When we’re talking about the different Player of the Year rankings in the poker world, you’ll often hear many grousing about how the “High Roller” tournaments affect the standings. Over the past decade, these tournaments – which are usually identified as those tournaments with a buy-in of $25,000 or more – have become more of commonality on the tournament poker circuit. There have been actual tournament series built around these high dollar event, such as the Aria High Roller Series, the U. S. and British Poker Opens and even the Poker Masters event. But just how much have the “High Roller” tournaments affected the all-time money list?

Some Players Reign, Some Players Fall

For the all-time money list, this is the Top Ten and the amount that they have won (courtesy of The Hendon Mob rankings):

1. Bryn Kenney, $56,403,506
2. Justin Bonomo, $49,128,107
3. Daniel Negreanu, $42,053,307
4. Erik Seidel, $37,748,126
5. Dan Smith, $36,742,718
6. Stephen Chidwick, $34,387,646
7. David Peters, $33,737,541
8. Fedor Holz, $32,556,379
9. Jason Koon, $31,101,729
10. Steve O’Dwyer, $30,471,475

The Hendon Mob rankings have a few filters that can be used to demonstrate how the Top Ten would look under a few different circumstances. One of those is open events only, tournaments that were open to all players and not invitational tournaments. For some reason, Kenney loses over $22 MILLION in earnings with this criteria put in:

1. Justin Bonomo, $44,256,840
2. Daniel Negreanu, $40,172,405
3. Erik Seidel, $35,880,136
4. Bryn Kenney, $34,356,158
5. David Peters, $32,601,270
6. Fedor Holz, $32,556,379
7. Steve O’Dwyer, $30,471,475
8. Jason Koon, $30,057,732
9. Daniel Colman, $28,725,059
10. Phil Ivey, $28,715,759

Note that Chidwick and Smith also dropped off the Top Ten with this criteria put in place.

The disparity becomes even greater when you look at another criteria. If only open events with buy ins less than $50,000 are included in the list, suddenly you get a whole different list of players that comes to the fore:

1. Daniel Negreanu, $20,990,715
2. Erik Seidel, $18,541,017
3. Stephen Chidwick, $18,461,576
4. Justin Bonomo, $18,211,358
5. Steve O’Dwyer, $17,582,806
6. David Peters, $16,738,262
7. Phil Hellmuth, $16,670,051
8. Michael Mizrachi, $16,562,738
9. Jake Schindler, $15,537,008
10. John Juanda, $15,513,782

So, what happened to some of those players? Kenney, for example, drops to 18th place (and $13,767,626 in earnings) if you exclude tournaments with buy-ins over $50K, while Koon falls all the way down to 51st place ($10,051,572). The biggest drop goes to Colman, who goes down to 219th place in the all-time rankings ($4,735,615) if the $50K and up tournaments are taken out of the mix.

Is It Significant?

Nobody is going to be silly enough to doubt the talents of any of the men who appear on this list (the highest-ranking woman is Vanessa Selbst, in 68th place on the all-time money list with $12,488,677 in winnings). But the different filters on the rankings do demonstrate that there are more difficulties in playing in large field events – such as what arguably come with $10K tournaments and less – versus playing in the “High Roller” tournaments, which may draw the same 50-100 players or so each time. There is something to be said for learning the idiosyncrasies of a handful of players in the “High Roller” pantheon versus going up against players you’ve never seen before (and probably never will see again) in the smaller buy in tournaments.

Rankings are there to give us an idea of who the best in the game have been. But would someone say that Bryn Kenney is greater than, say, Stu Ungar (404th place all-time with $3,677,961 in earnings)? Probably not. That’s why, when we look at some of these rankings that have been perhaps “swayed” by the advent of today’s poker world, we should probably take them with a grain of salt.

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