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Why Phil Ivey is the Greatest Poker Player Ever

| May 29, 2022 8:30 am PDT
Phil Ivey, poker chips, casino background

It’s not easy to determine the best poker player of all time. Several aspects go into being a great poker player. One player may excel in one game, but the best poker players have an all-around skill set.

A few people have staked their claim as the best poker player ever, but Phil Ivey has the edge over everyone. People have referred to Ivey as the “Tiger Woods of Poker.” That’s high praise considering Woods is one of the greatest golfers.

Why does Phil Ivey have the edge in the great G.O.A.T debate?

Phil Ivey Succeeded at a Young Age

Phil Ivey was born in Riverside, California, but he refined his poker skills in New Jersey. He played against his co-workers before moving to the casinos in Atlantic City.

Ivey used a fake ID to play in the casino during his teenage years. Obviously, not the best precedent, but we’re talking about 20 years ago. Feel free to read more about Phil Ivey’s early life.

His first official poker tournament was months after his 21st birthday. Ivey won the Trop’s Customer Appreciation Invitational tournament, taking home $1,000. However, his poker career began to take off in early 2000.

Phil Ivey in 2000
  • $500 + 40 Limit Hold’em ($53,297)
  • $1,000 + 60 Seven Card Stud ($1,571)
  • $1,000 + 60 Pot Limit Omaha ($4,777)
  • $1,500 + 70 Pot Limit Omaha ($5,238)

The four events came during the First Annual Jack Binion World Poker Open. Ivey picked up his first major victory in the $500 + 40 Limit Hold’em. He earned nearly $55,000 for the win.

He was quickly becoming one of the top poker players. Ivey took a big step forward by winning his first bracelet in the 2000 World Series of Poker. He won the $2,500 + 80 Pot Limit Omaha to take home $195,000.

Ivey closed 2000 by winning over $40,000 in the United States Poker Championship. It was only the start of a legendary career.

Ivey Has 10 World Series of Poker Bracelets

There are many great honors in poker, but I don’t believe anything tops winning a bracelet in the World Series of Poker. Many people consider it the greatest honor in the poker world. Surely, you have to have many bracelets to be one of the greatest poker players ever.

You can learn more about bracelets in our World Series of Poker guide.

We talked about his first bracelet in the 2000 World Series of Poker. Two years later, he continued his march towards being the best poker player in history by winning three bracelets.

Ivey won the $1,500 7 Card Stud, $2,500 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo, and $2,000 Limit S.H.O.E. He earned over $100,000 for each victory, and over $357,000 total. It wasn’t a bracelet, but he also won $40,000 in the $10,000 Championship Event.

Ivey’s biggest bracelet victory was in the 2005 World Series of Poker. He won the $5,000 Pot Limit Omaha to win $600,000. Ivey didn’t capture another bracelet for four years, but he cleaned up in 2009 and 2010.

He won almost $650,000 between the two years. His most recent World Series of Poker victory was in 2014. Ivey won the $1,500 Eight Game Mix for $166,986.

Ivey, Doyle Brunson, and Johnny Chan are among the poker players with ten bracelets. They all trail Phil Hellmuth’s total of 16. Hellmuth has a case for greatest poker player of all time, but we’ll discuss why Ivey has the edge.

That said, it isn’t easy to win at the WSOP. Check out the blog to find out just how difficult it actually is.

How Difficult is it to Win the World Series of Poker Tournament?

This one is for you if you have ever wondered how tough it is to win the World Series of Poker (WSOP).  A bit of background before we start — a question was posed to me recently by someone who wanted to know how to win the World Series of Poker....

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No One Is Better in Live Cash Games

Many players excel in one poker game, but the best poker player of all time has an elite skill set. Phil Ivey is in his own tier when it comes to live cash games.

Ivey is no stranger to live cash games in Las Vegas. He regularly participated in the $4,000-$8,000 mixed cash game. Ivey won $16 million during a three-day stretch playing cash games in 2006. The stakes ranged from $25,000 to $100,000.

In 2021, Ivey made headlines by skipping the World Series of Poker to participate in cash games in Hustler Casino. The money wasn’t an issue, as the minimum buy-in for the event was $100,000.

Ivey’s best result in a live cash game was during the 2014 Aussie Millions Poker Championship. He brought in over $3.5 million after winning the A$250,000 No Limit Hold’em – $250,000 Challenge.

That event has brought him much success in live cash games. He won $2 million in the same game in 2012. In 2015, he won just over $2 million in the A$ 245,000 + 5,000 #21 The LK Boutique Challenge.

Having a diverse background is essential for being a top poker player. Ivey’s success in cash games only helps his G.O.A.T claim. He continues to refine his skills and succeed in live cash games.

