Phil Hellmuth is the King of the WSOP with 14 career titles. Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan shared the record for years, but Hellmuth has since shattered that record, and some wonder if there is anyone with a legitimate chance of usurping Hellmuth.
Today we look at the active players with the best chance of possibly catching or surpassing Hellmuth for the all-time lead, provided Hellmuth doesn’t go on an insane winning streak in the future.
Note that certain active players aren’t included on this list due to age, lack of consistent performance or other factors that we think make it unlikely they will ever catch Hellmuth.
Jason Mercier won his 3rd WSOP title in 2015 and then won two bracelets last year on the way to winning Player of the Year. He very nearly took a third bracelet and is a favorite to take at least another title this year.
In just 9 years, Mercier has 17 WSOP final tables and 5 bracelets. If he can keep that pace, he’ll have 10 bracelets by the time he’s eligible for the Poker Hall of Fame. That’s right, he’s just 30.
The only thing that could possibly slow down his hunt on history is fatherhood. Jason and wife Natasha are about to have their first child and he’s hinted at slowing down his live play. While he’ll probably still make the trek for the WSOP, will he play the same schedule? Time will tell.
Daniel Alaei has been remarkably consistent at the World Series of Poker. In the last 10 years, he has five bracelet victories with the last coming in 2015. Four of his five bracelets have been in Omaha Poker, two in PLO and two in Omaha Hi-Lo.
Omaha is the second most popular variant in poker and Alaei has proven himself one of the best tournament players in the game. Provided he can continue to show the same consistency in the game over his career, he could become the Phil Hellmuth of PLO.
George Danzer makes the most of every opportunity at the World Series of Poker. He made 10 WSOP final tables over his career and converted four into bracelets. He had a breakout year in 2014, taking two $10K events in Las Vegas and then taking the 8-Game title at the WSOP Asia Pacific.
Last year, he won the $10K Stud 8 or Better title for his fourth bracelet. He also finished 3rd in the $10K Stud that Robert Mizrachi won.
Danzer has been going deep in WSOP events since 2006, but it’s just recently that he’s started winning gold. At just 33, he’s young enough to still challenge Hellmuth provided he can win consistently.
Was there any doubt that Phil Ivey would be on this list? The 10-time WSOP bracelet winner is the only player in the world that is in striking distance of Hellmuth’s record.
Of course, that all depends on whether Ivey decides to play. He skipped all of the preliminary events in last year’s WSOP and only played the Main Event. His last bracelet win was in 2014 in the $1,500 Eight Game Mix.
A properly motivated Ivey is tough to beat. Lately, that motivation is in the form of large side bets similar to what Jason Mercier enjoyed last year.
At just 40, Ivey still has plenty of time to catch and surpass Hellmuth if he puts in the effort.
Robert Mizrachi presently has four WSOP bracelets and has been on a remarkable run in recent years. He’s won bracelets in the last three WSOPs, winning the $10K Stud Championship last year.
The majority of his live tournament cashes in the last few years have been at the WSOP. Mizrachi’s prowess in mixed games allows him to frequent the final table at the WSOP. He has 14 WSOP final tables in his career.
While it’s unlikely he will continue to win a bracelet every year, odds are he will continue to rack up the titles. He should crack 10 bracelets sometime in the next decade with an eye on Hellmuth’s record.
Honorable Mention – Daniel Negreanu
Outside of Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu is the only active player that many feel have a legitimate shot of still catching Phil Hellmuth. However, for the sake of this list, I put him in the honorable mention category for one reason – he hasn’t won in Vegas in almost a decade.
Daniel has six bracelets, but the last two were in international WSOP events. In 2013, he won the WSOP Asia-Pacific Main Event and then the €25K High Roller at the WSOP Europe. His last bracelet win in Las Vegas was in 2008 when he took the $2K Limit Hold’em.
While Daniel is certainly due for another bracelet win, will he be able to consistently crank out the titles needed to catch Hellmuth?
Daniel thinks he can win three bracelets in 2017. Can he do it? He certainly has the ability, but will he be able to cross the finish line? If Negreanu can pull off a multi-bracelet year in the next year or two, or even pull off wins in back-to-back years, then maybe we can put him legitimately back in consideration.