Top 5 Most Dominant WSOP Main Event Winners

The World Series Of Poker is the cream of the crop when it comes to live poker events. It is also the one true tournament or series of tournaments that has managed to stand the test of time. The pinnacle of the series is the $10,000 Texas No Limit Hold’em Main Event.

It has also laid the ground work for some of the most prominent tournaments around the globe today.

We are referring to events such as the World Poker Tour (WPT), the European Poker Tour (EPT), and Aussie Millions. WSOP has also crossed the ocean to launching a European version dubbed WSOP-E.

Brief History Of The World Series of Poker

As mentioned, the WSOP is the cream of the crop of poker tournaments. Not only because of the prestige behind it but also due to its lengthy history.

The very first event held was back in 1970 when Benny Binion invited some of the best poker players in the US to participate in a single tournament, held at Horseshoe Casino.

From this inaugural event, the series has continued to grow and is today the largest live event in the world. The last live series that was played was back in 2019 when 89 tournaments were on the schedule.

Due to Covid, the 2020 event moved online. Damian Salas won the WSOP Main Event in early January 2021.

The cause of this massive expansion dates back to 2003 with Chris Moneymakers winning the WSOP Main Event. This came after having qualified through an $86 satellite.

The victory gave him a prize check of $2.5 million. With his victory, he started something which today is referred to as the Moneymaker Effect.

This is also reflected in the schedule of the series, which went from 36 events in 2003 to, as mentioned, 89 in 2019.

The Most Dominant Winners

Since the very first event, we have seen some spectacular poker take place, players dominating the field and leaving no prisoners.

Through aggressive gameplay, maximum pressure, bluffs, and a bit of luck some players ran over their opponents.

Below we are going to list some of the players and their final tables that’s taken place over the years. These are listed in no particular order. 

1. Chris Moneymaker

Not only did he help bring poker into the limelight with his victory in 2003. He also did so in style arriving at the final table holding the chip lead. Getting there had been far from easy, having gone up against and knocking out both Phil Ivey and Johnny Chan.

At the final table, he held the chip lead which he used to his advantage. It was however Sammy Farha to come out firing right from the start, but it didn’t take long for Moneymaker to start making moves, knocking out the players in fifth, fourth, and third.

Chris Moneymaker
Credits: Drew Amato

Heads-up he went up against Farah. One of the most crucial hands during the heads-up match was Moneymakers bluff holding Ks7h vs Farha’s 9hQs on a nine-high board. He went all-in and Farha folded his top pair, despite Farha saying “You must have missed your flush, huh?”

On the final hand, players got it on after Js5s4c landed on the flop. Farha had hit to pair holding Jh10d while Moneymaker had flopped 2-pair with his 5d4s.

A brick on the turn and another 5 on the river secured Moneymaker his victory and Farha had to settle for 2nd and $1.3 million in prize money.

2. Hossein Ensan

First out we have the winner of the last live event that was held, prior to the Covid pandemic. Hossein Ensan managed to snag the victory in the 2019 main event and did so in an impressive matter.

Coming into the final 9, he held a comfortable lead over the other eight, holding 177 big blinds. The player in second place held 99 bb then it was a big jump down to third with 61 bb.

This would turn out to be one of the longest WSOP Main Event final tables in history, stretching over 3 days, days 8, 9, and 10. Hossein held the chip lead going into the final table, into day 9 and the final day, with three remaining.

He managed to beat Dario Sammartino to claim the first prize of $10 million. On the final hand, he held KhKc vs 8s4s. Despite having flopped a flush draw Sammartino didn’t manage to fill his flush and Hossein claimed the victory.

Securing the prize money worth $10 million meant that Hossein tied with the 2014 winner Martin Jacobson, winning the second-largest first prize in main event history.

With WSOP having flattened out the payout structure somewhat, compared to previous years, it resulted in more players getting paid but also a slightly smaller first prize. This explains why he didn’t receive a larger first prize despite the larger field compared to the 2014 event.

Hossein Essan
Credits: John Locher/Associated Press

3. Jamie Gold

Third, in our list of dominating performances during the World Series of Poker Main Event, we have the winner of the largest ever Main Event field since the game started, 36 years earlier.

We are referring to the 2006 WSOP Main Event. Jamie Gold managed to beat the odds against the 8,772 other players to claim victory and the $12 million for first place.

The only other Main Event that’s come close to these kinds of numbers was the 2019 Main Event which saw 8,569 enter.

Gold managed to gain the chip lead during day 3 and once he was there, he never relinquished it during the 10 days the event ran.

Using his enormous stack along with his table banter he put maximum pressure on his opponents, and it turned out to be a winning strategy.

Heads-up Gold managed to beat his fellow American, Paul Wasicka holding Q-Q for Gold versus Wasickas 10-10.

The Gold vs Leyser controversy

The queens held and earned Gold the largest first prize this tournament has ever paid. For 2nd place, Wasicka walked away with an impressive $6.1 million.

The victory wouldn’t come without controversy, however, as Gold had promised to pay half of his winning to Bruce Leyser.

He never went through with his promise and Leyser had to file a lawsuit, having the courts freeze the funds. It was only at this point both parties agreed to settle the matter “without litigation” and Leyser got his agreed share.

