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WSOP Main Event Last Former Champion Standing

In the past decade or so, the poker press has made a big deal of the Last Woman Standing at the World Series of Poker Main Event and, more recently, the Last Celebrity Standing, but long before either of these, event reports would often mention the last former champion remaining in the field.

Johnny Moss (1970 and 1971) and Doyle Brunson (1976 and 1977) both won back-to-back Main Events, becoming the first two to earn the title (with Moss winning again in 1974), but Last Champ Standing didn't really mean much until 1978 when the Main Event stopped being winner-take-all. That year, none of the five former champs cashed, but in 1979 Moss eked into the money, placing fifth to take the first real crown. Since then, at least one former Main Event champ has cashed every year except 1984, 2000, 2002, and 2014.1

The title has become more meaningful every year since Stu Ungar won his third world championship in 1987. With such huge fields, it's likely that nobody else will ever win multiple WSOP Main Events. Note: players whose place is "DNC" ("did not cash") aren't officially recognized as "Last Champ Standing".

Last Former Champion Standing at the WSOP Main Event

1971Johnny Moss1$30,000Moss repeats as champ.
1972Johnny MossDNC$0Moss (6th place), the only former champ, gets this spot by default.
1973Johnny MossDNC$0Moss (2nd place) barely misses his third title.
1974Johnny Moss1$160,000Moss wins his record third Main Event.
1975unknownDNC$0Moss, Preston, and Pearson all bust on Day 1.
1976unknownDNC$0Moss, Preston, and Roberts don't cash (only winner paid).
1977Doyle Brunson1$340,000Brunson becomes the second repeat champ.
1978unknownDNC$0No former champ cashes (5 paid for the first time).
1979Johnny Moss5$27,000Moss continues to dominate the top of this list. Bobby Baldwin 8th.
1980Doyle Brunson2$146,000Brunson narrowly misses becoming a three-time champ. Moss 4th.
1981Stu Ungar1$750,000Ungar repeats. Baldwin 7th and Brunson 11th.
1982Doyle Brunson4$52,000Brunson final tables for the fifth time. Sailor Roberts 8th.
1983Doyle Brunson3$108,000Brunson final tables for the sixth time.
1984Bobby BaldwinDNC$0No former champ cashes (9 paid). Baldwin exited in 14th place and Pearson 24th.
1985Johnny Moss7$42,000Moss bubbles the six-player final table.
1986Bill Smith5$51,300Defending champ reaches final table. Baldwin 16th and Moss 26th.
1987Jack Keller9$18,750Keller outlasts Puggy Pearson (17th), Baldwin (21st), Moss (26th), and Berry Johnston (31st).
1988Johnny Chan1$700,000Chan repeats as champ. Keller 31st.
1989Johnny Chan2$302,000Chan barely misses third straight title. Johnston 29th and Pearson 35th.
1990Berry Johnston5$75,150Johnston makes his fourth final table. Ungar 9th.
1991Billy Baldwin29$8,050Baldwin's eighth best finish is the only time he makes this list.
1992Johnny Chan7$25,250Chan reaches his fourth final table in six years, edging Keller (8th).
1993Mansour Matloubi4$120,000Matloubi returns to the final table three years after winning. Brad Daugherty 9th.
1994Mansour Matloubi16$20,160Matloubi becomes the fourth repeat last champ standing. Baldwin 24th.
1995Hamid Dastmalchi4$173,000Dastmalchi also returns to the final table three years after winning. Johnston 21st and Keller 28th.
1996Berry Johnston16$23,400Johnston barely outsurvives Dan Harrington (17th).
1997Stu Ungar1$3,120,000Ungar wins his record-tying third Main Event. Brunson 16th and Hellmuth 21st.
1998Jack Keller22$25,000Keller is the only former champ to cash.
1999Huck Seed6$167,700Seed returns to the final table three years later and is the only former champ to cash.
2000Phil HellmuthDNC$0Hellmuth (64th place) misses the money by 19 places.
2001Phil Hellmuth5$303,705Hellmuth returns to the final table a dozen years later. Jim Bechtel 23rd.
2002Phil HellmuthDNC$0Hellmuth (somewhere between 60th and 77th place) misses the money by at least 15 spots.
2003Dan Harrington3$650,000Harrington returns to final table eight years later. Scotty Nguyen 18th.
2004Dan Harrington4$1,500,000Harrington repeats as final tablist. Chris Ferguson 26th.
2005Greg Raymer25$304,680Defending champ easily outdistances Russ Hamilton (59th).
2006Joe Hachem238$42,882Defending champ hangs in long after Tom McEvoy exits in 371st.
2007Scotty Nguyen11$476,926Nguyen almost reaches the final table, which is far better than Seed (73rd).
2008Phil Hellmuth45$154,400Hellmuth far surpasses Chan (329th).
2009Peter Eastgate78$68,979Eastgate becomes the last defending champ on this list. A record six former champs cash.
2010Johnny Chan156$57,102Chan outlasts Nguyen (209th) for the crown.
2011Robert Varkonyi514$23,876Varkonyi is the only former champ to cash (693 paid).
2012Johnny Chan353$32,871Chan exits on the same day but long after Seed (527th place).
2013Carlos Mortensen10$573,204Mortensen bubbles the final table. Merson 167th and Brunson 409th.
2014Huck SeedDNC$0Seed (~740th place) doesn't cash but is the only former champ to reach Day 4.
2015Jim Bechtel121$46,890Bechtel is the best of the record-tying six cashing former champs.
2016Greg Raymer122$49,108Raymer takes his second crown ahead of Chan (180th).
2017Scotty Nguyen549$22,449Nguyen becomes the 11th multiple champ, lasting far longer than Joe Cada (948th) and Carlos Mortensen (984th).
2018Joe Cada5$2,150,000Cada becomes the first champ to return to the final table since Harrington in 2004.
2019Qui Nguyen455$30,780Nguyen, Johnny Chan (560th), and Chris Moneymaker (687th) all bust on Day 4.
2020Ryan Riess92$22,334Prorated finish (47th in U.S. section)
2021Qui Nguyen241$38,600Nguyen barely outlasts Chris Moneymaker, who takes home the same prize 19 spots earlier.
2022Damian Salas27$262,300The 2020 champ easily outlasted the 2021 champ, Koray Aldemir, who finished 75th.

If you only count times when the player cashed, Johnny Chan is the all-time Last Former Champ Standing leader with five titles. If you count all finishes, Johnny Moss jumps ahead with six, including twice when it wasn't a cash (one of which he earned just by showing up). Doyle Brunson has four titles (all cashes). Phil Hellmuth has two real titles and was the last standing but out of the money twice.

Multiple Last Champ Standing Titles

Official TitlesPlayerDid Not Cash Titles
5Johnny Chan0
4Johnny Moss2
4Doyle Brunson0
2Phil Hellmuth2
2Stu Ungar0
2Berry Johnston0
2Dan Harrington0
2Greg Raymer0
2Jack Keller0
2Mansour Matloubi0
2Scotty Nguyen0
2Qui Nguyen0