Biggest Comebacks in Poker History

Comebacks, Poker, Players, Table, Chips, Money

What are the greatest poker comebacks in history? There are plenty to choose from, but I list the five I think deserve to be considered the ultimate comebacks here.

Everybody loves a good comeback story, and if you play poker, these stories can serve as inspiration, proving that even when the end seems inevitable, a combination of determination and skill can turn it all around.

Let’s start with the greatest poker comeback story of all and go from there. This one is inspiring.

Stu Ungar Returns to Win the WSOP Main Event in 1997

Everybody loves a good comeback story, and when it comes to poker comebacks, there’s none quite like Stu Ungar.

Ungar is a poker legend who dominated poker back in the ‘80s and won back-to-back WSOPs in ‘80 and ‘81. However, like many who achieve great success and fame, he developed a cocaine addiction that left him in extremely bad shape both mentally and physically by the early ‘90s.

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His friend Billy Baxter staked him $10,000 to play in the 1997 WSOP. Ungar was still in a bad way, even falling asleep during gameplay on day one. However, he came back to win the tournament, earning him the nickname “the Comeback Kid” and etching his place in poker history forever.

This isn’t just one of the greatest comebacks in poker. It’s one of the greatest comebacks as a human, too. That’s why so many find Stu Ungar’s story so inspiring.

Jack Strauss Finds a Lucky Chip at the WSOP 1982

You’ve heard the expression that life can come down to one shot and one lucky break, right? Well, if Jack Strauss’ poker comeback story doesn’t convince you that’s true, nothing will.

In the 1982 WSOP Main Event, Strauss lost all of his chips on the first day. Well, he thought he did, but as he got up to leave, he found a single chip hidden under a napkin. Strauss wasn’t totally done yet.

Staggeringly, he took this single chip and ground his way back to complete victory, winning the 1982 WSOP. Strauss passed away six years later, but he lives on as a poker legend with what is undoubtedly one of the greatest poker comebacks of all time.

Greg Merson Turns it all Around in the WSOP 2012

They say when the chips are down, you find out what you’re made of. Greg Merson showed us all that with a little luck, some determination, and awesome poker skills, you can turn it all around relatively quickly.

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In the 2012 WSOP, Merson was down to around 50,000 chips on day five. That’s less than three big blinds, meaning he was close to the end. However, by the end of day five, he’d bagged a little under a million. He went on to win the tournament and take home more than $8 million.

That tournament alone makes up most of Merson’s all-time earnings ($11,467,530 at the time of writing). He hasn’t won another WSOP since, but this still goes down as one of the all-time greatest poker comebacks.

College Dropout Pius Heinz Shocks the World at the 2011 WSOP

As well as comeback stories, everybody loves poker underdog stories, and this may be the ultimate one in that category.

At the 2011 WSOP, a German college dropout nobody had ever heard of, Pius Heinz, ground his way to the final table. However, he was up against Ben Lamb and Marti Stazko, two of the greatest players of all time.

Heinz relied on scrappy tactics like bluffing and reading their faces, and both players had millions of chips more than him. Nonetheless, he pulled off the unthinkable and emerged as the WSOP 2011 champ with over $8.7 million in prize money.

Oliver Busquet Wins the Borgata Poker Open in 2009

Not all the best poker comeback stories took place at the WSOP. This one happened at the Borgata Poker Open in 2009. He overcame one of the biggest deficits ever seen to emerge victorious with close to $1 million in prize money.

What sort of deficit are we talking about? 20 chips to one, yet he still managed to grind it out and come back to beat Jeremy Brown and clinch the title.

Busquet says he knew things were changing when Brown switched from drinking alcohol to water. He knew he was feeling the pressure, and he felt it represented a confidence shift. As well as practicing on the best poker sites, this is great advice for players looking to make their own poker comebacks.

Petko Stoyanov
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About Petko Stoyanov
My name is Petko Stoyanov, and I've been a gambling writer for more than ten years. I guess that was the natural path for me since I've loved soccer and card games for as long as I can remember! I have a long and fairly successful history with English Premier League betting and online poker, but I follow many other sports. I watch all big European soccer leagues, basketball, football, and tennis regularly, and I keep an eye on snooker, volleyball, and major UFC events.