Most Famous Poker Players from Nevada

Last Updated on February 27, 2023 Author:Adrian Sterne

Nevada

Nevada is home to some of the best professional poker players in the United States.

Many poker pros have made Nevada their home because Las Vegas is home to some of the biggest poker rooms in America which regularly host a variety of major poker festivals like the World Series of Poker (WSOP).

Professional poker players that make their living playing poker and live outside Nevada, prefer to relocate to Nevada to save them from extensive traveling. This is the main reason why Nevada has some of the best poker players in the country.

In this article, we focus on the best poker players in Nevada and give you a look at their poker accomplishments.

Dan Smith

Dan Smith
Dan Smith, a college dropout, began playing poker professionally at age 18.

He won the A$100k + 500 NL Hold’em tournament at the Aussie Millions Poker Championship in 2012 and took home his first seven-figure win of $1,041,828. The same year, he won the GPI Player of the Year title.

Born in Manalapan Township in New Jersey on Feb 23, 1989, Dan Smith started playing chess at the tender age of six. However, he got tired of chess and discovered poker at age 16.

Although he went to the University of Maryland on a chess scholarship, he enjoyed neither the classes nor playing chess. So he took a break in 2007 to play online poker at PokerStars. The same year, he qualified for the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) in the Bahamas. Later, his friends Andrew “LuckyChewy” Lichtenberger and Steve “Zugwat” Silverman convinced him to become a professional poker player and he shifted to Nevada.

His career as a professional poker player is full of big scores and wins, from his first live tournament win in 2008 to his six-figure win of $201,365 in 2022 at the EPT – Barcelona E50k NL Hold’em tournament.

Total Live Earnings: $39,192,978
Best Live Cash: $8,765,628
All Time Money List: 7th
Popularity Ranking: 20th
GPI Ranking: 253rd
Tournament Wins: 24
Total Cashes: 221
WSOP Profile: 1 bracelet, 56 cashes, and $10,886,177 in earnings

Antonio Esfandiari

Antonio Esfandiari
Antonio “The Magician” Esfandiari is a magician turned professional poker player.

The highlights of his career are three WSOP bracelets and his win at the Big One for One Drop in 2012.

Esfandiari was born in 1978 in Teheran, Iran.

His childhood name was Amir. After graduating from Del Mar High School, he got a job at a restaurant. He saw his co-workers perform magic tricks and decided to become a magician. He practiced hard and soon earned $300 – $400 per hour with his performances.

While working as a magician, Esfandiari played poker for the first time with friends and was immediately attracted to the game. It did not take him long to realize his natural ability for it. When he won the World Poker Tour (WPT) Los Angeles Poker Classic, taking home $1.4 million in 2004, he no longer had doubts about pursuing professional poker. The same year, he won his first WSOP bracelet and a prize of $185,000.

During the next few years, Esfandiari travelled worldwide, participating in tournaments and increasing his net worth before shifting over to Nevada. The most significant point of his career was when he participated in the $1,000,000 Big One for One Drop tournament at the WSOP 2012 and won $18.3 million plus his second WSOP bracelet. In 2013, he won the third seven-figure cash of his career by finishing fourth in the $111,111 One Drop High Roller Event and getting $1.4 million.

Esfandiari has also appeared on several televised poker events and gambling movies, including 7 Days to Vegas, Lucky You, The Grand and Runner Runner. In 2008, he and his friend, Phil “Unabomber” Laak, set up I Bet You, a show on MOJO HD.

Total Live Earnings: $27,810,802
Best Live Cash: $18,346,673
All Time Money List: 20th
Popularity Ranking: 10th
GPI Ranking: 142,236th
Tournament Wins: 11
Total Cashes: 94
WSOP Profile: 3 bracelets, 51 cashes, 1 ring, and $22,365,691 in earnings

Joseph Cheong

Joseph CheongJoseph Cheong was born in Seoul, Korea, on June 3, 1986. His family moved to the United States when Joseph was just 6.

He would later go on to graduate with two degrees, a BS in psychology and a BA in mathematics, double concentration, and economics from the University of California at San Diego (UCSD).

However, he never tried to get a nine-to-five job. Instead, he plunged right into professional poker after finishing college.

Cheong has won over $3.7 million playing online poker under the moniker “sublime”. He was one of the November Nine of the WSOP Main Event of 2010, in which he finished third and won his biggest live cash win, $4,130,049.

Although he lives in La Mirada in California, he has a temporary apartment in Las Vegas and plans to spend most of his time in Nevada.

