Competitive poker has no shortage of fascinating players. Massive poker tournaments allow players worldwide to shine, becoming celebrities for their skills and results. Every poker player has a unique story, from reformed criminals like David Ulliott to prodigies with genius IQs like Stu Ungar. 

It’s common to see players migrate to poker from sports, like Doyle Brunson, who was a professional basketball player, or Dan Harrington, who was a chess master. Today, we’ll cover one poker player who falls into that category: John Hennigan. The former pool player usually keeps a low profile by focusing on cash games, but he’s widely regarded as one of the most formidable opponents in the professional scene. 

Player Overview

John Hennigan is an American professional poker player from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Like Phil Ivey, he focuses on cash games but maintains an impressive tournament career. World-renowned pros like Gavin Smith and Daniel Negreanu have described Hennigan as the best player they have ever faced,

Hennigan has over $8.5 million in total tournament earnings, with numerous other awards in high-profile tournaments like the World Series of Poker (WSOP) and World Poker Tour (WPT). He has one WPT title and six WSOP bracelets, one of which came from the 2014 Poker Players Championship.

Hennigan was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2018. Outside of poker, he’s a formidable pool player, having learned the game in his childhood. He’s also a natural-born hustler and gambler known for frequent prop bets.

Early Life

Little is known about Hennigan’s early life besides his passion for pool. Born and raised in Philadelphia, he learned pool early and became a pro. In the billiards scene, he was known as “Cornflakes.”

His introduction to poker happened while he was a pro pool player. Looking for something to do when he couldn’t play pool, he decided to try poker because it was “something else to gamble at,” he recounted in an interview with the WPT. Hennigan started playing more poker than pool, eventually deciding to switch from pool shark to poker pro. 

Early Career

Hennigan’s first official foray into the poker scene came in 1999 when he finished 19th in the WSOP Main Event. Three years later, he claimed his first bracelet when he finished first in the $2,000 HORSE event, earning $117,320. He outlasted other famous players like Phil Ivey and Men “The Master” Nguyen in the 156-player field. Later that year, he took down the United States Poker Championship for $216,000, beating Erik “Seiborg” Seidel heads-up.

Hennigan scored another bracelet in 2004, winning the $5,000 Limit Hold’em event against players like T.J. Cloutier for $325,360. He continued a steady streak of tournament cashes with little recognition up until 2007.

In January 2007, Hennigan made himself known to the poker community by taking down the WPT Borgata Winter Open, beating 570 other players for a staggering $1,606,223, his largest tournament cash ever. This win also made him one of two people in history to win a WPT title, a WSOP bracelet, and a US Poker Tour title.

WSOP Bracelets

In July 2008, Hennigan won the WSOP’s Ante Up for Africa Charity event for $136,860. This event, however, didn’t give him a bracelet. 

Originally known as the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event, the Poker Players Championship is one of the most prestigious events at the WSOP. 

Hennigan finished 12th in the 2012 Poker Player’s Championship for $120,994. The following year, he made it to third place for $686,568. Finally, in 2014, he won the event, earning $1,517,767.

Hennigan’s fourth bracelet came in 2016. He won the $10,000 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball (Limit) Championship (Event #47) for $320,103, beating players including Stephen Chidwick and Daniel Negreanu. 

The tournament wasn’t his primary focus, as he was just killing time between his cash game sessions. “Those games are so big, it’s hard to concentrate on tournaments,” Hennigan said. “I was just really out of gas in the cash games, so I just came over here to kill time. I registered for this at midnight, which is foolish, you give up so many levels. But that’s what I did, and I’m glad I did it.”

Two years later, he won the $10,000 H.O.R.S.E. (Event #27) for $414,692 and his fifth bracelet. That same year, he finished second in the Poker Players Championship for $765,837. 

Hennigan’s last bracelet came from the 2019 $10,000 Seven Card Stud Championship (Event #41). He defeated Daniel Negreanu heads-up to earn the bracelet and $245,451.

Johnny World

Hennigan is a notorious prob bettor and gambler, which is how he got his nickname “Johnny World,” referencing his willingness to bet on anything in the world. 

One of the most infamous bets was for $50,000, challenging Hennigan to spend six weeks in the quiet city of Des Moines, Iowa. Sounds easy enough, except for one thing: Des Moines has no casinos. After a mere two days, Hennigan had already paid the bet and was on his way back to Vegas. This shows that there are some bets that even Johnny World can’t win, and not gambling is one of them.