The best players at the World Series of Poker by decade

The World Series of Poker tournament for many years has been the highlight of a Poker player’s career.

Whether it’s taking part against thousands of professionals or winning the Main Event, people flock to the WSOP wanting to test their skills – including celebrities. Even you could try and enter, just make sure you play poker on Paddy Power to get in the vital practise before entering!

At the WSOP we have seen it all, from Pamela Anderson turning up in 2006 wearing a bridal outfit to Valeriu Coca being accused of cheating in the 2015 $10,000 Main Event. From scandals, to celebrities and entertainment, the WSOP is the event to be at every year.

Success is determined in many forms at the WSOP, bringing home large sums from various events and winning the coveted WSOP bracelet. As you can imagine, there are all sorts of leader boards for each event every year, including the ‘WSOP Player of the Year’ award which has been awarded since 2004, but who has had the most success in each decade of the tournament so far?


Where it all began, in the 1970s. Entrants’ numbers grew from a mere 7 in 1970 up to 54 by 1979. The best player of the ’70s by numbers was Johnny Moss, who won the first-ever WSOP but also went on to win another two times as well as placing runner-up in 1973. Moss is a true legend of Poker, not only was he involved in poker from a young age – being a teenager watching over players in saloons to ensure no cheating. But he also has the record for the oldest bracelet winner in WSOP history, which he achieved in 1988. Moss was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 1979, a true legend and considered the very best from the 1970s.


The ’80s saw huge growth for the tournament. In 1980 there was 73 entrants for the Main Event and by the end of the decade that had more than doubled to 178. It is because of this growth that each year we witnessed a different winner and runner-up, except for two names, Stu Ungar and Johnny Chan, who both won the Main Event twice but Chan also came runner-up in 1989, which is why we crown him best player of the ’80s. Although Chan only won two of his ten bracelets in the 1980s, it is where his legacy began. Since it began, Chan has appeared in the TV show ‘Poker After Dark’ as well as portraying himself in the film ‘Rounders’. He’s written for magazines and even released his online poker room,


The ’90s allowed even more entrants to flood the tournament with fresh meat, from 194 players in 1990 to 393 in 1999, it was getting easier for better players to come up through the ranks, which is why in this decade, nobody won the main event more than once – in fact the only familiar name we see is Stu Ungar, who won his third bracelet in 1997. The player of the decade is wide open, but we have narrowed it down to someone who created history in possibly the most stylish way possible. Mansour Matloubi won the main event in 1990, becoming the first non-American to win the event, creating history, but that final game against Hans Lund was sensational to watch! After an intense stand-off, both players ended up going all-in, with $382,000 each. With the street cards as spades, 2 clubs and 4 diamonds – Matloubi revealed his 10 pair, whilst Lund revealed a 9 and Ace for a 9 pair. The fourth street card was revealed to show the Ace of spades, leaving Lund with the better hand of two pairs, but the fifth street card, you guessed it, the 10 spades – leaving Matloubi the winner of the 1990 main event and $895,000.


The growth of the WSOP throughout the noughties was phenomenal, from 512 entrants in 2000 to 6,494 in 2009 – the Poker boom and introduction of online Poker are the reasons why we see the WSOP Main Event develop into how we recognise it today. The influx of players saw people from all across the world enter and win the main event: Australia, Denmark and Ecuador, as well as runners-up from the UK, Canada and Lebanon. Not one year contained a second winner or runner up, and even with the introduction of the ‘Player of the year’ award, nobody one it more than once. Although, there was someone who set a pretty incredible record – Joe Cada, who in 2009 became the youngest ever Main Event winner at the age of 21 years and 357 days. Cada then went on to win a bracelet in 2014 for the $10,000 No-Limit Hold’em 6-Handed Championship Event. His current live event winnings total over $8.5 million.


With the 2019 WSOP complete, we have come to the end of the most recent decade. The number of players that entered the event was 8,569 and this year, Hossein Ensan put himself in the history books as the Main Event winner with a hand of two Kings (spade and club). In this decade, we have seen the oldest player participate in the main event in 2010, which was Jack Ury, we have also seen Phil Hellmuth claim four more WSOP bracelets, totalling 15 altogether. So who did we choose? Ronnie Bardah, who made the most Main Event money finishes in consecutive years from 2010 to 2014. Across all the events in WSOP, Bardah actually cashed in from every year between 2010-2018, with his biggest win taking place in 2010 for his 24th finish in the 7,319-entrant $10,000 No Limit Hold’em Championship Main Event – winning $317,161.

There have been many legendary names not included in this list, with huge winnings and memorable hands – but these five people all contributed massively to the WSOP and went down in history. Who would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments below!