From the first WSOP Main Event in 1970 where seven players voted for their nominated winner to the latest where over 10,000 people each put down $10,000 to play for a $12.1 million top prize, becoming world champion is every player’s ultimate ambition.

Over the years, the best of the best have played at the WSOP in Las Vegas. From legends like Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan to modern-day greats such as Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth, we’ve searched high and low for the best poker quotes from iconic WSOP players.

Old School Legends

Back in the day, playing at the World Series of Poker was the height of ambition on its own merit for poker players across America. Largely a national game until the 1980’s, the first decade saw players from the United States battle to prove themselves the best player and grab glory.

With the advent of the WSOP gold bracelet as an iconic alternative to a trophy, the WSOP has made millions of memories over the years and many poker players today are inspired by some of the game’s formative superstars.

1. “Look around the table. If you don’t see a sucker, get up, because you’re the sucker.” – Amarillo Slim, 1972 WSOP world champion.

Amarillo ‘Slim’ Preston was the game’s first winner other than Johnny Moss, the Grand Old Man of Poker. Slim was allowed to win the 1972 world championship by opponents Doyle Brunson and Puggy Pearson as they didn’t want the publicity and felt Slim could grow the game better than them. Slim’s appearances on the Johnny Carson show proved that they – and he – knew their stuff. Slim was never the sucker in the game of poker.

2. “There’s no one that ever beat me playing cards, the only one that ever beat me was myself.” – Stu Ungar, 1980, 1981 & 1997 WSOP world champion.

Stuey Ungar or ‘The Kid’ as he became known, remains the only man to win three WSOP Main Events by playing poker (one of Moss’s three was won by player vote). Ungar took back-to-back wins at the start of the 1980s before a period of drug abuse took his away from the tables. Returning in 1997, his redemption story seemed complete when he won the world championship for an unmatched third time at the felt, claiming a million-dollar top prize.

Tragically, just over a year later, Stu Ungar was found dead in a Vegas motel room with less than $800 in his pocket. All the money had gone, and drug problems had robbed the game of poker of perhaps its brightest star, and this chilling quote hints he knew exactly what his problem was – himself.

3. “You can’t let emotion get in the way of making the right play.” – Doyle Brunson, 1976 and 1977 WSOP world champion.

Doyle ‘Texas Dolly’ Brunson became known as ‘The Godfather of Poker’ after pioneering poker in both 1976 and 1977 saw him claim back-to-back world championships with the same hand – ten-deuce. Brunson, who was a possible NBA draft basketball player before a knee injury robbed him of his sporting dream, converted his passion into poker and became arguably the most recognizable player in the game.

Doyle could have won the world championship earlier than he did but turned it down in 1972 in dramatic circumstances.

Winning 10 WSOP bracelets, Doyle Brunson was a Texas legend who lived through a period of the game where ‘Wild West’ showdowns at the felt saw two men shot dead in his presence (though neither were anything to do with Doyle!). Able to strip down emotion from his game, Doyle was a true legend of the mindsport.

Sadly for his millions of fans, ‘Texas Dolly’ passed away in May 2023, just a few weeks ahead of the WSOP, leaving us all with his final message on Twitter/X.

Tex Dolly final tweet
Doyle Brunson’s final tweet saved everyone a seat in ‘Dolly’s Game’.

The 80s and 90s Cool Kids

In the 1980s and 1990s, the World Series of Poker grew to a game not for dozens of players but for hundreds. From Johnny Chan to Phil Hellmuth, Scotty Nguyen to Huck Seed, the game became cool, and some seriously cool customers ponied up the money.

4. “At first a lot of players looked down at me when I would go home broke. Now they come to me for answers.” – Johnny Chan, 1987 and 1988 WSOP world champion.

The Orient Express was a huge player in poker’s history and now admits that he wishes that he’d brought his A-Game in 1989 when defeat to Phil Hellmuth heads-up cost him the chance of becoming the only player ever to win three world championships in a row.

Johnny Chan’s 10 WSOP bracelets are evidence that he had the best of it multiple games. Appearing in the 1998 movie Rounders, Johnny Chan became the epitome of the poker player everyone wanted to play but no-one could beat. As he once described, this was a long way from the early days when his aggression was seen as too risky. Nowadays, taking risks and playing aggressive poker is seen as the norm.

