Some of the world’s best online poker players usually have a few things in common:
- A lack of fear for playing at the highest stakes
- Unbelievable stamina to stare at a screen for hours
- The ability to multitask and play numerous tables at once
One more thing?
These players possess incredible skills at the poker table. With that in mind, here’s a look at some of the top online poker players in the world.
One essential note to consider, however, is that many online poker players toil away without ever making themselves known to the wider poker world. This list of players is relatively well-known because they’ve revealed themselves also in live games and media appearances.
As always, ranking them is purely subjective and up to interpretation.
Best 15 online poker players are:
1 – Viktor Blom
“Isildur1” won millions of dollars playing online before his real identity was even known. This Swedish poker superstar played at the biggest stakes in the world beginning in the late 2000s – often against other names mentioned on this list.
That has included being part of some of the biggest hands in online poker history. A few ofBlom'sfrequent opponents in six-figure pots have included Tom Dwan, Phil Ivey, Patrik Antonius, Brian Hastings, and numerous others.
By 2009, Blom had been part of the ten largest online poker pots up to that time. Blom was playing at the highest stakes against some of the best players in the game.
Blom, 29, began playing poker as a teenager and by age 15 had built up a bankroll of more than $275,000. Eventually, all that was gone, and he worked to rebuild. At one point in his online poker career, he won $1.7 million in two weeks. His online resumé also includes some of the biggest tournaments in online poker.
After embracing live poker, Blom went on to some sweet success as well even though he doesn’t play as many events as other poker professionals. That run included the PCA High Roller in 2012 for $1.3 million, and his live poker winnings now sits at almost $3 million.
Blom remains a legend in online poker.
2 – Tom Dwan
After battling it out online at some of the highest stakes imaginable for years, the player known as “durrrr” online then went on to success at live cash games and tournaments. Dwan, 33, is originally from Edison, New Jersey, and attended Boston University before leaving to play poker professionally.
Durrrr became one of the most feared players online. His exploits at the table made him one of the online poker pros featured in the excellent book Ship It Holla Ballas! by Jonathan Grotenstein and Storms Reback.
During the poker boom, Dwan would play for hours, multi-tabling several high-stakes cash games. Some of his foes regularly included Phil Ivey, Guy Laliberte, Patrik Antonius, Viktor Blom, and numerous others.
Dwan, 33, now has $3.4 million in live tournament winnings but has made much more in cash games, both live and online. He remains active in poker and regularly plays in Southeast Asia, including Macau.
Dwan’s skills and massive wins have made him an online poker legend.
3 – Dan “Jungleman12” Cates
After graduating from micro stakes online, this 30-year-old player originally from Maryland went on to a massive career online and in live events. By 2014, Cates is reported to have topped $11 million in online winnings. That is believed to include an extraordinary $5 million alone in 2010, and some of his online high-stakes adversaries have included Viktor Blom and Tom Dwan.
He began playing poker as a teenager and later studied economics at the University of Maryland. However, like several players here, he left college to pursue poker full time.
That decision paid off and his skills at the online tables transferred to live poker rooms as well.
That included two WPT high roller titles in 2013 and 2014 with more high-stakes tournament scores followed those wins. In 2016 he won a Triton Super High Roller for $359,229 and notched a third-place finish in a Triton event a year later for $1 million. Cates added another Triton title for $500,682 and now has $7.4 million in live tournament winnings.
Cates has become one of the most successful players in the game.
4– Phil Ivey
There’s not much that hasn’t been said about this long-time poker pro. Originally from New Jersey, Ivey is one of the biggest names in the game, and that has included online. At the virtual tables, Ivey was a regular in high stakes cash games during the poker boom.
Some sources estimate his online winnings as high as $20 million. Even if that’s half right, it’s an impressive number. He has also been a regular in televised poker shows and played in some of the biggest cash games in the world in Asia.
Along with that online total, Ivey now has more than $30 million in live tournament winnings, ten WSOP bracelets, and one WPT title. He remains active in events around the world and, in recent years, has begun playing more high roller tournaments. In 2020, that success included a win and runner-up in two $50,000 events in Sochi, Russia, for a total of $1.4 million.
Ivey has proven he can win on any poker stage.
