chip lead from Day 4 on, and he impressively eliminated seven of his eight opponents at the final table. Gold was the overwhelming chip leader going into the final hand where he used table talk and Q9 to knock out Paul Wasicka and his pocket tens.
The Top 3 biggest poker wins in history
The 3 largest poker wins were all non-Main Event WSOP tournaments that benefited the international non-profit One Drop Foundation. Established by Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté, the Foundation strives to provide safe drinking water in crisis areas. As much as $111,111 of every buy-in from each of these tournaments is donated to the foundation.
The Big One for One Drop is a $1 million buy-in NLHE tournament event held every other year as part of the WSOP. It is both the highest buy-in and highest payout tournament in the history of poker. The inaugural Big One for One Drop tournament was held in 2012 and provided the largest single poker payout in history—a record that still stands today.
3. 2014 Big One for One Drop
The second largest win in poker history belongs to Dan Colman. With a total prize pool of $37.3 million, Colman beat 42 other players to take home the $15.3 million grand prize. Daniel Negreanu came in second, winning nearly $8.29 million, thus making him number one on the All Time Money List with total live winnings in excess of $36.5 million.
The last hand was definitely not without drama, especially since Colman won a huge pot from Negreanu a few hands earlier with A4 himself. Check it out.
2. 2018 Big One for One Drop
The most recent WSOP event lands at number 2 on this list and was one of the most exciting in history.
When all was said and done, Justin Bonomo beat Fedor Holz heads up to capture the impressive $10 million first prize and his second bracelet of the series. This win also catapulted Bonomo atop the All Time Money List ahead of former #1 Daniel Negreanu. Bonomo now boasts nearly $43 million in live earnings.
1. 2012 Big One for One Drop
This prestigious WSOP event had 48 entries and a whopping $42.67 million prize pool. Antonio Esfandiari was the big winner, taking home nearly $18.35 million—the highest single poker tournament payout in history.
Take a look at the final hand where Esfandiari’s 75off beat Sam Trickett’s suited Q6. Esfandiari, justifiably, cannot hold back his excitement.
Other notable poker tournament wins
As for non-NLHE tournaments, the largest win was in the 2008 WSOP $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event. Despite some controversy, Scotty Nguyen took home the bracelet and the nearly $2 million first prize.
The biggest online poker win in history came courtesy of the PokerStars-sponsored 2010 World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) Main Event. This $5,200-buy-in tournament attracted a field of 2,443 players and offered a total prize pool of almost $12.22 million. When all was said and done, nearly $2.3 million went to winner Tyson “POTTERPOKER” Marks. You can watch the last few hands of the tournament here.
There you have it, the 5 biggest poker wins in history. Thus far, that is. We’d love to hear about your biggest win in the comments below.
Until next time.
Read more from Upswing Poker:
- Scotty Nguyen Defined in 6 Hands—That’s Poker Baby!
- Doug Polk Wins One Drop High Roller at the WSOP for $3,686,865
- The Top 20 Female Poker Players of All Time
Natalie Faulk is a Las Vegas-based freelance writer/blogger and the author of several books. She is an avid low-stakes (for now) poker player and huge Vegas Golden Knights fan.