Former Main Event champs in subsequent years… Who has done the best?

Jeff McMillan
Published by:
Posted on: July 7, 2023 4:51 pm EDT

One of the most interesting things every year at the WSOP Main Event is to monitor how the former champions do. Some are consistent performers who we see every year, while some have drifted away from the game of poker after having achieved the ultimate prize already.

I went into the history and checked how each former champion has done in the Main Event in the years following their victory. Obviously the champions who won longer ago will have had more chances to cash again the Main Event and naturally those are the names that we see on the top of this list.

Number of Main Event cashes SINCE their win. (exact years of cash in parentheses)


Johnny Chan
(88, 89, 92, 08, 10, 12, 16, 18, 19)

The legendary Johnny Chan “The Master” leads this list with 9 Main Event cashes since his 1987 title. He followed up that title by defending it in 88 and nearly made it three in a row with a runner-up finish in 89.

Chan would have a 16 year gap between 1992 and 2008 but then have a resurgence in recent years with 6 cashes in the last 15 Main Events and in many of those years it was his only cash of the summer which truly makes him a Main Event specialist.


Berry Johnston
(87, 89, 90, 92, 95, 96, 07)
Bobby Baldwin
(81, 86, 87, 91, 92, 94, 09)
Doyle Brunson
(77, 80, 82, 83, 97, 04, 13)

Three former champs are tied at 2nd five seven caches since their win. Brunson stands out with a staggering 36 year gap between his 1977 cash and his final one in 2013 at the ripe age of 79.

Johnston and Baldwin also boast impressive longevity with a 20 year spread over Main Event cashes.

Phil Hellmuth
(97, 01, 03, 08, 09, 15)

Hellmuth burst onto the poker scene 34 years ago with his famous heads-up win over Johnny Chan in the 1989 Main Event.
You may actually have expected Hellmuth to have more than 6 Main Event cashes since then as his 8 year gap after that until 1997 is a bit surprising and his current drought since 2015 prevents him from challenge Chan’s number at the top for now.

Johnny Moss
(79, 80, 85, 86, 87)
Scotty Nguyen
(03, 07, 10, 15, 17)

Moss had a impressive streak of 5 cashes in 9 years in his 70s to set his mark before he passed away in 1995.

Nguyen has fewer years since his win than the others on this list so far and has also had nice main events results since, most notably in 2007 when he finished 11th.

Jack Keller
(87, 88, 92, 98)
Dan Harrington
(96, 03, 04, 09)
Ryan Riess
(15, 16, 20, 22)

Three champions are tied at four with the 1984 champion Jack Keller spreading his out until a swansong cash in 1998.

Harrington had the very impressive back to back 3rd and 4th place finishes in 2003 and 2004 as he has come the closest to being a multi time champion in recent decades.

Riess is by far the most recent champion on this list so far with his win in 2013. He already has 4 cashes in the main in the decade since. At only 33 years old and a prolific player each year at the WSOP, you would definitely put Riess as the favorite to eventually surpass Chan’s mark and set a new record himself.

Stu Ungar
(81, 90, 97)
Tom McEvoy
(06, 16, 18)
Jim Bechtel
(93, 01, 15)
Huck Seed
(99, 07, 12)
Carlos Mortensen
(07, 13, 17)
Joe Hachem
(06, 09, 15)

Now we see where most of the former champions are. Six have had three cashes since including the 22 year spread for Bechtel and McEvoy who had a staggering 23 years after his 1983 title until he would cash again in the Main Event in 2006 which he has been able to do twice more since in recent years.

Puggy Pearson
(1987, 1989)
Mansour Matloubi
(93, 94)
Russ Hamilton
(04, 05)
Chris Ferguson
(04, 09)
Robert Varkonyi
(07, 11)
Chris Moneymaker
(19, 22)
Greg Raymer
(05, 16)
Joe Cada
(17, 18)
Jonathan Duhamel
(15, 18)
Greg Merson
(13, 22)

Many of the former champions are here on the list with ten of them having a couple, many of them more recent champs.

It took Moneymaker 16 years to cash in the Main Event again after his sport-redefining win in 2003 but now has two recent ones.

Brian Roberts
Bill Smith
Brad Daughterty
Hamid Dastmalchi
Peter Eastgate
Martin Jacobson
Qui Nguyen
John Cynn
Damian Salas

The champions who have one are either old school winners who drifted away from poker or very winners who haven’t had many chances yet.

Which former champions will add to their total this year?