Top Ten Rags to Riches: Tales of Glory

12 Jun

#10 Lukas 'RobinPoker' Robinson

Lukas Robinson gained his inclusion in this list very recently, when he broke a Twitch streaming record as part of his quest to go from busto to robusto, going full-time poker with the bold move of quitting his job as a local fish and chip shop in Liverpool. Robinson streamed 1,000 hours of live poker play over 100 days, and posted $23,850 profit with zero days off from playing. 

Whilst we wouldn’t recommend this as an ongoing lifestyle, we applaud Robinson for his commitment and achievement. His success on the felt and determination on stream surely make for a potent combination to lead him on to further poker glory, and we look forward to keeping track of his progress. What a stellar start!

Robinson has since been made a Pokerstars Team Pro as well as an ambassador for Run It Once.

#9 John Cynn

When he started playing poker back in 2010, John Cynn was a university undergrad and a self-confessed fish at the poker tables. He continued working on his game, however, starting to play live in 2012. 

His breakout and life-altering win came in 2018, when technically still homeless as a globe-trotting live poker pro, Cynn went on to ship the most sought-after win of them all, the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event which he took down after an epic seven days of play for a disgustingly huge $8.8 million in prize money. 

As a US citizen, the US taxman gets a nice chunk of Cynn’s winnings, but after tax he walked away with a $4.9 million dollar win, still nothing to sniff at!

#8 John Hesp

John Hesp has been about as good for the game as a player can possibly be, proving that anyone with a bit of heart can truly find poker stardom. Hesp was a 64-year-old caravan salesman from Yorkshire who liked to play weekly £10 home games with his friends the year he struck gold at poker. When Hesp made it to Vegas to compete in the WSOP Main Event, he was hoping for a top 1,000 finish. He ended up going deep, and taking 4th place for $2.6 million dollars in the 2017 WSOP Main.

Most intriguing, Hesp has since returned to his caravan sales, and playing in his weekly £10 games, with £200 being his biggest score since. He continues to work four days a week and take short breaks in his static caravan in the Yorkshire Dales.

#7 Dave 'Devilfish' Ulliot

Dave Ulliot, may he rest in peace, passed away back in 2105 and was a true legend of the live felt in the UK, and certainly a larger-than-life character. The Devilfish, as he was better known, was reputed to be at his most fearsome at the tables when he was “going broke”, playing his heart out to regain a bankroll and power on with his poker career.

Ulliot’s past prior to poker was somewhat shady, he actually served time in prison for planning a bank robbery. Once he found poker he reformed his ways, and lived a life free from crime, but still full of high drama, accumulating over $6 million in tournament winnings over the course of his career. 

The Devilfish was also said to have played some pretty rough home games prior to going pro, claiming he had to carry a weapon just to feel he had a chance to get out with his cash, famously quipping “the problem for me wasn’t winning the money, it was getting out with it.”

#6 Scotty Nguyen

Scotty, one of the most charming and hilarious pros at the live poker table, is simply one of the most memorable old school pros in poker. Still, many who might recognise him and smile at his antics at the tables might not realize that Scotty’s is a true rags to riches tale. 

Scotty Nguyen grew up in war-torn Vietnam, surviving the horrors of that awful war to eventually emigrate to the United States. He has spoken of being witness to unbelievable atrocities as a child, seeing friends killed and worse. Attempting to escape Vietnam aged 12, he and his brothers were lost at sea in the Pacific for over 22 days, finally being rescued by a Taiwanese ship when close to death. 

Stuck in refugee camps for over 2 years, Scotty finally made his way to Las Vegas aged 19, where he spent two years cleaning tables at Harrah’s casino. He eventually became a poker dealer, and then player, amounting over $1 million in winnings but then losing it all in a complex spiral of gambling, alcohol and drugs issues, once famously losing over $1 million in 4 hours of playing craps.

With just shy of $6 million in lifetime winnings, and the 1998 WSOP Main Event Championship title to his name, Scotty may be chilled and funny at the tables but his life has been plagued with tragedy. The day after his biggest lifetime win of $1 million in the WSOP Main, his brother Dung Nguyen was tragically killed in a car crash. Scotty says he has never worn the bracelet since, in memory of his brother’s passing.

