Anyone who suggests the poker craze has peaked hasn’t spent much time reviewing the huge amount of tournament prize money being scooped up all over the world this year.
The top five live poker winners of 2018 have bagged at least $8.8 million each, with the highest earner, Justin Bonomo pocketing a meaty $25.4 million. Of course, this doesn’t account for the total number of tournament buy-ins they’ve paid out, but a lot of this is pure, tasty profit.
Live and online poker cash game success (or failure) is harder to define since such records are not so publicly available.
So, with the live tournament circuit as our guide, here are the top five success stories of 2018. Most, as you can see, are US players, a country where, for the most part, online poker is illegal.
These guys are at the top of the game. Most people play poker for fun and challenge, and if you’d like to join them, you can get started playing poker today on sites like bestonlinecasino.uk.
5. $8,807,068 John Cynn, United States
The beauty of tournament poker is you can come from seemingly nowhere, score a huge win, and rocket towards the top of the charts for big earners of the year.
Each year, the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas throws up one of these guys, and before winning this year’s big one, Cynn had only won $2,468 in 2018. No matter, topping the huge 7,874 Main Event field at the Rio in Las Vegas netted him a cool $8,800,000.
His win was no fluke performance, however, for,in 2016, he came 11th in the same mega-tournament, earning $650,000.
4. $10,785,014 David Peters, United States
Peters is a stalwart of the live game. He has live results going way back to December 2006, when he picked up $56,549 at the Ongame Network Poker Classic, played in Barcelona. That makes us feel nostalgic!
His ability to cash relentlessly has seen him rise to 5th in the all-time money rankings, with recorded winnings of $29,565,921.
It’s perhaps no surprise, then, to see Ohio native Peters riding high in 2018 as well. His biggest cash of the year was for $1,848,000 at the World Series of Poker Europe Super High Roller event in October, one of SIX million dollar scores of the year.
3. $11,590,538 Jason Koon, United States
Koon has also been cashing in live tournaments for over a decade. In 2018, he scored big with a $3.5 million win at the Triton Poker Super High Roller Series event in Montenegro. That impressive result was followed up with a $2.1 million score at the Super High Roller Bowl event in Las Vegas just TEN days later!
Born in West Virginia, he now lives in Canada where he can play online poker and is an ambassador for Partypoker team pro. If you ever need a good coach, he also makes appearances on RunItOnce.
2. $14,563,871 Nikita Bodyakovskiy, Belarus
The only non-American in our 2018 top five, Bodyakovskiy, from Belarus has been tearing up the live poker scene, especially since 2016.
His 2018 winnings were bookended by two huge scores at the Triton Poker Super High Roller Series. He won the main event in July for $5.2 million and won $2.5 million just months earlier in the May version of the series.
Another $1.9 million went his way for winning the EPT Barcelona Super High Roller in August at Casino Barcelona.
Bodyakovskiy is a perfect example of the global nature of today’s poker scene, with his big wins landing in Europe, the Caribbean, Asia and the US.
1. $25,428,935 Justin Bonomo, United States
Bonomo, 33, tops the all-time tournament money list with an eye-watering $43,463,091 in cash winnings. Despite having been on the circuit since 2005, half of those total winnings came in four stellar 2018 performances:
• July $10,000,000 for winning the $1 million The Big One One Drop
• May $5,000,000 for besting the field in the 2018 Super High Roller Bowl $300K event
• March $4,823,000 for first at the Super High Roller Bowl China (Macau)
• January $1,077,000 for second at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Super High Roller
There were multiple 2018 six-figure scores on top of that, but who’s counting the loose change?
And what about the online poker winners?
Even the biggest online poker tournaments can’t compete with the huge prize pools on offer in the big live events. Even so, the main events of the major series put on by online giant PokerStars always bring a handsome payday.
This year’s World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) winner was player wann2play from the Netherlands, who picked up $1,352,267 for his efforts.
PokerStars’ Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP) main event was won by Epiphany77 from the UK, who won $1.2 million with Canada’s gibler321 winning $1.1 for finishing in second place.
What does 2019 hold for the best poker players?
There will be new players making a name for themselves, for sure, but it’s also likely that the big names like Peters, Bonomo and Bodyakovskiy will feature once more.
One of the early tests of the year will be at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in January. As well as the riches available during the main event and the super high roller, this year sees the inaugural PokerStars Players Championship event, a $25,000 buy-in spectacular with a difference – Stars has already given out 300 Platinum Pass entries to selected promotion winners. The winner of the PSC is expected to pocket at least $5 million.