The World Series of Poker (WSOP) attracts skilled players worldwide. Million dollar prize pools and instant fame are too good to pass up; every aspiring poker pro wants a chance to prove themselves at the biggest tournament.

While the vast majority of professional poker players are American, the poker is a truly international event. It has expanded all across the world, with spinoffs like the WSOP Europe and WSOP Asia-Pacific being recognized as official events. Non-American pros are a rare sight, but they’re definitely present. Just ask Eli Elezra.

Player Overview

Eli Elezra is an Israeli professional poker player and businessman. He’s considered one of the most successful players in the post-2003 era of poker, with success at both the WSOP and World Poker Tour (WPT), the two biggest tournaments in poker.  At the WSOP, Elezra has an impressive five bracelets, mostly in Seven Card Stud events. He’s earned a total of $3,288,911 from the WSOP alone, accounting for a large portion of his $5,498,303 in tournament earnings.  Outside of the WSOP, Elezra also has one WPT title, which gave him the biggest score of his career to date: $1,024,574. Elezra is also a regular at the Bellagio’s infamous “Bobby’s Room,” a poker room where the stakes are ludicrously high, regularly featuring blinds at $800/$1600.  Elezra has also appeared on numerous poker TV shows and invitationals. He was a part of seasons two and three on the Poker Superstars Invitational Tournament. His rise to fame actually began because of his appearance on GSN’s High Stakes Poker, and he’s appeared on several episodes of NBC’s Poker After Dark.

Early Life and Military Stint 

Eliahu Ilan Elezra was born in Jerusalem, Israel, on November 24, 1960. He was introduced to card games at a young age but didn’t aspire to become a poker pro. Instead, his sights were on becoming a member of Israel’s Golani brigade, one of the most elite military units in the world.

Achieving this dream is not easy. Elezra received a military assignment, but it was to the air force, not the infantry. His stubbornness made him refuse the assignment, which was punished with three weeks in prison. Thankfully, everything did work out in the end, with Elezra making his way up to lieutenant in the legendary brigade.

Sadly, Elezra’s military career was cut short because of a freak leg injury during the 1982 Lebanon War. Confined to a hospital bed, Elezra spent his time making plans for the future and learning how to play poker.

Move to America

Once he recovered, Elezra made his way to the US. He traveled to Alaska for high-paying physical work, eventually finding a job gutting fish. He picked up a few more odd jobs including working as a taxi driver and managing a convenience store. 

In 1988, Elezra’s brother shared with him an exciting business opportunity in Vegas. Elezra took the invitation, traveling to the renowned “City of Sin.” Here, the two opened a film processing business that quickly took off. Using the money he earned, Elezra invested in various other businesses. Today, he owns over 20 Vegas-based retail businesses. 

Elezra’s business was surprisingly close to the Stardust Casino. As a natural result of doing business in Vegas, Elezra started playing more poker. He had always loved the game, but now, he had the bankroll and free time to actually play it.

Poker Career

By the late 1990s, Elezra was a frequent sight at all the local tournaments. He made his WSOP debut in 1999, making the final table of the $3,000 Pot Limit Holdem and $2,500 Pot Limit Omaha.

Elezra followed this with two more final table finishes in 2001 and 2003. An Israeli film crew actually documented his 2004 run at the WSOP. Elezra finished 170th, with one notable moment where he folded pocket nines to a pre-flop 3-bet from Greg Raymer. Raymer held AK, but if Elezra didn’t fold, he would have made a set on the flop. Raymer would go on to win the whole tournament that year.

While his 2004 WSOP run may have been disappointing, his WPT run that same year certainly wasn’t. Elezra made his way through 281 other entrants, coming out on top of a final table that included other formidable pros including John Juanda and Scotty Nguyen

Elezra claimed his first WSOP bracelet three years later at the 2007 $3,000 World Championship Seven Card Stud Hi-Low Split-8 or Better event, earning $198,984 . Prior to the start of the series, he made a bet with fellow pro, Barry Greenstein, that he would earn a bracelet in 2007. With 10:1 odds, Elezra placed a $25,000 bet and earned $250,000 – more than the prize from the actual event. 

Elezra earned his second bracelet six years later, winning the 2013 $2,500 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball for $173,236.

In 2015, Elezra took down the $1,500 Seven Card Stud for $112,591 and his third bracelet. 

2019 saw Elezra claim his fourth bracelet by winning the $1,500 Seven Card Stud for $93,766.

Elezra’s most recent bracelet came in 2021, along with his largest WSOP score to date. He won the $10,000 Pot Limit Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better Championship for an incredible  $611,362.

Elezra’s career shows no signs of slowing down, with a recent win in February 2023 at the PokerGO tour’s $10,000 Triple Stud Mix for $155,000.