5. “Half of poker is reading people. When you’re reading well and you’re making counterintuitive plays, a strictly math player will get scared and start making fewer moves, and then the person is even easier to read.” – Phil Hellmuth Jr., 1989 WSOP world champion

Perhaps the most famous name in WSOP history, Phil Hellmuth Junior is the most successful for sure. With a staggering 17 WSOP gold bracelets to his name, no-one is even close to the haul of The Poker Brat. Famously relying on strong reading skills to win money, Hellmuth’s advice is key to taking advantage of strictly math-based players.

From his 1989 world championship victory to his 17th and latest WSOP bracelet in 2023, Phil Hellmuth is the most enduring talent the World Series if Poker has ever seen and has also won the WSOP Europe Main event too! No wonder that many commentators announce that ‘the ego has landed’ when Big Phil is on the mic.

6. “You get your chips your way, I’ll get my chips mine.” Phil Ivey, ten-time WSOP bracelet winner.

Perhaps the most unique player on our list, Phil Ivey has won 10 WSOP bracelets, dominated whole Main Events and yet has never become world champion. The closest Ivey came was in 2003 when a cruel beat at the start of the final table cost him his best chance of winning the Main Event.

Ivey’s appeal is his air of mystique. No-one plays quite like ‘The Tiger Woods of Poker’ as he is known. As he once told an opponent who questioned his play, “You get your chips your way, I’ll get my chips mine.” Few players over the years have ever won as much as the tournament and cash felt as Phil Ivey.

“You call, it’s gonna be all over, baby!” – Scotty Nguyen, 1998 WSOP world champion.

So said Scotty Nguyen to his heads-up opponent Kevin McBride in the final hand of the 1998 WSOP Main Event. Holding a superior full house to the boat on board, Nguyen was the winner when McBride fell for his play, openly admitting that Nguyen had goaded him into the call with a skilful play.

Since his epic win in 1998, Scotty Nguyen has become synonymous with the WSOP. Frequently winning other events, a seeming ever-present at the Las Vegas spectacular, ‘The Prince of Poker’ is as popular now as he has always been.

Scotty Nguyen 1998 WSOP
“You call, it’s gonna be all over, baby!” Scotty Nguyen’s famous line in 1998 sealed victory.

Modern Poker Heroes

Modern poker is, in some ways, a completely different game to that played by the   forefathers of poker past. Here are a trio of poker players whose advice applies as much to poker that is played today as it does to that of the past.

8. “In poker, position is power. When you’ve got position, play more hands and apply more pressure before the flop.” – Daniel Negreanu, six-time WSOP event winner

Playing position has always been crucial and always will be crucial. Kid Poker, a.k.a. Canada’s most successful poker player in history, Daniel Negreanu, knows his stuff. From PokerStars to GGPoker, ‘DNegs’ has represented the biggest brands in poker and can rightly lay claim to the mantle of the most recognizable player in the current era.

Winning in so many televised poker games it’s not even funny, Negreanu is a modern poker legend and a member of the Poker Hall of Fame. If he says playing position is important, it’s important, OK?

9. “The beautiful thing about poker is that everybody thinks they can play.” – Chris Moneymaker, 2003 WSOP world champion

The most popular ambassador in modern poker is the biggest. Kick-starting the ‘Poker Boom’ in 2003, Chris Smith – name changed to Moneymaker by the man himself when ESPN asked for permission to film him at the felt – became part of poker history when he won the Main Event 20 years ago.

Qualifying for just $80 by playing an online poker satellite, Moneymaker went on to win $2.5 million after he beat Sammy Farha heads-up for the title, changing poker forever. Nowadays, qualifying online is expected for hundreds of entries into the world championship and it all came after the former accountant turned a ‘casino’ level entry into a seven-figure payday that altered the course of the game’s glorious future.

10. “I love poker, it will always be a big part of my life,” he says. “Anything I can do to grow the game I’ll see as a win.” – Daniel Weinman, 2023 WSOP world champion

If you want to play poker, then you have to love the game. No-one loved it more than the 2023 Main Event winner, Daniel Weinman. A difficult start to his WSOP saw the Atlanta, Georgia player threaten not to return to play ‘The Main’. In the end, he was convinced to do so and was grateful that he did, as he went on to win the $12.1 million top prize and change his life forever.

From the game’s earliest pioneers to the most recent Main Event winners, some of poker’s most passionate advocates have been WSOP legends. Will you be playing at the next World Series of Poker in Las Vegas this summer?

No-one will ever win a WSOP Main Event like Daniel Weinman (pictured) did in 2023.
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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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