Before the poker boom came around, you could safely bet that you would see at least a couple of big names at the final table of any big event like the WSOP Main Event.
The boom brought changes to the poker world in unexpected ways, one of which was the absence of well-known pros at the final tables of televised events. The increase in player numbers resulted in huge fields that were now not that easy to overcome on a regular basis.
Nowadays, it’s still quite a rare event to see a final table jam-packed with big names, but even with the odds against it, it still happens from time to time. It comes as no surprise that most stacked final tables result from small fields and high buy-in tournaments.
While there are many ways to rank stacked final tables, this top 10 will rank them by the field size which the players had to overcome to get to the final table. So, which is the biggest starting field that produced a stacked final table since the poker boom?
10. 2008 WSOP $5,000 No-Limit Deuce to Seven Draw (85 Players)
WSOP Deuce to Seven Draw tournaments usually attract small elite fields, so it’s no wonder that some of the most decorated final tables emerge in these tournaments.
In 2008, the $5K event attracted only 85 players, but what a field it was! Every name at the final table was well–known in the poker world, making for a great matchup for the first prize of over $500,000.
It was bound to be a completely stacked final table even with 8 players left, but the unlucky ones were David Benyamine and Tom Dwan, finishing 8th and 7th. Between them, all the players at the final table had combined tournament cashes of over $35 Million and 6 WSOP bracelets. Both Mike Matusow and Barry Greenstein had two bracelets each going into the final table, but it was Mike’s day as he ended up winning his third.
1: Mike Matusow $537,862
2: Jeff Lisandro $347,704
3: Barry Greenstein $225,552
4: Erick Lindgren $156,151
5: Tom Schneider $104,101
6: Antanas Guoga $78,075
9. 2011 WSOP $10,000 2-7 No-Limit Single Draw (126 Players)
Despite the smallish field size, this final table was the only one in the modern era where everyone at the final table owned at least 1 WSOP bracelet, not to mention that David Baker and Nick Shulman, who won this event in 2010 and 2009 were also present at the final table.
Eventually it was the two most decorated players at the table, John Juanda and Phil Hellmuth, who ended up battling for the bracelet, with Juanda capturing his fourth and denying Hellmuth his twelfth. Fun fact: Hellmuth’s and Juanda’s winnings accounted for nearly 70% of the $45 million in combined tournament winning between the entire final table.
1: John Juanda $367,170
2: Phil Hellmuth $226,907
3: Richard Ashby $143,833
4: Steve Sung $97,416
5: Nick Schulman $69,216
6: David Baker $51,485
7: Hasan Habib $40,020
8. 2011 WSOP $50,000 Poker Players Championship (128 Players)
Before the Big One for One Drop was introduced, the Poker Players Championship was the most expensive WSOP tournament and in its last year of being at the top, it produced a very tough final table.
Phil Hellmuth broke through to another stacked final table and navigated it all the way to heads–up play, but fell short again, this time losing to Brian Rast, who captured his second bracelet and $1.7 million.
1: Brian Rast $1,720,328
2: Phil Hellmuth $1,063,034
3: Minh Ly $665,763
4: Owais Ahmed $482,058
5: Matt Glantz $376,750
6: George Lind $300,441
7: Scott Seiver $243,978
8: Ben Lamb $201,338
7. 2006 WSOP $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. Championship (143 Players)
When the WSOP introduced the $50K H.O.R.S.E tournament back in 2006, you could definitely have expected to see an amazing final table, but no one could have predicted how great it would actually be. In fact, looking at the names, this is perhaps the most historic final table ever played.
Just given the presence of Phil Ivey, Doyle Brunson and Chip Reese and the same table alone would be enough to make it one of the greatest final tables of all time, but the other players at the table were decorated players in their own right. This final table had 27 bracelets, 3 Main Event titles and $55 million in tournament winnings between the players and the fact that it was Chip Reese who eventually took it down was even more amazing.
1: David Reese $1,784,640
2: Andy Bloch $1,029,600
3: Phil Ivey $617,760
4: Jim Bechtel $549,120
5: T.J. Cloutier $480,480
6: David Singer $411,840
7: Dewey Tomko $343,200
8: Doyle Brunson $274,560
6. 2008 WSOP $5,000 WSOP Pot-Limit Omaha Rebuy (152 Players)
2008 was the last year of the $5K Rebuy PLO event and it is the only final table on the list that can arguably rival the 2006 $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. Championship as the most stacked final table ever.
