The Most Important Names in Modern Poker

3 years ago
The Biggest Names In Modern Poker
20 May

Lists like these usually give all of the credit to the players. Granted those are the ones playing the game and in the spotlight, so my list will have some players involved, but I want to highlight some of the big names behind the scenes so to speak. We all should know who these guys are, appreciate their business acumen and innovation as it has helped bring poker on a long way.

Isai Scheinberg

Number one on the list and some of you may have never heard of him. I realize that is a pretty bold move, but honestly, Scheinberg has been huge in the development of poker since the poker boom.

For those of you still wondering, Isai is the founder of PokerStars! He started the company in 2001 and in a little over a decade he created the greatest poker site of all time, attracted some of poker's biggest names and founded some of today's most prestigious online tournament series’

In 2014 Scheinberg sold the PokerStars site to the Amaya Group for a shade under $5 billion - no that is not a typo!

Although Scheinberg is no longer involved with PokerStars, what he done for the poker world means his legacy will be around forever. Whenever you hear players talk about PokerStars and ‘the good old days’ they're referring to the Sheinberg era.

Despite his success, Sheinberg always maintained a low profile. So if you are both lucky enough to walk past him in the street and lucky enough to recognise him, say thank you from me. Without Sheinberg, we wouldn't have PokerStars. Without PokerStars, online poker would not be where it is today. He has been highly rewarded for his success, but rightly so.

Doyle Brunson

Doyle is often referred to as the Godfather of poker and is a fan favorite who is loved by all. Doyle seems to have been around forever. Long before the poker boom, you could find Doyle travelling the US playing in dangerous and crooked card games trying to earn his crust. Those days were completely different than what we know and love today, but fascinating all the same. Doyle’s aptly named autobiography - The Godfather of Poker was released in the back end of 2009 and the great man himself shares some of his stories with us and I for one am glad he did.

Speaking of books, what perhaps Doyle is most famous for is shaping the way people play and think about poker today. His ‘ Super System’ series of strategy books brought about a huge advancement in the standard level of poker play. It introduced readers to the aggressive strategy we have come to know and love (or hate).

Doyle received a lot of criticism for the books, many claiming it would kill the professionals edge in the game. To some extent they were right, but what they didn’t consider was how much having a blueprint to success would attract people to the game. The book featured texts from some of the greatest players in every format of the game including Bobby Baldwin, Mike Caro, Chip Reese, and more.

It has been over 30 years since the first publication, and the books are still one of the first to be recommended for players looking to pick up the game.

A member of the Poker Hall of Fame, Doyle is universally considered one of the all-time greats. To this day he plays some of the highest stakes cash in the world and can certainly hold his own.

Chris Moneymaker

Everyone should know who Chris Moneymaker is and he could perhaps be higher on this list. For those of you who have just moved here from another planet, Chris is that guy who turned $39 into $2.5 million in 2003 winning the WSOP Main Event.

Until that point it was unheard of for an ametuer to win the big one. Since that day thousands on thousands of players have thrown their hat into the ring. Chris’ amazing feat is perhaps the single reason poker is as big as it is today.

Since his main event win, Chris has hardly set the poker world on fire, but he has been a great ambassador for the game and still loves poker just as he did all those years ago. He has played all over the world in low buy-in events, interacting with the fans, and just being an all around great guy. I personally had the pleasure of playing with him in a £300 side event at the UKIPT. He even bought the beers! Thanks Chris.

Randy Blumer

Do you heard of online poker? Have you played online poker? If the answer to either of those questions is yes, then you have Randy Blumer to thank. Blumer is the man who started what is now a multi-billion dollar industry with a poker site you may not have heard of - Planet Poker.

Blumer launched Planet Poker in the summer of 199 7 as a strictly play-money site. The company did not take long to make the decision to implement real money games and on the 1st of January 1998 the first ever hand of real money poker was dealt online.

It wasn’t long before ring games were running 24 hours per day on Planet Poker and from that moment Randy knew he was onto a winner.

All great things must come to an end, and Planet Poker was knocked off its perch once others with bigger bankrolls and better software came along, but one thing Randy Blumer and Planet Poker will have is the knowledge that they started it all.

Phil Hellmuth

Love him or hate him, the Poker Brat is an absolutely huge icon in the poker world. At times he seems to think he is bigger than poker, and, in all honesty, he is not that far away.

Phil has been a master of self promotion and has turned himself into a brand. Every poker fan, casual or obsessive has an opinion on Phil and knows who he is.

Over the years his ability has been questioned time and time again because he doesn’t really play online, high stakes cash, or travel the tournament circuit, but the truth is, he doesn't have to and he is not contractually obligated to like some of poker's other big names.