#5 Stu Ungar

Stu’s poker journey was even more of a tragic tale. A brilliant player who could outshine just about anyone at the felt, Ungar was bedevilled throughout his lifetime by drug addiction. Incredibly smart, and with a photographic memory, Ungar famously once won a $10,000 bet with casino owner Bob Stupak that he couldn’t name the missing card once 51 cards had been dealt out from a deck, which he of course promptly did. Stu had won his first Gin Rummy tournament aged just ten. 

Stu Ungar is one of only two people ever to have won the WSOP Main Event three times, the other being its founder, Johnny Moss. He also famously blinded out of the 1990 Main Event to take 9th after running up a huge stack the day before and then overdosing on cocaine that night and ending up in hospital. 

Ungar put it best himself, “There’s no-one that ever beat me playing cards, the only one that beat me was myself.” 

Despite winning the WSOP Main for the third time in 1997, Stu was to die just over a year later in a rundown motel room with just a few hundred dollars to his name.

#4 Archie 'The Greek' Karas 

The story of The Greek is one of the most legendary in poker, as this old school figure was famed not only for going rags to riches, but back to rags again in what must be the biggest swong in all of poker’s history. 

The son of a poor construction worker, Karas used to bet on marble games on his home island of Cephalonia as a child just to buy food. As an adult he moved to the United States and worked his way up from being a waiter at a Los Angeles restaurant to hustling people with his impressive pool skills, before progressing to the poker tables where he simply crushed souls.

The Greek gambled ferociously, playing out of his bankroll and repeatedly busting out only to rebuild. In 1992 he was down to $50, convinced someone to loan him $10,000, drove to Vegas and within 3 weeks had built it into $30,000 at $200/$400 Limit Razz. He then took on a big pool and poker player known only as Mr. X, starting with $5,000 games and winding up playing pool games for up to $40,000 a go, accumulating over $7 million in a matter of weeks. 

Karas took his bankroll to the Big Game at Binion’s and built it to over $17 million playing against the best in the world, including Stu Ungar, Doyle Brunson and Chip Reese, for stakes up to $8,000/$16,000 in Mixed Games, particularly Razz. At one point he had every single $5,000 Binion’s poker chip in his possession. At peak his run took him all the way up to $40 million dollars.

The crash came in 1995 when Karas lost essentially all his money, including $11 million lost playing craps in just a few hours. He then lost another $17 million playing baccarat. He took a break and returned to Greece with $12 million, but returned some months later and lost it all again. Despite various mini streaks since, Karas has never managed to hold on to his wealth, and he resides in Vegas to this day.

#3 Chris Moneymaker

Chris Moneymaker didn't just propel online poker into the spotlight, he also himself rose to fame very much like a phoenix from the proverbial ashes. Not only was Moneymaker stony broke at the time that he won entry to the World Series of Poker Main Event, but he was on a considerable down stretch as a sports gambler. 

Moneymaker stated in his autobiography that he was down to his last $60 in his PokerStars account when he clicked on a $39 tournament, which he only later even realised was not just any old MTT but a super satellite to the WSOP Main Event. 

When Moneymaker went on to win the ticket and the whole game, in what was back in 2003 the largest poker tournament ever held in a brick-and-mortar casino, beating Sammy Farha to take down the title and the $2,500,000 prize, he and his perfect surname sent poker itself viral and started a tidal wave of poker activity both online and live. 

This was to carry Chris and many another player on their poker journey from rags to riches, and sometimes back again, on a poker wave which you could say we are all still riding to this day.

#2 maratik

The online bink, one of the sweetest feelings in poker. Probably the best online rags to riches tale of all time has to be the journey in 2012 of Russian micro stakes SNG player “maratik”, who entered a free player points super satellite worth 40 FPPs (the equivalent of about $0.40 USD in terms of real value), and laddered through an astounding 7 levels of super satellites to turn that $0.40 into a $5,200 ticket to one of the most hotly contested online events of the year, the $5,200 World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) Main Event on Pokerstars.

Maratik, a taxi driver by day, fought off a final table full of High Stakes poker crushers including Mike "munchenHB" Telker, Phil "takechip" D'Auteuil and Ryan "TheCart3r" Carter. He went on to 

Take down the event for first place, scoring himself an anxiety-inducingly large amount of money, and making him an instant millionaire as he walked away with $1,000,907.26. We hear he might have quit his day job after that.

