A significant record was set in 2016 that the poker world has overlooked. In 2016, the all-time record for players earning at least $1 million in live tournaments was broken and a new benchmark set.
With the influx of High Roller tournaments across the world, chances are that last year’s record is already in danger. In fact, players have already reached 10% of last year’s total and we are nowhere near the heart of poker year.
104 Poker Millionaires in 2016
In 2016, 104 players made $1 million or more in live tournaments. This was the first time in history more than 100 players crossed the $1 million mark.
Fedor Holz led the way with his monster $16.48 million year while Big One for One Drop Champion Elton Tsang was second with $12.24 million.
My first tournament win as a recreational! 😇 pic.twitter.com/rsVUFAc5SA— Fedor Holz (@CrownUpGuy) August 22, 2016
Looking deeper, 11 players earned at least $5 million in 2016 while 20 players took over $3 million in tournament earnings.
The number of annual poker millionaires has increased steadily each year since the beginning of the Poker Boom. Going back all the way to 2002, only three players earned at least $1 million in a year. WSOP Main Event Champion Robert Varkonyi and runner-up Julian Gardner were two of those three. The other was Kathy Liebert after winning the PartyPoker Million.
In 2003, that number jumped to 8 players. Chris Moneymaker led the way with his $2.5 million WSOP victory. The following year, we saw that number grow from 8 to 23. In 2005, 41 poker millionaires were crowned.
From 2006 through 2012, the number of annual poker millionaires hovered between 58 to 68 players annually. Then in 2013, we started to begin to see the impact of High Roller events as that number jumped to 80.
There were then 85 poker millionaires in 2014, 90 in 2015 and then last year’s record of 104.
11 Players With $1 Million Thus Far in 2017
Taking a quick look at the current 2017 Money List, there are already 11 players with at least $1 million in earnings and two others with over $900k. In addition, there are 21 players with at least $500,000 in earnings.
Bryn Kenney presently leads all players with $2.31 million while Sergio Aido, Jason Koon, Dan Colman and Nick Petrangelo have $1.5 million or more in earnings.
Dan Cates is the most recent addition to the 2017 Millionaires List. He finished third in the Main Event of the Triton Super High Roller Series on Sunday to earn just over $1 million.
Ben Heath and Daniel Weinman are the pair next in line to join the list. They both have $911k in earnings in 2017.
Players with over $500k in earnings include Dan Smith, Fedor Holz, Justin Bonomo and Brian Rast. Any of those could move past the $1 million mark with a single score.
Have High Roller Events Cheapened the Accomplishment of Winning $1 Million in Poker?
Some believed that High Roller and Super High Roller tournaments would be a short-lived fad in the poker world. As one can see just by looking at my recent piece about the top earners at the ARIA, there appears to be no stopping the High Roller train.
The WSOP started in 1970 with a small collection of pros and the rest is history. The Super High Roller Bowl is the modern day version.— Daniel Negreanu (@RealKidPoker) February 21, 2017
This begs the question as to whether the feat of winning $1 million in a single year playing poker is still as meaningful an accomplishment. Obviously, that is dependant on what level of poker one is playing.
The average poker pro or tournament player isn’t going to be playing High Roller tournaments with the same frequency as Erik Seidel, Fedor Holz or Dan Colman. They simply don’t have the bankroll or a backer to put them in the events.
As such, winning $1 million in a single year is still a big deal to many players. Considering than many of us will never even win six-figures in a year, becoming a poker millionaire can be more of a dream rather than a goal.
Granted, for other players like Brian Rast and the other high rolling crowd, winning $1 million isn’t that big of a deal. That pretty much just covers the buy-in for a few events or helps to pay back some of the makeup with one’s backer.
The reality is that High Roller tournaments have forever skewed the All-Time Money List and the perception of “accomplishment” among some players. This is something that the majority of us cannot concern ourselves with. All we can do is sit back, focus on our own game and enjoy watching the high rollers continue to master their craft.