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Johnny World: The Story Philadelphia Poker Legend John Hennigan


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s John Hennigan is a poker legend who was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2018 at the age of 48.

Hennigan is the owner of five World Series of Poker bracelets, a World Poker Tour title, and the nickname “Johnny World.” Hennigan earned the nickname because he is reportedly willing to bet on anything in the world.

While he still calls Philadelphia home, Hennigan plays primarily in high-stakes cash games in Las Vegas, Nevada and Los Angeles, California. He is also a regular in WSOP events in Las Vegas.

He has amassed more than $5.5 million in WSOP earnings since his first WSOP cash in 1999. He finished 19th in the 30th Annual WSOP Main Event for $27,950 that year.

The first of five WSOP bracelets

Hennigan won his first WSOP bracelet in 2002 when he captured the 2002 WSOP $2,000 Limit Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo title. It came with a $117,320 first-place prize. Fellow poker Hall of Fame member Phil Ivey was at the final table. Hennigan’s four other WSOP bracelet wins are listed as:

  • 2004 WSOP $5,000 Limit Hold’em for $325,360
  • 2014 WSOP $50,000 Poker Players Championship for $1,517,767
  • 2016 WSOP $10,000 Limit 2-7 Lowball Triple Draw Championship for $320,103
  • 2018 WSOP $10,000 H.O.R.S.E. for $414,692

Additionally, Hennigan won the 2008 WSOP Ante Up For Africa $5,000 charity event for $136,860.

Almost a second Poker Players Championship

In 2018, in the weeks leading up to his induction into the Poker Hall of Fame, Hennigan also came within one elimination of repeating as the winner of the prestigious WSOP $50,000 Poker Players Championship.

Instead, he finished runner-up to now three-time WSOP $50,000 Poker Players Championship winner Michael Mizrachi. Hennigan earned $765,837 for his efforts.

He also booked a total of 12 cashes at the 2018 WSOP. As a result, he remained in contention for the WSOP Player of the Year title heading into the fall’s 2018 WSOP Europe events.

Hennigan has also been quite successful in tournaments outside of the WSOP. His career tournament earnings of $8,116,401 put him in the top 100 of all time. Plus, they make him fourth on Pennsylvania’s all-time money winner’s list.

Hennigan’s first recorded poker tournament cash came in 1997. He finished third in a $1,500 Limit Hold’em event at the 1997 World Poker Finals at Foxwoods Casino Resort in Mashantucket, Connecticut for $11,520.

Prior to the poker boom, in 2002, he won the United States Poker Championship’s $7,500 Main Event for $216,000. He beat fellow Poker Hall of Fame member Erik Seidel heads-up.

Hennigan on the World Poker Tour

Hennigan was also an early star on the World Poker Tour. In the tour’s first season, he made the final table of the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic at Bellagio Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. He ultimately finished fourth for $83,472. Legendary high-stakes pro Gus Hansen went on to win the event.

Hennigan eventually won his first and only WPT title at the WPT Borgata Poker Classic at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It was during the tour’s fifth season. He earned $1,606,223 for the win.

From felt to felt

Before poker, Hennigan played pool professionally. He grew up around pool halls in Philadelphia and eventually started playing in Atlantic City, where he was encouraged to go pro.

He reportedly discovered poker while wandering around a casino playing host to a professional pool tournament. He instantly realized he could make a lot more money there.

Lucky You

In 2007, Hennigan had a brush with fame, playing tournament poker player Ralph Kaczynski in the poker-themed film Lucky You, starring Eric Bana, Drew Barrymore, and Robert Duvall. Several other poker professionals also played roles in the film.

Several crazy prop bets have helped Hennigan earn his “Johnny World” nickname. Including the time he bet he could spend six weeks in sleepy Des Moines, Iowa. He reportedly bought out after just two days.

When his induction into the Hall of Fame was announced in 2018, Hennigan said it came at a point in his career when he was mature enough to be honored by it.


Martin Derbyshire has more than ten years of experience reporting on the poker, online gambling, and land-based casino industries for a variety of publications including Bluff Magazine, PokerNews, and PokerListings. He has traveled extensively, attending tournaments and interviewing major players in the gambling world.