#1 Ramon Colillas

The story of Spaniard Ramon Colillas is probably the best underdog to glory tale from the modern era of the live poker felt. He went from being a fitness trainer with a taste for poker, to storming his national poker series to be crowned Player of the Year in the Campeonato de España, which awarded him with a coveted Platinum Pass from Pokerstars for his efforts.

This Pass covered both the prestigious $25,000 buy-in to the 2019 PSPC No Limit Hold’em Players’ Championship in the Bahamas, and a $5,000 budget for travel and costs. 

But Colillas wasn’t going for that prize. He went on to ship the tournament itself for first place, besting a field of 320 players and taking down an exhilarating $5.1 million in cash and the trophy. 

Oh, he’s also since gone on to be invited to represent Pokerstars as an Ambassador. Living a blessed life, Ramon really must have done something right!

Related News


Marcelo Simoes Mesqueu Wins 2022 EPT Main Event in Monte Carlo

Simoes has done it, closing out an immense run to top a field of 1,073 runners and taking down the prestigious €5,300 European Poker Tour Monte Carlo Main Event ! In doing so he also becomes the first Brazilian to ever ship an EPT Main , winning the trophy along with a sick €939,840 in prize money. Marcelo Simoes is a big player in Brazil, where his previous best score was $109k for first in a $900 BSOP Main Event back in 2017. With this result being almost 10x bigger, he must be walking on air after his trip to Monaco. The Brazilian player was the only representative of South America featured on the final table, busting out players from across Europe and the United States to secure the win, including Spanish PokerStars Pro Ramon Colillas . How did the action go down? During six-handed play Simoes really shone, building a huge chip lead thanks to consistently aggressive play. Across a hectic half-hour's play, German Erkan Soenmez , French Hugo Pingray , US player Jaime Cervantes and Dragos Trofimov from Moldova were all eliminated, leaving just Simoes and Danish player Morten Hvam to fight it out heads-up. The heads-up itself was also a short one, lasting under an hour. In the final hand, Hvam opened to 500k at 125k/250k (250k bb ante) blinds and faced a 3bet from Simoes to 1.3 million which he called. The flop came down 9 ♦ 7 ♦ 6♠ and Simoes continuation bet a further 1 million . Hvam considered briefly before shoving all-in, a total of 3.4 million chips, with Simoes snap-calling him. Simoes tabled K ♥ K ♦ for the overpair, and all Hvam had to show was the K♣T ♦ for a gutshot with overs. When the board ran out 5♠, J ♦ the Dane was eliminated, and Simoes was crowned EPT Monte Carlo Main Event Champion for 2022. EPT Monte Carlo Main Event 2022 Winners and Payouts Place Player Earnings (USD) 1 Marcelo Simoes Mesqueu $986,832 2 Morten Hvam $592,872 3 Dragos Trofimov $417,469 4 Jaime Cervantes $313,645 5 Hugo Pingray $239,883 6 Erkan Soenmez $175,402 It was a long, hard battle for the Brazilian over five days of intense poker action, and a well-deserved win for this passionate poker player. We are sure that his family and friends back home will be celebrating his win for Brazil for a long time to come. Well played sir. Image courtesy of Pokerstars