The fact is Phil only really shows up for WSOP each year and he has absolutely smashed it, he holds almost every record there is including most bracelets, most cashes and most final tables. These records are likely to remain with the brat due to the huge fields and competitive nature of today's’ game, so Phil Hellmuth will be remembered forever.

Helmuth cemented his legacy in 2007 when he was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame.

It has not all been rosy for the Poker Brat though. Every poker site was itching to sign one of the biggest names in poker, and Hellmuth decided to get behind the Ultimate Bet brand and we all know what happened there. Phil came through the other side of, arguably, the biggest scandal in the history of poker pretty much unscathed, which is testament to his solid reputation and character.

Since then, he has stayed away from sponsorship, preferring to play as and when he chooses and it has been a fantastic decision in terms of results. His tournament game is showing no signs of slowing down, and another bracelet or two is not out of the realm of possibility, although I am pretty confident that he will remain the number one bracelet holder regardless.

Daniel Negreanu

Daniel ‘Kid Poker’ Negreanu is another huge name in poker. He was one of the first young kids to come onto the scene and tear it up at the poker tables, hence his nickname Kid Poker.

Daniel has come a long way since the early days though. His likeable personality and love for the game have helped him on his way to becoming the face of PokerStars and Daniel is perhaps most responsible for cleaning up poker’s image.

Before players like him came along, poker's image was in rough shape. Most people associated poker with dingy, smoke filled, underground rooms full of crooks and gangsters and to be honest that was probably correct for the most part.

Daniel and others have helped shed poker of that image, and poker is now, for the most part, a well respected game and even profession for many. You no longer have to lie about poker in the fear of being labeled an addict or a low life.

On top of being a great guy, Kid Poker is a phenomenal player. He is tournament poker's all time money winner with over $32 million in earnings and has mixed it up with some of the best in the highest stake cash games, live and online.

His hendon mob is littered with six and seven figure scores, the biggest of all coming in June of 2014 where he finished runner up in the big one for one drop, a million dollar buy in event. He raked in over $8 million for his efforts.

Daniel is not afraid to speak his mind when required which is somewhat rare for a player with a huge sponsorship deal. He has taken the lead in that regard, which has inspired others to do the same and that can only be good for poker’s future.

John Duthie

John Duthie is the Englishman, Yorkshireman in fact, we have to thank for the European Poker Tour. The EPT as it is known is one of the world's leading tournament series and has brought us some of the best poker moments over the years.

Duthie founded and directed the program, which was the first program to really advance the poker commentary that we see today. They were not afraid to get technical and discuss some strategy as well as keeping it light hearted and fun. A model which virtually every poker broadcast uses now.

John started off like many of us, as a poker fan and a very recreational poker player. Before long he caught the bug and fell in love with tournament poker in particular. Soon poker was consuming more and more of his life. He had a couple of scores in local tournaments and then found himself in the Isle of Man playing a £6,000 tournament, by far the biggest he had played to date.

In an interview with pokertube, John told us how he felt an immense feeling of destiny about the tournament, he just knew he was going to win it and sure enough he did. When all was said and done ,he was crowned the champion and collected the cool £1,000,000 for first place. The rest, as they say, is history. Check out the poker tube interview where John talks more about the development of the EPT:

Taylor Caby

Taylor Caby is an American poker player and entrepreneur that has revolutionised the online poker world, somewhat similarly to what Doyle did to table poker with Super System. Caby is the founder of CardRunners, which was the first online poker training site.

CardRunner's pro’s produce strategy videos and users are charged a monthly subscription to have access to the videos. This is now a model that is very common amongst instructional sites. Over the years we have seen many come and go, but Cardrunners were the first and are arguably still at the forefront of the business.

Much like Doyle, Taylor and Cardrunners were accused of ruining the games and perhaps they are somewhat correct. Many of us who have been around poker for a long time know all too well how tough the games have gotten and Cardrunners are definitely partly responsible for this, but as an entrepreneur, Taylor should be very proud of what he has created.

Away from Cardrunners, Taylor was a very solid poker player himself. A winner at the high stakes cash games, he has poker to thank for being able to fund all of his ideas, however, he does not get much time to play these days because of all of his other commitments.

Holdem Manager is a piece of software designed for poker analysis. Taylor is a managing partner in the company. Just like Cardrunners, Holdem Manager is responsible for making the games a little tougher, but more importantly Holdem Manager is another tool that players can use to increase their poker skill.

Did we miss anyone? Who else as changed the game as much as these people?

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Sam is a freelance sports writer from the North East of England and Co-Host of weekly sports podcast, the IAWSportsCastHe is a lover of all sports and regularly tries and fails to beat the bookies.Read more


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