Total Live Earnings: $16,286,363
Best Live Cash: $4,130,049
All Time Money List: 49th
Popularity Ranking: 44th
GPI Ranking: 45th
Tournament Wins: 18
Total Cashes: 368
WSOP Profile: 1 bracelet, 3 rings, 136 cashes, and $7,596,976 in earnings

Scotty Nguyen

Scotty NguyenScotty Nguyen grew up with a different name as he was called Thuan Nguyen. He was born on October 8, 1962, in Nha Trang, Vietnam. His family moved to Taiwan when he was very young.

However, he found a sponsor at age 14 and immigrated to the United States. He performed poorly in school before he often skipped classes to play poker in illegal card rooms.

The highlights of his poker career are a WSOP Main Event win of $1 million in 1998, a $50k HORSE World Championship win of $1.98 million in 2008, and a WPT title in 2006.

Nguyen came to Las Vegas at age 21 and became a dealer at Harrah’s. He created a bankroll of nearly $1,000,000 playing high-stakes poker in 1985, putting himself in a position to play at big tables with pros like Johnny Chan and Puggy Pearson. He won his first WSOP bracelet and a six-figure prize of $156,950 in the $2000 Omaha 8 or Better of WSOP 1997.

Scotty likes to wear flashy clothes and jewelry and talks nonstop at the poker tables. Widely known for his table antics, chatter, and beer, he continues to play with top poker pros like Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth.

Total Live Earnings: $12,709,050
Best Live Cash: $1,989,120
All Time Money List: 72nd
Popularity Ranking: 54th
GPI Ranking: 9,492nd
Tournament Wins: 47
Total Cashes: 307
WSOP Profile: 5 bracelets, 68 cashes, and $6,010,378 in earnings

Jeremy Ausmus

Jeremy AusmusBorn in Lamar, Colorado, Jeremy Ausmus has a bachelor’s degree from the Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

He played poker on Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars under the moniker “TheTaker” from 2006 to 2011. In 2008, he started participating in live tournaments and has done well for himself and his family.

Ausmus is happily married to Adria and they live in Nevada along with their two children Calia and Kai. His life proves that one does not have to sacrifice everything for poker. As his wife puts it, the life of a professional poker player is flexible and allows her husband to take off for a couple of months or take a vacation in the middle of the week.

Total Live Earnings: $12,587,716
Best Live Cash: $2,155,313
All Time Money List: 75th
Popularity Ranking: 251st
GPI Ranking: 4th
Tournament Wins: 11
Total Cashes: 242
WSOP Profile: 4 bracelets, 105 cashes, and $5,990,812 in earnings

Allen Cunningham

Allen CunninghamBorn in 1977 in Riverside, California, Allen Cunningham started playing poker at a very tender age.

Although he realized early in life that he was good at card games, he had to be content with defeating friends and family members at the kitchen table for many years.

While pursuing a civil engineering degree at UCLA, Cunningham perfected his poker strategies. He spent all his free time at the local Indian casino, building up a bankroll by playing freeroll tournaments and low-stakes cash games.

Hooked to poker, Cunningham dropped out of college to play the game professionally. But he started winning big money only in 1999 while playing Legends of Poker at the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles.

He finished second in the $5k Omaha Hi-Lo tournament and took home $113,850 in 2002. After that, he continued to win one tournament after the other. He hit the biggest win of his career, $3,628,513 while playing the WSOP Main Event in 2006.

He is in a relationship with Melissa Hayden, a professional poker player, and they travel all over the world together, participating in tournaments. The couple live in Las Vegas and have a dog called Muffin.

Total Live Earnings: $11,905,711
Best Live Cash: $3,628,513
All Time Money List: 81
Popularity Ranking: 96th
GPI Ranking: 12,865th
Tournament Wins: 23
Total Cashes: 234
WSOP Profile: 5 bracelets, 2 rings, 83 cashes, and $7,987,449 in earnings

Final Thoughts

Many poker pros have made Nevada their home over the years. We also recommend checking out the inspiring player profiles of Erick Lindgren, Mike Matusow, Qui Nguyen, Paul Wasicka, Howard Lederer, Eric Baldwin, Ted Forrest and many other players who are ranked highly on the Nevada All Time Money List.

It is commonly known in the poker community that various poker tournaments that take place daily, weekly or even annually, most notably the World Series of Poker, attract players from all over the world. However, I think it is safe to say that some find it an advantage to not have to travel so far and have decided to live a chip’s-throw away from their ‘office’, not only saving time, but also allowing themselves to participate in tournaments more frequently.

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