Over the past five years, we’ve seen poker tournament winnings skyrocket thanks to an influx of high rollers. Players like Dan Colman, Antonio Esfandiari, and Sam Trickett hold lofty positions on the all-time winnings list thanks to high finishes in the WSOP Big One for One Drop.
Interestingly enough, though, Erik Seidel also remains among the biggest winners, despite not playing many of the big high rollers that other top pros are entering these days.
Seidel, who’s been playing tournament poker since the 1980s, has $31,513,654 in winnings – just off of Daniel Negreanu’s leading mark of $32,887,949.
Of Seidel’s $31.5m in earnings, only $2,472,553 have come from his largest cash. Compare this to the likes of Esfandiari and Colman, who made $18,346,673 and $15,306,668 respectively from their biggest scores.
Given how close Seidel is to being poker’s biggest all-time winner, you’d think that he would be chasing the record. But while he respects the accomplishment, the New Yorker doesn’t plan on changing anything.
“I’m not gonna change my schedule,” he told PokerNews at a recent Panama event. “I’m kind of set in what I want to play. I’m not going around playing everything.”
Hard to Compare the Top Winners
While Seidel may not be flipping around his tournament schedule just to chase goals, it’s inevitable that he’ll be compared to players like Negreanu, Colman, and Esfandiari as long as he’s in the hunt. Nevertheless, Seidel said that he won’t be using his standing as a way to judge his poker accomplishments.
“I don’t rank myself compared to other people because I just think there’s no way to possibly do it,” he explained. “I’m happy with the way my career’s gone, but I don’t really look at it versus other people necessarily.”
What Seidel refers to is how many different variables go into tracking the biggest poker winnings. HendonMob is the gold standard for keeping track of tourney cashes, but it doesn’t make distinctions with regard to buy-ins and number of entrants.
Another thing that HendonMob doesn’t measure for is inflation. A perfect example is Seidel’s second-place finish to Johnny Chan in the 1988 WSOP Main Event. His cash was worth $280,000 at the time, but, when adjusted for inflation, it’s worth almost $575,000 today.
One more aspect is tournament volume, an area where Seidel has a big edge over players like Colman, Trickett, and Fedor Holz. He has well over 200 cashes in his career, versus just over 30 for Colman. And while many of them were before the poker boom – when payouts were smaller – these are still extra chances for Seidel to earn money in tourneys.
How to Even Out the All-Time Winnings List
How do you weight a higher volume of tournament entries versus high-roller payouts? Should all tourney winnings be adjusted for inflation to determine poker’s biggest winner?
These are the type of questions that complicate figuring out who has truly excelled in terms of poker earnings. But Seidel has a simple solution for a fair list.
“What I’d like to is just take out the top win,” said Seidel. “I think that skews things a lot.”
This solution obviously benefits Seidel’s standing, who, as we mentioned before, has only gained $2.47 million of his winnings from a single cash. Meanwhile, Colman and Esfandiari rely on their big wins to keep them in the top 5.
Still, it’s something worth considering in an age when high-roller scores have a larger impact on the winnings list than anything else.
Despite being 57 and having played poker for nearly 3 decades, Seidel doesn’t have any plans to scale back on how much poker he’s playing.
“I’m enjoying it a lot now, as much as I ever have,” he explained. “I like the challenge of it. I find it endlessly interesting. I certainly feel like the last few years, I’ve held my own. Who knows why that is, but it’s encouraging.”
With plenty of great finishes over the past few years, Seidel should stay in the thick of the all-time winnings race, and even gain the lead if he gets on a hot streak this year.
10 Biggest Poker Winners to Date
Daniel Negreanu – $32,887,949
Erik Seidel – $31,513,654
Daniel Colman – $27,963,503
Antonio Esfandiari – $27,353,449
Phil Ivey – $23,856,035
Scott Seiver – $21,941,878
Phil Hellmuth – $21,012,588
Fedor Holz – $20,940,633
Sam Trickett – $20,581,462
Brian Rast – $19,861,847