5 – Patrik Antonius
This Finnish pro has become one of the best-known players thanks to his frequent appearances on numerous televised poker shows such as Poker After Dark. Antonius has a long history of poker success online as well as at the live tables. A regular in nosebleed stakes online cash games, it’s believed he’s won more than $11 million playing online and has been involved in some of the biggest pots in history.
At one time, Antonius was a sponsored online pro, and he has massive finishes in some of the game’s biggest events. That has included some massive online tournaments as well. In 2008, he finished second in a $25,000 buy-in Heads-Up PLO tournament for $320,000.
His poker record includes three WPT final table appearances, one WPT title, and more than $12 million in live tournament winnings.
Antonius was a key figure throughout the poker boom and recognised by many in the game.
6 – Ben Tollerene
After a $500 online deposit, there seemed to be no looking back for this poker pro from Fort Worth, Texas. Tollerene continued advancing his game – eventually transitioning from $25/$50 No-Limit Hold’em and Pot-Limit Omaha to some of the biggest stakes online. He regularly mixed it up with Viktor Blom for millions of dollars in big cash PLO games. Estimates put his winnings during the early 2010s to more than $10 million.
Along with cash game scores, Tollerene has considerable winnings from major online tournaments – believed to be more than $3.5 million. After Black Friday, Tollerene spent much of his time travelling the globe so he could play more online poker and spends much of his time in Canada playing online.
He’s also a regular live cash game and tournament player. That live tournament career includes $9.5 million in winnings. A high roller faithful, he has numerous six and seven-figure scores.
The latest came in September 2019, when he took down a £103,000 event at the British Poker Open for just over $1 million.
7 – Fedor Holz
This 26-year-old German made plenty of waves at the online tables as “CrownUpGuy” in the mid-2010s including a massive score of $1.3 million by winning a single tournament. Holz’s skills at the tables have also translated to the live poker felt as well. In 2015, he finished 25th in the WSOP Main Event for $262,574.
High roller tournaments have also been good to Holz. He won the Triton Super High Roller in 2018 for $3.5 million in 2016 and followed that up the same year with a runner-up finish in the Super High Roller Bowl for another $3.5 million.
Numerous six- and seven-figure scores bullet point Holz’s resumé and he now has almost $33 million in live tournament winnings.
In recent years, Holz has moved on a bit from poker and entered the business world. He announced in 2017 that he was mostly retiring from poker. That same year he helped launch a mindset coaching, meditation, and training app called Primed Mind.
With his prowess at the tables, Holz knows plenty about having his own primed mind.
8 – Phil Galfond
The Galfond Challenge became one of the most significant events in poker during 2019 and 2020 as this high-stakes online player took on challengers in Pot Limit Omaha at some of the biggest stakes, heads up.
Some of his adversaries included Bill Perkins, Brandon Adams, Chance Kornuth, Dan “Jungleman” Cates, and some online specialists. Not only does Galfond play big, but he’s also quite the poker entrepreneur. Along with a popular training site, he parlayed that into a real-money online poker site as well, where he is also a regular player.
Known online as “OMGClayAiken” and “MrSweets28,” Galfond has played online at some of the biggest stakes and is believed to have made more than $10 million playing at the virtual tables.
Originally from Canada, he now spends much of his time in Canada so he can legally play online. Beyond online poker, Galfond is also successful at the real poker felt with almost $3 million in winnings. That record also includes three WSOP gold bracelets.
Playing at high limits isn’t easy, and in April 2020, Galfond let poker fans in on the pressure of playing at such stakes against stiff competition. He had just come back from almost a €1 million deficit against a Galfond Challenge opponent to secure a win, and a €100,000 side bet win.
He noted on Twitter: “While it's fun to battle against a great opponent day in and day out, it can be truly exhausting. I like to push myself, but it's important to know your limits.”
9 – Di Dang
While he may not be as recognisable as some of the names on this list, Dang had more than $8 million in online winnings by the late 2010s. Dang is originally from Springfield, Virginia, and his username “Urindanger” epitomised the situation many faced when up against him online. He began playing online while studying engineering at the University of Virginia. After blowing through an initial $200 online deposit, he followed that up with another $200 and began rolling from there.
Dang was mostly a cash game player and has only three live tournament cashes for $618,320. After amassing such huge winnings online, he chose to take the money and run – retiring from poker in 2012 to open a small chain of restaurants in Virginia.
After Black Friday, the move seemed well-timed, and Dang said at the time he believed he was making the right move as the edge between good and poor or mediocre players was thinning.
