A live tournaments player?
Of course we can't know precisely what live tournament players are making in a year, because we don't know what their outlay for buy ins is. In the case of Dan Colman we can see the best year a live tournament pro could ever hope for. He took $2.1 million for 1st in the EPT Super High Roller in Monaco, $111K for 3rd in the WSOP heads up event, then $15.3 million for winning the Big One for One Drop, before picking up $796K for 3rd in another Super High Roller at the Aria, then 2nd in another EPT Super High Roller for $1.1 million, before winning the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open for $1.4 million, The WPT Alpha 8 for $957K and 7th in the APPT Super High Roller in Macau for $373K. If we include his scores which were less than 6 figures his winnings for 2014 reaches a total of $22.3 million. The problem with live tournaments is that people always show what a player's career earnings are, without realising that this information is completely meaningless and irrelevant without factoring in their outlay. Furthermore, when we talk about Dan Colman, we will never know what percentage of his action he sold, meaning that even a $19-$20 million figure for annual profits is probably well wide of the mark. The only way we would really be able to gather meaningful information about live tournaments is if players were legally required to declare what percentage of their action is sold, which is unlikely to happen any time soon.
$22,3 million in tournaments winnings in 2014 for Daniel Colman
An Online Cash Games player?
In terms of online cash games we can get a clearer answer from www.highstakesdb.com but that answer also becomes unclear when you consider that players can opt out of this tracking system. The information available tells us that Dan 'jungleman12' Cates finished as last years biggest winner with over $3.4 million across Pokerstars and Full Tilt, with Mikael 'punting-peddler' Thuritz coming in 2nd with almost $2.6 million.
An Online tournaments player?
Players like Chris Moorman are extremely consistent at the highest levels of tournament play, and he is one of the most successful online tournament player on earth. Tracking site Pocketfives.com gives out a 'Triple Crown' award for any player who wins three prestigious online tournaments in the space of a week. Moorman has an incredible 24 Triple Crowns with 4 titles in 2014 only.
Fedor Holz (CrownUpGuy) won the 'Sunday 500' on Pokerstars twice and the WCOOP Main Event for $1,8 million to his list of accomplishments for the year 2014, but still, neither player will beat the money won in the biggest few annual live tournaments in the world.
A Live Cash games player?
It also seems very possible that to find the player who has profited the most, you only have to look at the winners name for the biggest live event of the year, but this isn't entirely true. Live cash games are the place to find the biggest winner. This may be surprising to some online players who know that you can play many more hands per hour online than you ever could live, but the simple fact is, stakes can be almost limitless in a private game. Macau cash games are notoriously the domain of wealthy men who love poker, and perhaps the years biggest winner could be found there.
Only few players playing the biggest private Cash Games are talking about their results. Dan Bilzerian is one of them and he is rumoured to have won millions last year. He was claiming in an interview "If you look at poker as a sport like baseball, for instance, then I feel like maybe a minor league or a high school ballplayer. But I play with tee-ballers, so it's not as hard. If you look at poker like a business, then I would say I’m Bill Gates, because I’ve won over $50 million playing poker. Who the f— else has done that?"
Few weeks ago an other story broke the news: Rick Salomon, a film producer and big home game player in the Los Angeles Area, has reportedly been playing against billionaire Andy Beal in private games. According his ex-wife Pamela Anderson, he won $40 million from him.
Dan Bilzerain on Instagram: "Won 10.8 million last night playing poker, headed to Puerto Vallarta to relax"
The possible claims surrounding these players are trumped by one simple, more likely truth. In the early 19th century it was recorded that two incredibly wealthy men in an exclusive gentleman's club in London bet £3,000 on which raindrop would reach the bottom of a pane of glass first. £3,000 doesn't sound like much, but in the year 1816 that £3,000 sum would be the equivalent of millions in today's money. The answer to our question can probably be found in a similar place, a private club or home in an unknown corner of the world, with two incredibly wealthy, anonymous people of limited poker ability, playing heads up for millions of dollars or more. In essence, that doesn't amount to an exciting story, but it's undoubtedly the truth.
If we can take one valuable lesson from this truth though, it's that the reality of poker is, what one person does in a year has little value in terms of his place in poker history. It's what players accomplish in the duration of their lifetime, that will ultimately set the benchmark for greatness.