The World Series of Poker Main Event Final tables are all about the action at the table and the players who make that time worth it and memorable for audiences everywhere.
There have been 13 World Series of Poker Main Event champions since 2003, a year which we've liberally deemed to mark the start of the modern-day WSOP era. For your reading pleasure, the PokerNews editorial staff decided to take a swing at ranking the WSOP Main Event final tables based solely on our own criteria of what a final table should be like.
For this list, our editorial staff ranked players based on star quality, entertainment, production value, what was most memorable about the event, impact, interest in the players and the play, speed of play and the general mix of players at the table.
There isn't a perfect formula for determining these rankings, but we felt it was important for each member of the team to base their rankings on what the ultimate final table should look like.
1. Final Table 2003
Sarah Herring: 2003 is etched in the mind of anyone who loves poker. The everyman Chris Moneymaker vs. the high-stakes poker regular Sam Farha. I always loved watching Farha and he wasn't afraid to bluff and talk. They were both interesting characters.
Pam Maldonado: Amateur Chris Moneymaker defeating pro Sam Farha heads up in 2003 will always be the best and biggest final table for obvious reasons.
Mo Nuwwarah: It feels like the Moneymaker win should be higher [on my list], but looking back, the only thing that really sticks out from that one is the heads-up match with Farha.
Martin Harris: Looking at these final tables in terms of their entertainment value, 2003 easily tops the list as containing the most characters and meaningful storylines affecting poker’s larger narrative.
Jason Glatzer: My top vote went to the 2003 final table due to the historic run by Chris Moneymaker along with many notable players on the final table.
2. Final Table 2009
Herring: 2009 Main Event Final Table contained a fascinating mix of players. You have the young gun Joe Cada who eventually wins, but you never saw that coming until the very end! Of course all eyes were on Phil Ivey, the established professional and arguably one of the best in the world. And then out of nowhere you have Darvin Moon, the logger and guy everyone can relate to. Seeing Darvin Moon win a huge hand against Phil Ivey, I think, gave us all hope. :)
Maldonado: Ivey on the final table? Easily at the top of my list.
Frank Op de Woerd: 2009: Darvin Moon, what a story that was! He didn't want any sponsor deal, which boggled my mind. He was just there playing his favorite game, not much else. Could one of the way more experienced players beat him? In the end, Joe Cada did, but it was exciting to follow along with.
Glatzer: The 2009 final table got my number two vote due to the amount of top tier players on the final table.
3. Final Table 2010
Matthew Pitt: I think the 2010 final table was the best because of the quality and caliber of the poker players who reached it.
Herring: I might be biased that 2010 was the first year that I actually sat in the Penn & Teller and watched the Final Table play down. I thought the play was fantastic! Cheong, Duhamel and Dolan were very aggressive and bold. The Grinder was fighting for the Player of the Year title. Each of the guys was different and had a different vibe.
Maldonado: No. 4 is a tricky one because it wasn't Duhamel that stands out; it was instead Joseph Cheong. He was poised to win it all but a bluff gone wrong sent him packing. I've always loved his style of play and aggression, but it did not work in his favor this time around.
4. Final Table 2014
|3||Jorryt van Hoof||Netherlands||$3,807,753|
Herring: I really enjoyed the 2014 Main Event Final Table. One of the first big tournaments I covered in Portugal featured Martin Jacobson as runner-up. His play fascinated me and I saw him at many final tables after that. Seeing him win was a beautiful moment. But I also really loved watching many of the other players. Jorryt van Hoof is a great player and I love his stare! Of course, one cannot forget Bruno Politano and the Brazilian rail!
Op de Woerd: 2014: Again, a Dutchman made the final table which added all sorts of excitement for me. Jorryt van Hoof started as chip leader and dominated for quite some time. The three-handed part was just top notch poker stuff. Maybe not as exciting for recreational players, but watching Jacobson, Stephensen and Van Hoof battle it out for millions, I can watch that every day.
Nuwwarah: Martin Jacobson's win was a joy to watch. Not just because I won a bet on him, but he put on an absolute clinic of short-stack play.
Harris: In general, the more recent and better-played final tables produced less exciting viewing, relatively speaking, although they sometimes still became intriguing to follow. For example, Martin Jacobson’s comeback win in 2014 was better-than-average viewing, in my opinion, in part because of the uncanniness of his timing with all of those all-in shoves.
5. Final Table 2005
|3||John “Tex” Barch||USA||$2,500,000|
Nuwwarah: I don't know if it's nostalgia or what because I think the ‘05 series was the one I watched the most, but that final table was awesome to watch.
Matthew Parvis: Fun fact, during one of my only WSOP ME appearances I played with Kondracki, Barch and Dannenmann during the first two days. It'll always hold a special place in my heart.
6. Final Table 2006
Op de Woerd: 2006: The year Jamie Gold won was my first year that I was really into poker. I had seen some of the 2005 footage, but by the time the 2006 final table was there, I was hooked. And what a show! Jamie Gold made for such an entertaining final table, eating blueberries, constantly talking people into or out of hands. I loved it!
Parvis: Poker was at its peak powers as Phil Hellmuth would say in 2006. With Jamie Gold at the table, this final table had so much juice and excitement.
Harris: I enjoyed the 2006 final table won by Jamie Gold, both for the characters and some of the unorthodox play resulting from such a varied cast making the final nine.
7. Final Table 2004
Parvis: I'm surprised this final table doesn't get more love from our editorial team. It's certainly one of my favorites looking back. Mattias Andersson and his screaming, Josh Arieh was super entertaining to watch and I loved the heads up play with Raymer and David Williams.
8. Final Table 2012
Maldonado: My No. 2 will probably get some criticism, but I have a soft spot for Greg Merson. The final table was great because of him. Plus, Salaburu was hilarious AF.
9. Final Table 2013
Op de Woerd: The first time ever a Dutchman made the final table of the world’s biggest event and my first time witnessing a November Nine final table. Marcel Lüske had come close, but Michiel Brummelhuis was the first Dutchman to actually make it. I flew to Vegas and was so excited. So putting it up so high is very biased, but I just loved that final table. Unfortunately, Brummelhuis busted in seventh.
10. Final Table 2008
11. Final Table 2007
|3||Raymond Rahme||South Africa||$3,048,025|
Op de Woerd: Jerry Yang was really a character. It was funny to me, with the praying and the unconventional moves. I really liked it back then, though I can't remember much of it now.
12. Final Table 2011
|2||Martin Staszko||Czech Republic||$5,433,086|
13. Final Table 2015
|5||Ofer Zvi Stern||Israel||$1,911,423|
Op de Woerd: I had high expectations for this one, but unfortunately it was kind of a dull final table. I was rooting for Pierre Neuville, but he busted early on. Zvi Stern slowed down the final table tremendously to the point where my uncle and sister (who joined me in Vegas and understand nothing about poker) asked me if he knew it was his turn. The eventual winner, Joe McKeehen, was a nice character to have on the final table, but not very exciting to follow along with.
Nuwwarah: Joe McKeehen's win was an exhibition in big-stack dominance, but totally lacked any sort of excitement or suspense. It felt like he was always winning and the other players didn't care to do anything but play for second.