10 – Ben Sulsky
While he may not have the name recognition of many on the list, Sulsky is considered one of the best online cash game players around. The 32-year-old from Durham, New Hampshire, had an interesting start early in his career. He made use of online freerolls to build his bankroll up to $3,000 then cashed out after a loss of more than $1,000.
After returning to the tables a couple of years later, he gradually progressed up the cash game ranks from $0.10/$0.25 to high stakes action playing under the name “Sauce123.”
Less than a year later, he’d topped $1 million in winnings. Beyond playing at the tables, Sulsky has also produced poker training videos for Run It Once. It’s believed he has more than $6 million in poker winnings and remains active.
Unlike some on this list, Sulsky hasn’t transitioned as much to live tournaments. He has $1.7 million in limited events, most of that coming at the WSOP.
11 – Bertrand Grospellier
This Frenchman is one of the most popular players in the game and successfully made the transition from online poker phenomenon to live event superstar. Along with millions of dollars won online, “ElkY” also has several major online tournament wins to his name with several six-figure scores. In 2009, he won two big online titles for more than $500,000. That same year in Monte Carlo, Grospellier set a record by playing 62 sit and go tournaments in only one hour for a profit of $23.90.
His live tournament career has also been pretty successful. With almost $15 million in live tournament winnings, Grospellier has several decent titles. In 2008 he won the PCA for $2 million and also took down the $15,000 WPT Festa al Lago for $1.4 million.
He added a WSOP title in 2011 and a WSOP Europe in 2019 for his second bracelet. One of the most successful players in poker, ElkY remains one active both on the live tournament scene and online.
“Online has always been my bread and butter,” he says. “So, to be able to adapt to the constantly changing playing styles and still come out on top is something I’m incredibly proud of.”
12 – Mike McDonald
Yet another young poker phenomenon, McDonald began playing online before he was even 18 (not advised) and had already racked up six-figure scores. Like many players, McDonald excelled in maths growing up and was also a highly competitive chess player. A native of Ontario, Canada, McDonald studied business at Wilfrid Laurier University.
His first major live win came in 2008 in the EPT German Open Main Event for $1.38 million. Numerous big finishes followed including at the WSOP, Epic Poker League, EPT, and others.
McDonald now has live tournament winnings of more than $13 million, and much of that success began by grinding it out online. In 2017, he turned his interest in poker into a business by founding PokerShares. The site allows the public to wager on poker players in events worldwide.
He remains one of the top online players in history and a regular at the tables.
13 – Martin Jacobson
While this Swede may be known more for winning the WSOP Main Event in 2014 for $10 million, Jacobson has also excelled at the online tables. A member of Team 888poker, he remains an active online player and student of the game. Jacobson’s love of poker came while he was studying to be a chef, and he began playing online.
By 2008, Jacobson found success winning online qualifiers to major tournaments around the world and several six-figure scores followed. When he became a member of the November Nine, Jacobson studied 500 hours before playing out the final table that November.
More success followed his big win in Vegas. Jacobson now has more than $17 million in live tournament winnings.
“Just the fact that I’ve been playing poker professionally for over ten years now still feels surreal whenever I think about it,” he says. “I realise how fortunate I am to not only have had the success I’ve accomplished but also be able to do what I love everyday for a living.”
14 – David Benefield
This player originally from Fort Worth, Texas, lived the poker boom first-hand – in front of an online poker screen. His life playing online poker around the world was documented in the excellent book Ship It Holla Ballas!
Benefield and a crew of college drops played, partied, and won millions throughout the 2000s. Playing under the name “Raptor,” that crew included fellow online crusher, Tom Dwan.
The 33-year-old former Columbia University student now has $4.5 million in live tournament winnings. In 2013, Benefield made a massive run in the WSOP Main Event and finished eighth in front of ESPN cameras for $944,650.
He has slowed down his poker schedule in recent years but remains an active player including regular appearances in high roller events. Online poker played a huge role in his success.
“Poker is incredibly stressful on an emotional level, which negatively impacts the physical,” Benefield told Columbia University magazine before the final table. “In my earlier years playing professionally, I was not good at dealing with large monetary losses. They hurt me a lot mentally, and I would tend to turn inward. I wouldn’t want to hang out with friends or hit the gym. Instead, I would sit at my computer and figure out how to avoid losses in the future. I have gotten much better about this over the years.”