The World Series of Poker has grown from a small tournament of poker’s greatest stars to a free-for-all that anyone can win at the final table. Champions of the poker world turn into celebrities with endorsements, websites, and even fan sites for those who religiously follow one of the most popular poker games in the world.
Many colorful characters have won the World Series of Poker Championship from experienced professionals to younger amateurs. Here’s my pick for some of the best of the best.
Doyle Brunson still plays in the World Series of Poker even though he is in his mid-70s as far as age. Technically, he was won ten World Series of Poker titles but has only won the huge jackpot twice. In 1976 he took home $220,000 and the following year Brunson won $340,000. The legend has passed on the love of poker to his son, Todd, who won a 2005 title at a lower table.
Amarillo Slim Preston not only won the Championship in 1972 but even continued playing into the early 1990s after having been credited with taking the World Series of Poker to new levels after touting the sport on late night television. Preston was indicted on charges of child molestation that have since been retracted by his own family who brought the charges in the first place, sadly destroying his family life in Texas.
Stu Ungar is a multiple winner of the World Series of Poker Championship, winning the final table in 1980 and 1981, and then again coming back and winning in 1997 after 15 years. Unlike all of the best old poker players, Ungar was born in 1953 and had an existence of “hard livin.” After years of abusing cocaine and other drugs, Ungar was found dead a year after his 1997 triumph of a heart attack. So far, he is the second three-time Champion aside from tournament founder Johnny Moss.
Jamie Gold is famous for winning the most money in 2006’s World Series of Poker with a whopping $12 million, almost three million dollars more than his closest competition. Gold started as a talent scout for actors in Los Angeles and then took his poker playing to a new level despite lawsuits about his winnings and being dropped by sponsors. Still, his brazen style of no holds barred poker propelled him to the legendary 2006 championship.
Phil Hellmuth holds several records in the World Series of Poker. In 1989 Hellmuth became the youngest World Champion at age 24 and to this day he still holds the record for most bracelets won at various events. He still plays today and you can read about his exploits on his official website and doesn’t plan on resting even though he’s won eleven bracelets.