The Fight for Poker GOAT Continues as Phil Hellmuth Stakes His Claim

3 weeks ago
The Fight for Poker GOAT Continues as Phil Hellmuth Stakes His Claim
24 Mar

It’s a question that may be impossible to answer correctly, but it still gets asked – who is the greatest poker player of all time? If your answer isn’t Phil Hellmuth, you’re apparently doing it all wrong…

It sounds like it should be easy enough to get this right – just look at who has won most money in Poker and there’s your top dog right there…

Bryn Kenney


Justin Bonomo


Daniel Negreanu


Erik Seidel


Dan Smith


…but that misses out some very important criteria. How much did they pay in buy-ins, being one of the biggest. And what about cash games? And longevity? Strength of the opposition? And more...

Kenney, for example, has a £16,890,509 runner-up cash from the Triton Million for Charity event. Does that massive win really leapfrog him past Bonomo and Negreanu in the rankings?

Likewise the winner of that event, Aaron Zang, has more earnings than the likes of Jason Mercier, Joe McKeehen and Alex Foxen – but you’d struggle to argue he was a better player than any of that illustrious trio.

In poker, money talks, and it is very hard to argue with it. Many still try, of course, and that brings us to Phil Hellmuth and his recent call for some respect for his achievements.

“I will FIGHT when someone attacks my legacy, my life’s work, my accomplishments! I’ll fight harder when they are factually incorrect!” he tweeted out recently.

A Twitter storm surrounding his upcoming match with Daniel Negreanu has seen the Poker Brat defending his record of 15 WSOP bracelets and claiming he has beasted everything he has played.

“Believe I only played 30-40 High Roller tourneys in my life: winning money at One Drop AND SHRB! I won over $10 million in cash games ($2.2m last 15 months). I don’t disrespect today’s players, I’m not saying I am better. But, some sure disrespect my play w small sample size.”

When asked to name his top 5 list for GOAT poker player, he named himself alongside Phil Ivey, Chip Reese, Doyle Brunson and Phil Ivey.

Players such as his soon-to-be opponent Negreanu and young gun Ali Imsirovic are among the big names who not only disagree with Hellmuth’s claims, but actively pooh-pooh many of them.

Jason Koon, whose $31,101,729 places him at 10th spot in the all-time tournament money list (with Hellmuth in 21st, some $6million or so behind) is another.

Koon stated:

“I have no dog in this fight but using a person’s results at the WSOP as a metric for who the poker GOAT is would be the same as using a person’s Little League stats to determine the greatest baseball player. The top players can’t be bothered to show up for 95% of the events.”

That prompted a “wow!” from Hellmuth, who went on to list the modern-day players who he admitted were crushers, Koon among them, as was Imsirovic and players such as David Peters, Adrian Mateos, Jake Schindler, Fedor Holz and many others.

Negreanu fired up the hype for their upcoming match with soundbite nuggets about Phil’s skill level such as:

"'Bad' is relative. Bad compared to Grandma Betty? Absolutely not. Bad when compared to the high stakes tourney crushers? Most definitely. To suggest otherwise is actually utterly ridiculous.”

Despite this, Hellmuth found some kind words for his long-time friend and foe:

“Well @RealKidPoker, I truly believe that you are one of the “Great ones” in the poker world."

The money lists say one thing, and the tournament trophies and jewellery another, but we’ll give Phil the final word for now.

“As far as my record: I will keep my head down and work hard to achieve my goal of winning 24 @WSOP Tourneys and 3 @WPT tourns. When I am no longer around, my record will speak for itself.”

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Andrew from Edinburgh, Scotland, is a professional journalist, international-titled chess master, and avid poker player.Read more


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