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Contrary to what some would like to claim, live poker is not dead. With many global poker rooms now at full capacity post-COVID, the number of poker millionaires almost doubled year-over-year. In 2022, 162 people won over US$1 Million in live poker tournaments, setting a new record. This is the ultimate sign that poker has returned. WSOP Main Event Champion Espen Jorstad was the year’s top earner with US$10.52 million in tournament winnings.
Poker saw a dramatic drop-off in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic. The majority of global poker tournaments were delayed or cancelled. Online poker thrived, but many felt it could take an extended period for poker to bounce back. It appears the “extended period” was just two short years.
According to Hendon Mob, 162 players won US$1 Million or more in live poker tournaments in 2022, setting a new record for poker millionaires. That number is up from 82 in 2021. Hendon Mob tracks stats in live poker tournaments globally and is the primary source for poker tracking. Poker’s All-Time Money List and other career lists are based on Hendon’s data.
To put these numbers in perspective, only 22 people earned US$1 million or more in 2020. The players atop the money list that year were almost entirely from events played before the global shutdowns. Generally, high-stakes players only account for a percentage of those atop the annual money list.
In 2018, 160 players were able to win US$1 million. Based on these stats, it is safe to say that poker has rebounded from the pandemic.
Another noticeable change in 2022 is the person at the top of the annual money list. Generally, the top player is a high-stakes hero. For example, Bryn Kenney won US$30 million in 2019. Back in the old school days of poker up through the early years of the Poker Boom, the WSOP Main Event Champion was the top money earner.
For 2022, we saw the WSOP World Champion return as the top money earner. Espen Jorstad finished the year with US$10.52 million in earnings. English pro Sam Grafton was second on the list with US$8.4 million. Grafton won Event #6 of the Super High Roller Cyprus event for over US$5.5 million of that total.
Jason Koon finished third in 2022 with earnings of US$8.3 million. Koon only had two seven-figure scores in 2022 but made 17 final tables. He closed the year by beating Phil Hellmuth in High Stakes Duel III for US$1.6 million. He also took down the Poker Go Tour Championship at the end of the year for a winner-takes-all prize of US$500,000.
Sixty-five players managed to win over US$2 million in 2022. Some of the more recognisable players with multi-million winnings include Phil Hellmuth, Andrew Lichtenberger, Fedor Holz, Erik Seidel, Alex Foxen, and Stephen Chidwick.
Three Aussies won over US$2 million in 2022. Kahle Burns earned US$2.3 million, and Michael Addamo won US$3.1 million. Adrian Addenborough was the top Aussie pro in 2022, earning just over US$6 million.
Now it is clear that poker has rebounded from the pandemic, we can look forward to the new year. 2018 set the previous record for poker millionaires minted, and 2022 exceeded that number by two. As such, we predict a significant jump in the number of new poker millionaires.
Many are already predicting record numbers in major poker events such as the World Series of Poker. The World Poker Tour is showing significant growth, and we will likely see other regional events revived or expanded upon this year. We will endeavour to bring you news of major poker events throughout the year and keep track of what we expect to be record growth in the industry in 2023.