This post has been a long time coming and its been something I’ve thought about quite a bit. A lot of people makes posts or comments like “x guy sucks, or y guy is so easy to read, etc” Here I’m going to go through the several metrics that people use to determine who is the best poker player in the world and make some general comments about them at the end.

Best heads up player – This is the person who has the highest theoretical BB/100 vs anyone they play heads up.
Problem: They may be the best at HU NLH but they may not have the highest hourly rate, because they play so few tables or they may have tons of variance, both of which I think people would be willing to sacrifice some BB/100 for. They also may be really good at beating x player but fail to be able to adjust to y player, etc.

Best 6max or 9max player – This is the player with the highest theoretical BB/100 in their respective game.
Problem: This person is inevitably going to be a different person than the best heads up player. Some people have a hard time adjusting to more or fewer players. Also if you are maximizing your BB/100 you are likely sacrificing bottom line profit by not playing enough tables.

Highest hourly rate – This is the player that has the highest hourly rate when they play.
Problem: This is likely someone like leatherass9 who 12 tables 5/10 and 10/20. We will never know if they are good enough to 1 table phil ivey heads up at 100k NL because they have no interest in it. They make good money doing what they do and don’t care about the respect someone gets from playing nosebleeds.

Toughest to play – This is the player that is relentless in position, 3betting you a ton, checkraising your riverbets with balanced ranges and really putting the pressure on putting you to the test. This is someone play prahlad or H@llingol.
Problem: Toughest opponent does not necessarily correlate to the best player in my opinion. Someone may be able to put me to really tough decisions at the table, but they may not necessarily be making the most +EV decisions that maximize profit.

Best overall poker player – Some of the old timers argue that the new age poker players aren’t great poker players at all because all they know how to play is one game, usually no limit hold’em. They argue that the best player is the favorite in a big mixed HORSE game and who is very good at all the games.
Problem: In order to become really good at all the games you are going to have to sacrifice a lot of money in opportunity cost. For example say someone like Tay wants to learn the rest of the games, well he’s going to have to start at very low limits and grind tons of hours of these games when instead he could just be grinding high stakes NLH and making tons of $$. It’s not necessarily worth it for a lot of players.

Player who has won the most money playing poker – Pretty self explanatory.
Problem: Someone who grinds 12 hours a day and eeks out a small BB/100 in the stakes they play but ends up with the most money at the end of the year may not be that great of a poker player, just a really dedicated grinder. There’s also something to be said for happiness EV and time away from the tables etc.

Player who won the wsop main event – Lots of people who don’t play poker very seriously believe that the main event winner determines who’s the best because, geez they won $8 mil or whatever how could they not be and its the world series for god’s sake.
Problem: It’s one tournament. Anyone can get lucky enough to win and I think any serious poker player will agree a lot of the previous main event winners have simple flaws in concepts of how they think about the game (ie Jamie Gold’s desire to “be the best bluffer” wtf?)

Tilt, BR management, ability to grind, etc – There are tons of other factors that really go into who becomes a great successful poker player. The best player in the world may be able to make the correct decisions 100% of the time until he takes a bad beat in which case he tilts like crazy or he may only be capable of grinding for like 30mins at a time before his game starts to deteriorate in which case, lesser players are going to have better long term success than him.

Conclusions: Who cares who the best is imo. It’s not really worth worrying about and the answer is impossible to determine. It’s better to just play the best poker you can, make as much $$ you can and enjoy your life not worrying about stupid things like this. Even these 10k hand HU grudge matches that happen on 2+2 don’t really definitively determine who is better imo. Only if you could play the 10k hands from both perspectives can you accurately determine who the better player is IMO and that’s obviously impossible.

I hope this was at least entertaining. PS for all the haters my hot streak has def cooled down a little bit. A four day break from poker is never good for me and I’ve been finding myself making very stupid mistakes when I play lately.

3 Responses to “Who’s the best?”

  1. whitewash says:

    You make excellent points, and I don’t disagree with any of them.

    I still care about the whole “who is the best poker player in the world?” because inevitably the competition aspect of poker is what I care about. When the majority of serious poker players agree Phil Ivey or Patrik Antonius is the best poker player in the world, they take an undefinable combination of all the categories you talk about.

    Another aspect you have not discussed is time frame. Let’s say someone like a CTS grinded a ton of hands, had one of the best winrates, and won the most money online one year. Almost everyone in the poker community agrees CTS is the best player in the world. Then he decides to massively slow down afterwards, and barely plays. 6 months from then, is he still the “best” player? Two years?

    Entire entry was a great read.

  2. btimm says:

    Agreed, good entry. Bottom line is the best player I have ever seen play is easily btimm. Dude is a monster.

  3. Noel says:

    1st, I enjoyed this post. 2nd,I dont know how to say this and not come off as an ass, so I apologize for that now. Who fucking cares who is best? Thats what you are getting at right? This is like the whole most popular thing. None of that shit matters in life. The truth of the matter is are you happy?

    The reasons one person plays poker vs another persons reasons are going to be very different. I personally choose to play because of the amount of free time it allows to enjoy life. Why else are we alive? So and so might be regarded as the best but when was the last time he enjoyed all the monies?

    Again I apologize if I come off as a dick. I want to grind like mad and make sick monies but it is real fucking hard living in Nor Cal.

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