With nearly $70 million in tournament winnings between the players at the time, you could not hope for a more decorated lineup in a PLO event. Juanda and Hellmuth were both at the final table once again, though they could not navigate it as successfully as they did three years later, nor could Brian Rast, Johnny Chan or Daniel Negreanu. All of them fell short to the online phenom, Phil Galfond, who was just establishing himself as one of the best PLO players in the world at the time.
1: Philip Galfond $817,781
2: Adam Houran $493,748
3: David Benyamine $316,307
4: Johnny Chan $246,874
5: Kirill Gerasimov $192,870
6: John Juanda $154,296
7: Daniel Negreanu $123,437
8: Phil Hellmuth $100,292
9: Brian Rast $84,863
5. 2010 WPT Championship (195 Players)
So far, only WSOP final tables have made the list, but it is the WPT which produced three of the top five toughest final tables on this list.
While this six–handed final table might not stand out compared to any of the previous ones mentioned on the list, each of the finalists were very accomplished players with $25 million in tournament winnings between them. After making three WPT final tables, David Williams finally clinched a WPT title after his fourth try, winning $1.5 million.
1: David Williams $1,530,537
2: Eric Baldwin $1,034,715
3: Shawn Buchanan $587,906
4: David Benyamine $329,228
5: Billy Baxter $246,921
6: John O’Shea $199,888
4. 2009 WSOP $40,000 No-Limit Hold’em (201 Players)
To celebrate the 40th year of the WSOP, a special $40,000 No-Limit Hold’em event was held, attracting some of the best players in the world. The 9-handed final table featured pros of all calibers, including Main Event winner, Greg Raymer, and online pros like Isaac Haxton and Justin Bonomo.
Surprisingly, the talent-filled final table accounted for only 7 bracelets, 5 of which belonged to 9th place finisher, Ted Forrest. Eventually it was Russian pro, Vitaly Lunkin, who outlasted the tough field to claim his second bracelet and nearly $2 million.
1: Vitaly Lunkin $1,891,018
2: Isaac Haxton $1,168,565
3: Greg Raymer $774,927
4: Daniel Stern $548,315
5: Justin Bonomo $413,165
6: Alec Torelli $329,730
7: Lex Veldhuis $277,939
8: Noah Schwartz $246,834
9: Ted Forrest $230,317
3. 2009 Five-Diamond World Poker Classic (329 Players)
So far, the increases in field sizes have been mostly marginal, but the 2009 Five-Diamond World Poker Classic had 329 entries, which is 128 more than the $40K WSOP tournament. The 6-handed final table was completely stacked with seasoned pros who had $35 million in tournament winning between them.
The final table started out with fairly even chip counts, so it was anyone’s game at that point, but at the end of the day Daniel Alaei came out on top, defeating Josh Arieh for the $1.4 million first place prize.
1: Daniel Alaei $1,428,430
2: Josh Arieh $952,290
3: Faraz Jaka $571,374
4: Shawn Buchanan $333,302
5: Scotty Nguyen $249,976
6: Steve O’Dwyer $202,362
2. 2009 WPT World Championship (338 Players)
The same year of the Five-Diamond World Poker Classic, the WPT World Championship also hosted a stacked final table, which emerged from a field of 338 players.
Scotty Nguyen made the final table again, only to get knocked out early once more. ElkY got close, but fell short of the title in 3rd place, while the winner was Yevgeniy Timoshenko, then a relatively unknown 21-year-old online pro, scoring a $2.1 million payday.
1: Yevgeniy Timoshenko $2,143,655
2: Ran Azor $1,441,975
3: Bertrand Grospellier $773,940
4: Christian Harder $570,265
5: Shannon Shorr $407,340
6: Scotty Nguyen $285,135
1. 2013 EPT Grand Final (531 Players)
So far, the EPT has not been featured on this list at all, but in 2013, the EPT Monte Carlo saw a final table packed with pros battling it out for over $1.5 million. What was even more shocking is that 531 players entered the tournament, making the chances of an all-pro final table incredibly slim.
After making three EPT final tables prior to this one and falling short in all of them, Steve O’Dwyer finally managed to capture an EPT title. Beating players like Jason Mercier, Noah Schwartz, Jake Cody, Daniel Negreanu and Johnny Lodden while doing it must have been that much more satisfying.
1: Steve O’Dwyer €1,224,000
2: Andrew Pantling €842,000
3: Johnny Lodden €467,000
4: Daniel Negreanu €321,000
5: Jake Cody €251,000
6: Noah Schwartz €189,000
7: Jason Mercier €137,000
8: Grant Levy €103,000