WSOP (World Series of Poker) Main Event Winners List

Since 1970, the poker community has crowned its king via one signature tournament: the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event.

Never mind the various poker indexes, rankings, World Poker Tour stops or European Poker Tour events, the winner of the WSOP Main Event still reigns supreme. Through poker booms and busts, even with the addition of numerous high buy-in events, including the one million dollar buy-in One Drop, the WSOP Main Event bracelet remains the most coveted award in poker.

From just 7 players in the first World Series of Poker, to 8,773 entrants in 2006, the winners of the Main Event come from diverse backgrounds, ranging from rookie amateurs never heard from again, to a who’s who list of poker’s royalty.

Johnny Moss has won the WSOP Main Event 3 Times
Johnny Moss has won the WSOP Main Event 3 Times

Poker legend Johnny Moss, for example, was the winner of that first WSOP Main Event at Binion’s back in 1970. I say “winner,” but in reality, he won a popularity contest, as that first bracelet was awarded based on a voted on by participants, who selected the player they felt was the overall best player during a series of smaller tournaments.

Nonetheless, Moss would go on to earn two other world titles the old fashioned way – by winning them. His three WSOP Main Event bracelets ties him with Stu Ungar as the only two players to have won the World Series of Poker’s big one three separate times. Ungar won Main Event bracelets in his first two tries, in 1980 and 1981. He later would fight back his drug demons long enough to capture the Main Event again in spectacular fashion in 1997.

Two-Time WSOP Winners

The list of two-time winners of the Main Event is equally as small. It includes poker icon Doyle Brunson, who has made five WSOP Main Event final tables, (including a second place to Ungar in 1980). Brunson likely could have had a third win in 1972, the year Amarillo Slim took home the title.

Brunson has hinted in interviews that he gave up the chance to win the tournament in those very early years because of all the publicity a win would have generated for him. Back then, poker players were held in less esteem, thought of by many as reckless gamblers skirting the law. They were looked down upon by many in society, and therefore some poker professionals, like Brunson, chose to avoid the spotlight and potential negative glares from folks back home, or even worse, from law enforcement and/or taxing authorities.

Other than Brunson, Johnny Chan is the only other 2 time WSOP Main Event winner, taking home bracelets in both 1987 and 1988.

Like Brunson, Chan has been agonizingly close to an elusive third Main Event bracelet, finishing second to Phil Hellmuth in 1989.

Other notable WSOP Main Event winners include Scotty Nguyen, Bobby Baldwin (former CEO of the MGM Resorts’ City Center project), Chris “Jesus” Ferguson,” and Carlos Mortensen.

In 2009, Joe Cada from Michigan became the youngest person to win the tournament, at just 21 years of age. The aforementioned Johnny Moss is the oldest player to have won the Main Event. He took home his third win on May 11, 1974 – just three days shy of his 67th birthday.

In 1987, the Chinese-born Johnny Chan became the first foreign-born player to become champion. Three years later, however, in 1990, Mansour Matloubi became the first foreigner to win the Main Event, (Chan became an American citizen).

More recent winners like Jamie Gold and Jerry Yang, have made headlines less for their poker accomplishments as much as for their legal and/or financial issues.

Due to a Covid traveling hiccup, Damian Salas won the 2020 WSOP Main Event - in 2021
Due to a Covid traveling hiccup, Damian Salas won the 2020 WSOP Main Event – in 2021

Perhaps the most famous world champion is Chris Moneymaker, whose improbably 2003 win set off a decade-long poker boom.

Regardless of their post-WSOP life, the winner of the World Series of Poker Main Event will always have a prominent place in tournament poker history.

Full list of the WSOP Main Event winners

(By Steve Beauregard. Photos courtesy of the WSOP)