The South African poker scene is thriving, with regular tournaments held at multiple buy-in levels to entice both amateur and professional players alike. There are 43 licensed land-based casinos spread across 34 different cities in South Africa, so finding a game isn’t too hard. Many of these casinos have a Vegas-like feel, with hotels and entertainment built into the complex. South Africa is considered the poker capital of the continent, complete with a poker tour and poker association.
With such a vibrant poker scene and an abundant availability of cash games and tournaments, it was only a matter of time before top players made their mark. Here we celebrate the players who made it big!
There’s no bigger poker winner from South Africa in history than Raymond Rahme. With total live earnings equaling an incredible $3,546,347, Rahme was the first to put the country on the map when it comes to poker, and even now, he still stands at 347th on the Hendon Mob’s All-Time Money List in the world.
Rahme’s story is a fascinating one. He was a B&B owner until he retired in 2004, and not quite a poker pro. For decades, he always enjoyed 7-card stud poker, skeptical of the rising popularity of Texas Hold ‘em. He would never have guessed that he was about to become the first person ever from the continent of Africa to appear at a Main Event final table!
In 2007, Rahme scraped by to take 4th place in the All African Poker Tournament. There he picked up $20,811 in his record Hold ‘em win and earned himself a complimentary WSOP package in the process, complete with entrance to the Main Event and all its expenses paid.
Rahme then flew to Vegas and took part in the 2007 WSOP Main Event where he came in third after making a questionable move with pocket kings on an ace-high board (some poker talk for you there!). Not looking at all disappointed, Rahme flew home with over $3 million in prize money. He has since racked up several live amounts of cash, including the 2008 All African Poker Tournament for 1 million ZAR, though he still only considers poker a “hobby”!
With total winnings of $1,225,931 and counting, Jarred Solomon makes the list as the second-highest poker earner in South Africa. Solomon started his career on home turf, earning significant amounts of cash in the 2007 All African Poker Tournaments before taking to the international scene.
Solomon proved his skill with several big amounts of cash in the Aussie Millions in 2009, including first place in a H.O.R.S.E. event and 3rd in the Heads-Up Championship. He stepped up his game once again at the 2010 WSOP with a 5th place finish for $110,903 and a 6th place finish for $46,562.
Solomon’s biggest cash yet came at the 2011 WSOP when he made it through hundreds of players to come in second in the $10,000 Pot-Limit Hold ‘em Championship for a whopping $354,460, cementing his place as one of the greatest poker players on the continent, and indeed the world. He is still racking up major cash wins to this day, both in South Africa and internationally.
Ranked third in South Africa for earnings with $1,045,922, Darren Kramer isn’t too far behind Jarred Solomon. Kramer isn’t as prolific on the international circuit, but he is smashing it on home soil and plays most of his games in Johannesburg.
When he does hit the international scene, Kramer still makes an impact. His most valuable single tournament win comes from the EPT Main Event-7 in Berlin. The game had a buy-in of $5,000, and Kramer came out in 6th place for nearly $200,000. Also, in 2011, he came in 2nd in the Aussie Millions for a further $126,812 — a pretty decent year by any player’s standard.
What makes Darren Kramer so unique is that he is dedicated to South African poker and has made more of an impact here than any other player. He won the South African Poker Open in 2008 for $140,000 and came in first in the All African Poker Tournaments several times, twice picking up a 1 million ZAR prize for his efforts.
Poker in South Africa
The live poker scene is thriving and gambling, in general, is a growing industry in South Africa. Casinos like the Emperors Palace and Montecasino in Johannesburg offer world-class poker tournaments and international tours like the WPT. These casinos also offer a resort-like experience for tourists, residents and professional players. Casinos in Cape Town are recommended for the atmosphere and enjoyment as well.
The top poker earner from South Africa, Raymond Rahme, is a self-proclaimed poker hobbyist despite having over $3 million in earnings. Still, both Jarred Solomon and Darren Kramer are very active players on the live circuit. Kramer is crushing it in South Africa while Solomon tends to focus more of his efforts abroad. However, both are still top earners both within Africa and across the world as the thriving poker scene should continue to attract more players.
The online poker scene in South Africa, however, is still a grey area. Though there are successful online players from South Africa such as Ashlee de Lange (“elemeNt_za”), who started off their career within South Africa and have trained with top poker coaches to get where they are, at the moment, the action is all live, and so the pros tend to play live.