To commemorate the first of Hanukkah’s eight nights, we’re revealing our list of the eight, greatest Jewish poker players in history. We hope all of our Jewish friends have a wonderful holiday filled with delicious food and gifts.
There have been many talented Jewish poker players over the years. The list includes WSOP bracelet winners, multiple world champions, and one pro who is among the all-time winningest tournament pros.
With all due respect to Jamie Gold, you won’t find the 2006 WSOP Main Event champ on our list. Outside of his $12 million score 13 years ago, he doesn’t quite have enough on his resume to make the cut. But we still have great respect for his bluffing abilities, and recognize his deserved place in poker history.
Also just missing the cut are some talented pros such as Vanessa Selbst, Robert Mizrachi, Sorel Mizzi, Isaac Haxton, and Lyle Berman. And a special shout out goes to Gabe Kaplan, one of the best poker commentators in history. He’s truly missed in the televised poker world, but we’d like to wish him a Happy Hanukkah anyway.
We ranked the players based on their overall accomplishments on the felt, along with their contributions to the game. We acknowledge this list is subjective, much like any other article that ranks players based on performance, So, please feel free to tell us if you agree or disagree.
8. Nick Schulman
Nick Schulman isn’t just one of the best Jewish poker players in the world. He’s arguably poker’s top commentator, and will one day become a member of the Poker Hall of Fame.
The 35-year-old New Yorker has more than $13 million in lifetime live tournament cashes, including three WSOP bracelets. Schulman won his most recent World Series of Poker title this past summer in the $10,000 Pot-Limit Omaha 8-or-Better event for $463,670.
Away from the felt, he’s a popular poker analyst for PokerGo, and was previously a skilled pool shark before discovering poker.
7. Mike Matusow
Mike Matusow spent nearly a decade as one of the top players in poker, both at no-limit hold ’em and limit Omaha high-low. Few would still consider “The Mouth” as one of the best in the game, but he’s put together one of the best careers among all Jewish poker players.
Matusow has four WSOP bracelets and 69 cashes at the World Series of Poker. He also won the 2013 NBC National Heads-Up Championship for $750,000, defeating 64 of the game’s top players at the time.
The former Full Tilt Poker pro is one of the most iconic and recognized players in history. He’s appeared in virtually every televised poker show multiple times, and twice made the WSOP Main Event final table (2001 and 2005).
6. Eli Elezra
Eli Elezra is a World Poker Tour and World Series of Poker champion. He’s also indisputably the top Israeli-born poker player in history.
Elezra has $3.8 million in live tournament cashes, which include four WSOP titles and a 2005 WPT championship. That’s a resume most tournament grinders would envy. Despite his tournament prowess, however, the former Israeli soldier is more known for his accomplishments in high-stakes cash games.
He is a regular in Bobby’s Room at Bellagio and Table One at Aria, two of the best-known, high-stakes poker rooms in the world. Last year, Elezra released an autobiography, which is available on Amazon. In the book, he discusses what it’s like playing poker for such high stakes, and his poker career.
5. Michael Mizrachi
It’s quite a “grind” when you have to face Michael Mizrachi at the poker table. The Jewish pro comes from quite a talented poker family, including his brother Robert, who has four WSOP bracelets. Robert just missed the cut, but his brother, Michael, certainly didn’t.
Michael Mizrachi has one of the most impressive accomplishments in poker history, and maybe the most impressive accomplishment, period. “The Grinder” has thrice won the WSOP $50,000 Poker Players Championship – 2010, 2012, 2018 – which is considered one of the toughest and most prestigious annual poker tournaments.
He won his fifth bracelet this summer — this one in the $1,500 Stud High-Low tournament for $142,801. Mizrachi will be eligible for the Poker Hall of Fame in 2021, and it’s hard to imagine he won’t get in on the first ballot.
4. Barry Greenstein
Barry Greenstein is one of the most familiar former faces of PokerStars. He left his role as an ambassador to the online poker site earlier this year, along with other big name pros such as Daniel Negreanu and Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier.
Greenstein has put together an impressive career in tournaments and cash games, but mostly cash games. He’s known as one of the top high-stakes stud and mixed-game players in the world still to this day. During the poker boom era, he was a regular on popular poker shows such as High Stakes Poker and Poker After Dark.
The 2011 Poker Hall of Fame inductee has three WSOP bracelets, all in non-hold ’em events. His 109 World Series of Poker cashes ranks sixth all-time. Not bad for a cash game crusher.
3. Phil ‘OMGClayAiken’ Galfond
Those who followed the nosebleed games at Full Tilt Poker back in the day certainly remember watching a player by the name of “OMGClayAiken” dominate top pros, and Gus Hansen, on a daily basis. In real life, that individual’s name is Phil Galfond.
Galfond is arguably the best pot-limit Omaha player in history, both live and online. He regularly competes in high-stakes games at Bellagio inside the famed Bobby’s Room.
Away from the felt, he’s been one of the most respected poker coaches for years, and recently founded the online poker site, Run it Once. Galfond is also challenging other pros to a high-stakes, online heads-up PLO battle. Although he’s already set up some matches, we think his opponents are nuts for accepting a PLO challenge against the G.O.A.T.
2. Stu Ungar
Stu Ungar died 21 years ago last month from a drug overdose. Sadly, no one was surprised that his life ended that way, even at the young age of 45. Ungar had a well-known drug problem, and a problem controlling his temper on the felt.
But this article isn’t a list of highest character Jews, although most on these individuals are upstanding citizens. From a poker perspective, Stu Ungar was an absolute beast in no-limit hold ’em tournaments. He’s the only three-time WSOP Main Event champion in history, having shipped the world championship event in 1980, 1981, and then surprisingly, in 1997.
He was a surprising winner in 1997 because he was so drugged out at that point that few expected he could still compete with the best players in the world. Ungar was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2001, three years after he passed away.
1. Erik Seidel
Any list of greatest Jewish poker players of all-time must include Erik Seidel at the top. We don’t even think there’s an argument for any other player, and we mean that as no offense to the other big-time superstars on this list.
Seidel is in a league of his own. The New York native ranks fourth all-time in live tournament earnings at $37.1 million. He’s one of just six players with at least eight WSOP bracelets.
What makes Seidel so incredible is the fact that he’s one of the rare who crushed it in the 1990s, and who is still winning big to this day. At age 60, he isn’t showing any signs of letting up. No doubt he’ll have over $45 million in cashes before it’s all said and done.