10 May

Daniel Lakerveld Wins Malta Poker Festival Grand Event 2022

He's had a wild ride to get here, and besting a field of 1,014 entrants Daniel Lakerveld has done it, he has gone on to take it down in first place after eliminating Simon Gyorgy heads-up and taking the win in the spring Malta Poker Festival Grand Event. The end game was surprisingly fast and brutal in this one, with players busting out almost ceaselessly late on Sunday evening as they played down to 18 . Our PokerDeals Last Longer winner was finally crowned, as Robert Lim was eliminated in 17th place when his K ♦ T ♦ couldn't hold up against James Clarke's Q♠J♠ . This made Federico Petruzzelli the winner of a free entry to the very next Malta Poker Festival Grand Event (as well as a PokerDeals hoodie of course!). Petruzzelli himself was also sadly eliminated in 13th place when his A♠6♠ could not catch up with Chris da Silva's 9♣9 ♥ . Federico Petruzzelli - PokerDeals Last Longer Winner! Final Day Action at Malta Poker Fest Across those first hours of play, o ne by one the field fell away until it teetered on the very brink of the final table - just one player left to go out for the final table of nine to be formed. It was James Clarke's fate to be the bubble man, although you might argue he made that fate himself. In a limped pot good for 480k , Clarke checked back the 5♣2 ♦ with composure but then on the T ♥ T♠5 ♦ flop the Brit opted to rip almost 4x the pot with his remaining stack, giving Silva, who held T♣7 ♦ , a very easy chip-up with his hand. The 8 ♦ , 4 ♦ runout did absolutely nothing for him, and Clarke walked out as the Final Table bubble, 10th for €5,500 . James Clarke When Polish player Piotr Tuczynski got dealt QcJc in the Big Blind early on in the final table of nine he had two options, facing a 400k min-bet from Chris da Silva . He could flat or he could jam, with his 17bbs . Both fine options. He chose the latter, and he might have regretted it shortly thereafter as he ran straight into da Silva's A ♥ Q ♥ . The Q♠8♣6 ♦ 4 ♥ 6♣ runout could not help him, and he went home in ninth with €6,500 for his troubles. Piotr Tuczynski Nicolay Langfeldt from Norway had just got short. Like really short. With no time to waste, he put his last 425k , less than 2bbs at time time, into the pot with K ♦ J ♦ , met Georgios Ninis' A♠9♠ in the middle, and could not win the standoff, losing as he did on an A ♥ 8 ♦ T ♦ T ♥ 5 ♥ board and exiting in eighth with a €7,500 payday. Nicolay Langfeldt In a similar story, UK player Stephen Kane got his last 4 bigs in facing a min-open from da Silva on the Button and sitting in the Big Blind. He was met with an ace under ace situation - his A♣6 ♦ against da Silva's much prettier A♠T♠ , and the T♣6♣7 ♦ J♠ Q♠ runout was nothing more than a tease. Kane busted in seventh with €9,000 to mop up his tears. Stephen Kane Polish Pawel Zawadowicz was powering through at the end of Day 2, as Chip Leader coming into today, but he had to put his last chips in the middle sometime, and this was the moment, as he looked down at A ♥ K ♥ . A shove, he decided, with just south of 12bbs in his 3.5 million chip stack . He was in the Cutoff , it might certainly look weaker than an open to some players. Lakerveld had too good a hand to think twice, with 8 ♥ 8♠ on the Button. The two players flipped it out, and Lakerveld landed on his feet, with a T ♦ 6♠2♠ flop making him a firm favourite. The turn and river brought nothing but a Jack and a five of ♠ s for the Pole, and the pain of elimination, and he walked out in sixth, taking home €11,000 with him. Pawel Zawadowicz Greek Georgios Ninis had been playing a solid game. He got it in on this final table in an excellent spot, A ♦ 5 ♦ on a 9 ♥ 2♣5♣ 5♠ board against a worse five, exactly what you want. Gyorgi Simon was the other involved, stuck in there with just T ♥ 5 ♥ . Then a miracle - the T♠ ! With very even stacks Ninis was struck out in fifth in a huge near 9 million chip pot. Ninis took away €14,000 in winnings from this one. Georgios Ninis Dutch player Jasper van Moorsel got it in in very fine shape with his J♣J♠ blind vs. blind against Simon Gyorgy's Q♣7 ♥ , but it was his turn to run bad as a Q ♥ in the window followed by a 5♣2 ♥ K♠ K♣ spelled the end for van Moorsel and had him out in fourth, cashing for €18,000 . Jasper van Moorsel When Simon Gyorgy put his 10 million stack in the middle from the Button and it folded to British player Chris da Silva's Big Blind , da Silva decided this was the spot to take a stand, and called it off with A ♥ 3♠ . Gyorgy showed down 4♣4♠ for the best hand preflop, and just to make the point, boated up on a Q♣8♣4 ♦ 8 ♦ 6 ♦ board runout. Da Silva, a live Pokerstars Pro, has to settle for third place this time, and €25,000 . Chris da Silva There had been some talk of a deal at three, and at two players remaining, but in the end no deal was struck, and Hungarian Simon Gyorgy would square up against Dutch player Daniel Lakerveld heads-up, playing for the trophy and a final pay-jump of €28,000 . The heads-up was, like the final table itself, to be relatively short-lived and dramatic, with the two players entering level 34 with roughly even stacks at 25-26 million apiece. With blinds at 300k/600k Lakerveld min-opened and Gyorgy called to see a T♠5 ♦ 3 ♥ flop, on which Lakerveld continuation bet 600k and Gyorgy called. The 8♣ turn was checked by both players, but on the 5♠ river something overtook both players. First of all Gyorgy checked, and Lakerveld overbet, 3.5 million. Then Gyorgy after the tiniest of hesitations jammed it in, to be immediately called. Gyorgy revealed K♠5 ♥ for trips, but Lakerveld had the best trips of all, holding A ♥ 5♣ . Simon Gyorgy - runner up Thus this incredible Grand Event was brought to its conclusion in fitting style with an epic cooler, Gyorgy departed €43,000 richer as runner up, and Daniel Lakerveld shipped the trophy, the €71,000 and the glory! Daniel Lakerveld - Malta Poker Festival Grand Event Champion 2022! Malta Poker Festival 2022 Final Table Results Place Name Country Prize 1 Daniel Lakerveld Netherlands €71,000 2 Simon Gyorgy Hungary €43,000 3 Chris da Silva United Kingdom €25,000 4 Jasper van Moorsel Netherlands €18,000 5 Georgios Ninis Greece €14,000 6 Pawel Zawadowicz Poland €11,000 7 Stephen Kane United Kingdom €9,000 8 Nicolay Langfeldt Norway €7,500 9 Piotr Tuczynski Poland €6,500 We have thoroughly enjoyed our time here in the lovely land of Malta covering this series for you, and the vibe has been excellent throughout. Good weather, good people, and oh-such-good games! We'll be back to do it all again soon, and we hope you will too. Remember to catch our live updates for the next big tournament. In the meantime, if you'd like to touch base or hang out, please connect with us over on the PokerDeals Discord channel. May the poker gods shine on you, and best of luck. by Lucky Luke