This is also the only bracelet that Gold has managed to win at WSOP.

Jamie Gold
Credits: Drew Amato

4. Stu Ungar

This is by many considered to be the greatest poker player to have ever played the game. Had he still been alive today, many believe he would still be a force to reckon with, even against all these new GTO players.

Unger managed to write WSOP history back in 1997, tying the record with “The Grand Old Man of Poker, Johnny Moss with 3 victories each.

As if 3 wins were enough, Stu Ungar managed to win the event back-to-back in 1980 and 1981. His third win would come an astonishing 16 years later, in 1997. The long hiatus between the wins gave Ungar the nickname “The Comeback Kid”, a slight variation to his previous nick, “The Kid”.

What happened after to Stu Ungar?

Having struggled with addiction for many years, he was far from tip-top shape to play in the event. Deep in debt, he wasn’t even sure he would be able to scrape together the $10,000 required to buy into the event.

Coming to his rescue was his friend and fellow poker pro, Billy Baxter, who staked Ungar into the event.

He was in such bad shape, already during day 1, he even told his fellow tablemate, late Mike Sexton, that he didn’t believe he could make it.

After having received some lifting words from the poker legend, along with some harsh words from his backer, Ungar got it together and finished the first day in style.

With the help of his daughter, whose picture he carried in his wallet, he made sure he was both well-rested and focused from day 2 and onward.

It wouldn’t take long until Ungar had amazed an astonishing chip lead. Once there, he wouldn’t relinquish it and held it all the way till the final table.

This despite having been seated next to four other world champions during day two.

At that table, he went up against Doyle “The Godfather of Poker” Brunson, Bobby Baldwin, Berry Johnston, and none other than Phil Hellmuth. Regardless of the impressive list, Ungar prevailed and went onto the final table.

The final table would turn out to be a lot easier compared to the table he sat at during day two. During the final, he went up against Chris Bjorin, Bob Walker, Mel Judah amongst others.

One last victory for Stu

This would also be the first final table ever that was to be concluded outdoors, to the amusement of fans and spectators alike. Once they were down to the final six, the table moved outside to Freemont Street.

The reason they elected to move out was due to the massive turnout because of Ungar’s appearance.

In his true style, Ungar didn’t disappoint. He came out blazing, playing his aggressive style that he was known for. He took command of the final table, raising left and right and no one dared to stand in his way.

Despite holding more than twice the amount of chips as a player in second place, Ungar didn’t hold back, just the opposite.

Reaching heads-up Ungar held a 4-1 chip lead against his opponent, John Strzemp. He continued to put maximum pressure on his opponent and the heads-up would only require six hands before the suffering was over for Strzemp.

With a flop showing Ac5d3h, both players got it all-in with Strzemp holding As8c, dominating Ungars Ah4c. However, Ungar held a gutshot, which he filled on the river when the 2s fell. That secured him the victory and the first prize of $1 million.

This would be the last ever World Series of Poker for Ungar, who died late the following year at the age of 45.

His hard life with drug abuse caught up to him and his heart finally gave in. This was the official cause of death ruled by the medical examiner.

Stu Ungar

5. Jonathan Duhamel

The Canadian poker player who won the 2010 years World Series of Poker Main Event did so with a tremendous amount of luck right before the final table.

The hand in question is known to this date as one of the toughest bad beats in poker, especially as they were so deep into the tournament and only a few places shy of the final table.

With just 15 players left, Duhamel who held pocket jacks managed to suck out on Matt Affleck who held the dream starting hand, pocket aces. The action started with Duhamel raising it up. Affleck answered with a re-raise, only to see Duhamel come over the top with another raise.

A dream scenario when holding “The rockets”. Affleck decided to disguise his hand so instead of raising he just called, and players took to the flop.

10d9c7h landed and Duhamel checked over to Affleck who bet 5 million which Duhamel called. Qd on the turn resulted in another check from Duhamel.

What happened after for Duhamel?

This time Affleck elected to go for it and went all-in with his aces betting 11 million into an 18 million pot being an 80% favorite to win the hand. Duhamel deliberated for a long period before electing to make the call.

The 8d on the river gave the Canadian a straight, knocking Affleck out in 15th and giving him a substantial lead over the remaining field.

At the start of the final table, Duhamel had close to 66 million chips, which wasn’t far from what the second and third players in chips had combined. It was far from an easy field with players such as Joseph Cheong, Matthew Jarvis, John Racener, Filippo Candio and Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi.

Duhamel was the most active player at this final table, playing more hands than any other finalist. This paved way for his enormous chip leading going into a heads-up play against John Racener holding 189 million in chips vs Racener’s 31 million.

The final table would require 262 hands before Duhamel could be crowned the winner of the tournament. Players got it in preflop holding AcJd for Duhamel and Kd8d for Racener. The board bricked and Duhamel won, claiming the first prize worth just under $9 million.

Jonathan Duhamel
Credits: Jules Pochy

Final Thoughts

Here we have it, 5 of the most dominant displays at a poker table in the WSOP main event. What was your favorite? Did we miss any?

With the rise of online poker, making the game more accessible for everyone, it is likely we see more epic displays of dominance in the WSOP soon. CoinPoker invites you to join our tables and show your skills. Simply download the app on desktop or mobile and start playing.

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