Poker fans love players who bring drama, laughter, emotion and candour to the poker felt and over the years, there have been some amazing players who have laid their personalities bear for us all to enjoy. In no particular order, we’ve picked seven of the best poker players in history who have personalities as big as their success.

1. Daniel Negreanu

It is hard to think of anyone with a bigger personality on and off the table that poker’s most infamous ambassador. Over the years, Daniel Negreanu, known to many as ‘Kid Poker’ has been at the forefront of each new poker movement. A former PokerStars brand ambassador, Negreanu is a six-time WSOP bracelet winner and with over $52 million in live tournament ranking results alone, is one of poker’s biggest-ever winners at the felt.

Negreanu’s achievements aren’t limited to the poker table… and nor is his personality. Often outspoken and brutally honest, Kid Poker does not wear kid gloves and has battled in verbal terms with everyone from Phil Hellmuth to Doug Polk, Matt Berkey and Isaac Haxton, just to name the past year! Negreanu never shies away from giving an honest opinion and as such has been one of the best players to interview in poker history. Not only does Kid Poker clean up at the felt but he has been the most entertaining player while doing so.

Here’s Daniel Negreanu giving it to The Poker Brat with both barrels:

2. Doyle Brunson

A Poker Hall of Famer, The Godfather of Poker is the defining poker personality from the game’s initial period of growth. Winning both the 1976 and 1977 WSOP Main Events with ten-deuce, known forever as ‘Texas Dolly’, Doyle Brunson would be on the Mount Rushmore of poker faces and is famous for his cowboy hat-topped silhouette…and his unashamedly Texan personality.

Brunson won 10 WSOP bracelets before his sad passing in 2023 curtailed a career that came into being because a sports injury wrecked his NBA dreams. Basketball’s loss was poker’s again and over five decades, Brunson’s presence gave poker gravitas, his play entertained millions and we all hung on his every word. There will never be another player quite like Doyle Brunson – a true one off.

Here’s Doyle Brunson’s legendary, inspiring introduction to Poker After Dark:

3. Phil Ivey

An enigma both on and off the felt, Phil Ivey is another 10-tie WSOP bracelet winner whose personality comes before him. Quite unlike anyone else on this list, however, Ivey’s mere presence is such that his personality as a strong near-silent type is underlined by his monotone speech play. Dry but witty, quiet but intimidating, Ivey is the coiled spring of high stakes poker.

Blessed with the kind of staredown that could turn coffee cold, Ivey has not been immune to the odd blow-up over the years, however. He’s not shy in making sure that others know he is at the table and his ultra-aggressive side is an aspect of his play that he counters brilliantly with a placid exterior.

Just look at the way he slays Phil Hellmuth with a couple of words in this pressurized situation:

4. Phil Hellmuth

Speaking of Phil Hellmuth, the Poker Brat’s personality might well be the only one that can be heard from space! Ever since his modest, almost meek victory in the 1989 WSOP Main Event against Johnny Chan, Hellmuth was transformed from a math-smart 24-year-old from Winconsin into The Poker Brat.

Frequently known for blow-ups at the felt, Hellmuth is a ticking timebomb of poker passion. Preaching #POSITIVITY but often bringing the fire to any felt he’s at, Hellmuth has been needled by Ninja and threw zingers at Zinno in this takedown of all-time from the Rio. Authors Note: the Rio was not in fact burnt down following this epic Poker Brat rant.

5. Stu Ungar

Winning the WSOP Main Event in back-to-back years, Stu Ungar was the first player of just two to do so in open competition (Johnny Moss having been ‘voted’ the winner in 1970) along with Johnny Chan. Ungar’s life was a public success but privately was a mess, with gambling and substance addictions threatening to derail a phenomenal natural poker talent. Ungar came back from fighting his demons in 1997, 16 years after his last win in 1981 to win the WSOP Main Event one last time.

So endearing was ‘Stuey’ or ‘The Kid’ to poker fans around the world that hearts melted when he produced a photograph of his daughter Stephanie and pledged to solve his addiction issues immediately after becoming world champion in 1997. Tragically, Ungar’s incredible but short life ended with his death when he was found dead in a Vegas motel room just a year later, unable to defend his title.

The poker world mourned his passing and has missed him ever since, especially after watching that ill-fated final interview:

6. Dan ‘Jungleman’ Cates

Dan ‘Jungleman’ Cates isn’t just the most entertaining player to watch at the poker felt today but off the felt lives the kind of life no-one could aspire to copy, and anyone would be crazy to imitate. ‘Jungle’ has often brought the crazy to the poker felt, winning back-to-back WSOP Poker Players Championships in fancy dress.

Perhaps at his most entertaining in the past 12 months, Jungle competed in the poker and reality TV hybrid show Game of Gold, which was broadcast on GGPoker TV in 2023, finishing as runner-up after thrilling millions of poker fans for weeks. In the same year, he arrived at the World Series of Poker Main Event dressed as a caged lion, being led into the cardroom at Bally’s on a leash.

We spoke with him as soon as he’d enjoyed a saucer of milk.

7. Maria Ho

The only player better than Jungle in the 2023 series of Game of Gold was Maria Ho. The Taiwanese-American poker star is a member of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame and over the past 20 years has blazed a trail for women in the game. Whip smart, so funny she can make audiences and her fellow elite players crack almost on command, Maria Ho is a force of nature both on and off the poker table.

With the only achievement left to tick off her bucket list possibly being the WSOP bracelet win that eludes her – she has reached a WSOP Final table nine times without winning gold – Maria Ho became the champion of Game of Gold in 2023 instead. Winning the sole $456,000 prize, she demonstrated key aspects of her winning personality and was virtually everyone’s favorite player on the show – even those she outmanoeuvred to win the competition over.

Check out the incredible denouement of the show everyone was talking about in 2023 where Maria Ho truly became the Queen of Poker.

Honorable Mentions

It’s impossible to come up with the most impressive poker personalities without at least mentioning those who got close to making the top seven. Maria Ho’s fellow female crusher Vanessa Selbst was a huge presence in the game until she chose early retirement to start a family with her partner. Back-to-back WSOP World champion in 1987 and 1988 Johnny Chan is known as ‘The Orient Express’ for his personality as much as his poker prowess and German high stakes legend Fedor Holz showed how entertaining he is on Game of Gold on a team with Maria Ho and Josh Arieh.

Erik Seidel’s dry wit and friendly nature match perfectly with his incredible skill at the poker felt, while best friends Antonio Esfandiari and Phil Laak have entertained poker fans for years, especially in the decade after the original ‘Poker Boom’. Prop bettor and perennial WSOP Player of the Year challenger Shaun Deeb has thrilled poker fans for years, as has the original Full tilt Poker poster boy Tom ‘Durrr’ Dwan, and The Grand Old Man of Poker Johnny Moss, the first-ever world champion and a passionate pioneer of the game.

Who will be the personalities we’ll remember from the next 50 years of poker? We can’t wait to find out!

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Paul seaton


Paul Seaton, a poker luminary with over a decade of experience, has reported live from iconic poker events, including the World Series of Poker, European Poker Tour, and World Poker Tour. He’s not just a spectator; he’s been the Editor of BLUFF Europe Magazine and Head of Media for partypoker. Paul’s poker insights have graced publications like PokerNews, 888poker, and PokerStake, where he’s interviewed poker legends such as Daniel Negreanu, Erik Seidel, Phil Hellmuth, and The Hendon Mob’s, entire lineup. His exceptional work even earned him a Global Poker Award nomination for Best Written Content. In the poker world, Paul Seaton’s expertise is a force to be reckoned with, captivating enthusiasts worldwide.

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