2 May

Sparks Fly in the PokerGO Tour Heads-Up Showdown

You have to hand it to PokerGO , the big events and ultimate entertainment just keep on flowing! It was a stroke of genius to come up with the format for this latest event, offering spots to the top of the PokerGO Tour leaderboard in a $25k buy-in Heads-up event and then filling out the remaining spots with big names from the game and entertaining "poker celebs”. Players were divided into four sections of eight identified by suits of the deck, and here's a quick breakdown of who made it through. Image courtesy of PokerGo This game was played for keeps, one match only, no re-matches, and $25k on the line. Amongst the heroic contenders eliminated in this first brutal round were the legendary Shaun Deeb , Jared Bleznick , arch-wizard Phil Galfond and staunch battleaxe Scott Seiver , amongst many other worthy contenders. Hellmuth and Persson Face Off We also lost, amidst a lot of bad language, on the feature table, the entertainer himself, Phil Hellmuth . Mr Positivity did lose his cool at the very end as his stack got fully mangled by opponent Eric Persson , and it was quite the psychological battle. Persson pulled no punches in talking foul to Phil , eventually earning himself a warning, but at one point both players were warned about their behaviour and language. Not quite what you might want to see on the feature table of a headline event, but entertaining in its own way, and not entirely unexpected in a clash between these two fiery and strong-minded characters. This leaves Daniel Negreanu as clearly the most legendary player remaining in the running, although some incredibly strong opponents also progressed to the next round such as Eric Seidel, Sean Winter and Alex Foxen . Check out this and more in the coverage from the day on YouTube. The reporting does a great job of roaming across the tables, and you can see all your favourite characters sweat it out in what were truly engrossing heads-up matches. Tune in to the PokerDeals Discord to tell us about what you thought of these epic confrontations! Well done PokerGO , and do please keep serving up these huge events!

22 Apr

Latest Promotions

View All

Pokerstars Deposit Bonus

$ 600


Partypoker First Deposit Bonus

$ 600


Play Now

Red Star Deposit Bonus!

$ 2,000


Play Now