You can do the same. Just hit up the best cash game poker sites to start honing your skills now.

Phil Ivey Is the Best at Reading His Opponents

Many poker players have the winnings and accolades to be in the discussion for the greatest poker player of all time. You have to have certain traits and skills that don’t appear on the stat sheet.

A significant aspect of poker is reading your opponents. That way, you can tell if your opponent has a winning hand or is bluffing. Well, there isn’t a better player at reading his opponents than Phil Ivey.

Ivey has gone up against the best Poker players in the world and outsmarted them. Ivey has done it against players like Daniel Negreanu and Doug Polk.

There are many instances of Ivey outsmarting his opponents. We saw him do this against Polk during the 2015 Aussie Millions Tournament.

Ivey was in a good position with a 10 of spades and nine of diamonds. Both players checked, with Ivey placing a $75,000 bet after the dealer revealed a two of hearts. Polk continued to raise the total, playing into Ivey’s hand.

In the end, Ivey won a larger pot from Polk. He had a good hand, but his mind games and tactics helped him win more money. Sometimes, it’s not about the hand but how well you can read your opponents.

There isn’t anyone better at this than Ivey. It’s a significant factor in him being the best poker player of all time.

Ivey Is Much Better at Online Poker Than Phil Hellmuth

Who is the best poker player of all time? I believe it’s Phil Ivey, but you’ll hear Phil Hellmuth’s name. Hellmuth has a strong claim because of his record 16 bracelets from the World Series of Poker. However, Ivey has the edge over Hellmuth because of his success in online poker.

Ivey has been a popular player in online poker tournaments. According to PocketFives, these are his top winnings from online poker tournaments.

Phil Ivey in 2022
  • Powerfest #08 – Knockout: $100K Gtd ($18,200)
  • $109 Mini Thursday Thrill [Progressive KO], $150K Gtd (10,793)
  • $215 Sunday Million 16th Anniversary, $10M Gtd, $1M to 1st! ($10,462)

I can’t imagine those represent all his winnings, but it shows his success in online poker. He has reportedly brought in over $850,000 in online poker.

This would be a good time to show you Hellmuth’s online poker winnings, but there isn’t any data. I can’t imagine he has never played, but his lack of numbers can’t be good.

Hellmuth has the advantage in World Series of Poker bracelets, but Ivey isn’t far behind. However, it’s a significant advantage in online poker. I use Hellmuth over other top poker players because he is often in the G.O.A.T discussion with Ivey.

I’ve been preaching an all-around skill set for this debate. You can visit the top online poker sites to battle the greatest poker player ever potentially.

Ivey Has Support from His Peers and Fans

It’s nice to have the winnings and accolades, but respect is a key component in the best poker player ever debate. Phil Ivey has the upper hand because many fans and poker players have named him the top poker player.

I’ve repeatedly mentioned how versatility and success in multiple games is a big argument in Ivey’s favor. Well, Daniel Negreanu feels the same way.

“ I think of Stud, Omaha, Triple Draw, Short Deck, everything… and Phil Ivey plays them all… As far as I’m concerned, Phil Ivey is the goat.

Negreanu himself is a one of the most famous poker players in the world. His name could come up in the G.O.A.T debate, so saying Ivey is the best poker player of all-time carries a lot of weight.

Earlier this year, Doug Polk and UpSwingPoker had a long discussion on the greatest poker player. They opened up a poll for the fans to vote following their discussion.

Ivey’s 4.691 votes were No. 1, with Doyle Brunson and Negreanu rounding out the top three. I should also add Ivey was the most popular player in a World Series of Poker poll. It’s clear he has a ton of support.

There is plenty of respect for Ivey’s poker career. Many people recognize him as the greatest poker player of all time. Do you share the same sediment?

Who Could Challenge for Best Poker Player Ever?

I feel strong about Phil Ivey being the best poker player of all time, but we could see two people challenge him. I believe Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu have the best shot.

Hellmuth has the advantage in the World Series of Poker, but he’d need more success in other poker games. Negreanu has six bracelets, so he’d need to win at least four more to be in the discussion.

Ivey’s success in different aspects of poker makes him the G.O.A.T. Many people would love to be like Ivey, but that only happens in the movies. You can certainly try, of course. A good place to start is by using the many Reddit poker tips.

Nicholas Sterling
Nicholas Sterling

Nicholas has been a Sports Writer with GamblingSites.com since May 2021. He has a rich sports background, writing about NASCAR, NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, Golf, etc. Nick is always ready for a new challenge.

He enjoys rooting on D.C. sports teams, including the Commanders, Wizards, and Capitals.

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