The World Series of Poker Main Event title is the most coveted prize in all of poker. Not only does fame and fortune come along with being a WSOP champion, but you also earn the respect of your poker peers for decades to come…..at least in most cases.
Unfortunately, with so many people in the WSOP, the Main Event becomes somewhat of a crapshoot where it’s often better to be lucky rather than good. The following list of players were no doubt the recipients of luck, and have done little in the poker world since winning the game’s most prestigious crown.
5. J.J. “Noel” Furlong (1999)
While J.J. “Noel” Furlong is definitely not the worst poker player on this list (he’s made a few big cashes in his career), it’s clear that he isn’t exactly one of the top players among all the Main Event winners either. Add in the fact that many of his poker peers question whether or not Furlong even knows how to play a cash game and he’s certainly deserving of being on this list.
It hasn’t helped Furlong’s poker reputation that he rarely makes time for the game anymore because of his carpet business. Even so, Furlong has enjoyed plenty of success in the carpet industry as his company makes over $100 million in revenue a month.
4. Jamie Gold (2006)
The one reason Gold is not higher on this list is because he has stuck around the game in an effort to build some sort of legacy. Unfortunately for Gold, it appears unlikely that he’ll form any semblance of a poker legacy aside from winning the largest cash ever in a poker tournament ($12 million).
Since winning the 2006 WSOP, he has failed to win any tournaments, hasn’t garnered any significant cashes, and was locked in a lawsuit where he was forced to settle out of court for millions of dollars (he entered into an agreement with another person prior to the 2006 WSOP to share half of his winnings). A pair of sixth place finishes in two smaller tournaments has been Gold’s main claim to fame over the past few years.
3. Jerry Yang (2007)
One year after Jamie Gold came Jerry Yang who won the 2007 WSOP, and an $8.25 million payday to go along with it. His win was pretty remarkable considering the fact that Yang was the short stack going into the Main Event final table; he not only survived, but also knocked out 7 other final table participants.
But just like Gold, Yang has failed to accomplish much after the WSOP win. In fact, he has only managed to cash once in the aftermath of his Main Event win – this cash came at the Binion’s Poker Open. What’s more is that Yang seems intent on rejecting any semblance of being a poker player since he hardly plays in tournaments. This being said, Yang is still an outstanding human being and will always be revered for his charitable contributions….just not so much for his poker accomplishments.
2. Robert Varkonyi (2002)
The event that best defines Robert Varkonyi’s poker abilities is the fact that the man with the WSOP gold bracelets to his credit, Phil Hellmuth, declared a proposition bet with himself to shave his head if Varkonyi won the 2002 Main Event. The reason for this was that everyone thought Varkonyi was a major fish and he had no chance to win.
And while people still think he’s a major fish, Varkonyi proved everyone wrong by winning the WSOP Main Event and the $2 million that came with it. Phil Hellmuth had to eat his words and shave his head after Varkonyi’s big win. Too bad Hellmuth didn’t make a prop bet about Varkonyi totally disappearing from the poker scene afterwards. The only significant accomplishment he’s had since the 2002 WSOP was finishing runner-up in a Tournament of Champions event.
1. Hal Fowler (1979)
Up until 1979, the WSOP had only seen the best of the best win the Main Event. Doyle Brunson, Puggy Pearson, Amarillo Slim, Sailor Roberts, Johnny Moss, and Bobby Baldwin where are all great examples of this fact. But things changed in 1979 when businessman Hal Fowler lucked into a WSOP title.
Fowler of course won at a time when only 54 other players bought into the event; but again, these were some of the best players in the world. And the hand that Fowler won on will go down in infamy. Matched up against Bobby “The Wizard” Hoff and his pocket aces, Fowler held 7-6 unsuited. Hoff ended up going all-in on the flop when Fowler called him with only an inside straight draw.
Lucky for Fowler, he ended up winning the hand with cards he should have folded after the all-in move. Fowler’s heads-up win against Hoff is considered by many to be the greatest upset in poker history.