It’s time to appreciate the greats. Professional poker is one of the hardest jobs of all time, and it turns out that black players have been leaving their mark at the tables in a major way. They’re winning big in some of the most competitive tournaments in the world, raking in the dough and helping the industry evolve. But who exactly are these players, and what makes them stand out so much? Let’s take a look.  

Black Players Dominating the Scene

It’s not easy to become a professional poker player, especially outside the strict confines of major gambling hubs like Las Vegas and Atlantic City. It was even harder than that before poker started to become more mainstream. Where do you find the strength to go pro when you’re relegated to dimly-lit rooms and sketchy, privately-run games?

It seemed like American poker players were out of luck throughout the nineties and early 2000s, especially when the recession hit. The light began to shine when poker and casino gaming in general made a major comeback in 2013. More casinos began to open up around the states, with 48 states in total operating some form of legal live gambling today and 30 operating casino venues. 

Most US states are now offering some form of legal live gambling, and online gambling could be the next big thing for American players.

Black poker players like Phil Ivey, David Williams, and Paul Darden all come from different backgrounds, but they have one thing in common: a love for the game. So do many other people, and the growing number of poker rooms across the country gave them practice and encouragement to learn the ropes and recognize their own achievements through live games. 

These players began to rise as the industry was modernized and refined to a level which allowed for truly competitive and globalized play. As a result many of them started to play online poker games, which provided a perfect platform for professional development and allowed them to hone the skills required to become experts in the field. Today, the industry is booming. Black players have taken their seat at the table, rising to stardom while mentoring others and giving back to the poker community.

Phil Ivey Comes on Strong

Known as the Tiger Woods of poker, Phil Ivey is perhaps the most famous of all the black players. Born in California back in 1977, he was moved to New Jersey at just 3 months old. He got into poker as a young adult, playing against coworkers before finally moving up into the big leagues. 

Phil Ivey fell in love with this classic game at an early age, quickly rising through the ranks and establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with.

His career is storied and star-studded, with 10 World Series of Poker bracelets under his belt and a solitary World Poker Tour title. He has appeared nine times at World Poker Tour final tables, and has been widely regarded as one of the most talented and intelligent players in the world. 

His 2017 induction to the World Poker Hall of Fame was richly deserved, with reported winnings of over $26 million dollars from live games alone, and a reported net worth of over $100 million. Some of the cash even goes to a good cause, as Ivey has funded several charitable organizations for underprivileged children and the homeless. 

He even started the Budding Ivey Foundation, a non-profit organization which raises money for charities around the world, and has partnered with Make-a-Wish to play live casino games in Vegas with children who look up to him as a hero. He currently lives in Vegas, playing poker where it matters most. 

David Williams Strikes it Big

David Williams is a Texas native born in 1980, a relatively young player who has seen his share of the spotlight these past few years. He began his love of cards with the strategy card game Magic: The Gathering, which is (interestingly enough) a popular pastime among poker pros.

And it turned out to be very profitable indeed, as his live winnings exceed $8 million. After a notoriously famous moment when he came in second to poker superstar Greg Raymer in the 2004 WSOP, he became a sponsored poker professional, winning a gold bracelet at the 2006 WSOP and the World Poker Tournament Championship in 2010. 

David Williams plays against other professionals at the WPT Challenge the Champs 2017-2018 season.

Williams had a moment on season 7 of MasterChef, where he came got into the final round and almost considered switching careers. Instead, he decided to stick with what he knew, moving to Las Vegas and hitting the tables there. He’s big into online games, and still plays Magic, but he prefers to concentrate on poker these days.

Paul Darden Shakes Things Up

Paul Darden was born in 1968, making him one of the older poker professionals currently on the circuit. However, this man is proof that you can do anything you set your mind too. Despite being falsely accused of murder at age 15, the Connecticut native went on to win a WSOP bracelet in 2001 and a WPT title in 2002. 

His live winnings exceed $2 million, and he’s still active in the field of poker today. Darden was mentored by friend and competitor Phil Ivey, going on to take on thevital role of mentorshipfor professional Amnon Filippi and passing the poker torch. Despite having been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Darden is still playing his favorite game both online and in live games, having most recently participated in the 2015 WSOP. 

These three players are an inspiration not only to aspiring black poker players all over the world, but to any black professional hoping to leave a mark in his or her field of choice. With a combination of ambition, motivation, and pure skill, these players took the poker world by storm, proving to people across the country that they have what it takes to succeed.