Poker

Is Phil Ivey the Best Poker Player of All Time?


Phil Hellmuth won his 16th WSOP bracelet on Sunday, sparking the G.O.A.T. debate, but there are arguments to be made that Phil Ivey deserves that title (or, perhaps, someone else?).

Hellmuth has six more gold bracelets than anyone else, including Ivey who has 10 (tied for second with Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan). There are few who would disagree that he is the top performer in history at the World Series of Poker.

There’s even a case to be made that he’s the greatest tournament player overall, not just at the WSOP. And he’s even a better heads-up player than most give him credit for, especially considering he’s 7-1 on PokerGO’s High Stakes Duel show and won the 2005 NBC Heads-Up National Championship. And this is where the “but” comes into play.

Phil Ivey Does it All

Although Hellmuth is the best in WSOP history, there’s more to poker than just winning bracelets. The “Poker Brat’s” online poker accomplishments are minimal and he doesn’t have the reputation as a cash game crusher in recent years. Ivey, on the other hand, is an all-around star.

On Full Tilt Poker prior to the Black Friday scandal, Ivey’s account had nearly $20 million in profits over 319,000 hands, an online poker record. His cash game reputation is also higher than Hellmuth’s.

The tournament results between the poker legends are fairly similar overall, with Hellmuth getting the nod in WSOP events. Both poker Hall of Famers have impressive resumes in this area. Hellmuth has the 16 bracelets to go along with $25.5 million in live tournament cashes, while Ivey has 10 bracelets and $32.3 million in cashes.

This weekend, Ivey will also make his debut on ‘Hustler Casino Live,’ which you can read about here.

Phil Ivey WSOP Bracelet Wins

Year Phil Ivey’s WSOP Titles Earnings
2000 Event #14: $2,500 Po-Limit Seven Omaha $195,000
2002 Event #5: $1,500 Limit Seven Card Stud $132,000
2002 Event #16: $2,500 Limit Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo $118,440
2002 Event #8: $2,000 Limit S.H.O.E. $107,540
2005 Event #27: $5,000 Pot-Limit Omaha $635,603
2009 Event #8: $2,500 No-Limit 2-7 Lowball Draw $96,367
2009 Event #25: $2,000 Omaha/Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo $220,538
2010 Event #37: $3,000 H.O.R.S.E. $329,840
2013 Event #3: A$2,200 Mixed Event (8-Game) A$51,840
2014 Event #50: $1,500 8-Game Mix $166,986

Where Ivey stands out ahead of Hellmuth as a tournament crusher is in World Poker Tour (WPT) events. Ivey’s two WPT titles and 11 final table appearances are far superior to Hellmuth winning zero titles and five times reaching a final table.

Ivey and Hellmuth aren’t the Only Ones in the Conversation

Doyle Brunson

Is Hellmuth the greatest poker player of all-time? Yes. No. Maybe. Is Ivey the greatest poker player of all-time? Yes. No. Maybe. The fact of the matter is this is a subjective question.

Some would say that the WSOP is so important that Hellmuth’s dominance in that annual series automatically makes him the G.O.A.T. Other poker fans believe the G.O.A.T. title should only go to someone who crushes it in several areas. Hence, why Ivey is often considered the best poker player ever.

Many reading this article will argue that neither Ivey or Hellmuth are deserving of G.O.A.T. status, and a reasonable take. That’s because there are others who at least belong in the conversation, if not atop the mountain.

Brunson, for example, is a 10-time WSOP bracelet winner who continues to compete in the highest stakes games in Las Vegas in his 80’s, and dominated the game in the pre-Moneymaker era. The late Stu Ungar won three WSOP Main Event titles and was arguably the most feared no-limit hold’em player ever. Erik Seidel, Chip Reese, and Daniel Negreanu certainly aren’t chopped liver either.

Challenges in Selecting a G.O.A.T.

Unlike in sports, there’s no way to keep track of the main stat that matters most in poker — profit. The Hendon Mob database compiles the results for most live poker tournaments around the world, but only records the amount a player cashes for. Unless the players were to keep accurate records and release them publicly, we have no way of knowing how much they’re winning or losing.

The same issue arises in judging cash game prowess. Players don’t disclose cash game results publicly, and our only glimpse of these pros comes from livestreams and televised poker shows, which makes determining a G.O.A.T. all the more subjective.

Phil Ivey is set to play on Hustler Casino Live this weekend!



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