Robbins, the Glenview Capital Management CEO, had a standout year in 2013 and turned out to be the top stock picker of DA 2014. Robbins, who disclosed he had a $2 billion hospital portfolio, looked at the opportunities in Obamacare as two-sided, winners and losers, and offered up three long recommendations which have all delivered double-digit gains to date:
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Walgreen. Robbins believed that to the extent there's more customers of health care, more insurance coverage and therefore more doctors' visits, that some of this uptick in health care will be taken care of locally at walk-in clinics within Walgreen. His pharmaceutical services space pick has surged 47 percent since last year.
McKesson, which Robbins has had a stake in since 2004, was his best performing stock pick from last year, gaining 59 percent.
Thermo Fisher Scientific, which was his No. 1 holding at the time, is up 35 percent.
Nelson Peltz, of Trian Fund Management, also scored with an investment in Dupont that he reluctantly disclosed at Delivering Alpha last year; the chemical company is up 20 percent to date. The activist investor's larger theme of the day was around PepsiCo and the snack maker, Mondelez, which he wanted the former to buy. While that deal never happened, Mondelez stock has jumped 28 percent, while Pepsico is up a respectable 7 percent.
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Cooperman, chairman and CEO of $11 billion Omega Advisors, has quite the track record to beat after going 10 for 10 on his 2012 picks. At last year's conference, Cooperman grouped his 10 best long ideas into three categories: "quality growth," "phoenix from the ashes" and "growth with high income" situations. To date, eight of his picks are in positive territory, with many posting double-digit gains. Cooperman's top performing recommendation is Qualicorp, which has surged 55 percent since July 17, 2013.
His other picks:
Quality growth: Express Scripts +4 percent; Qualcomm, +30 percent; Thermo Fisher Scientific (TMO) +34 percent
Phoenix from the ashes: Qualicorp, +68 percent; SandRidge Energy, +41 percent.
Growth with high income situations: Arbor Realty Trust, +6 percent; Atlas Resource Partners, -6 percent; Chimera Investment, +10 percent; KKR Financial Holdings, +22 percent; THL Credit, -11 percent.
Cooperman's flagship fund, Omega Overseas Partners, also posted double-digit gains in 2013, closing the year up an impressive 30 percent.
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Carl Icahn had quite the year—the blunt billionaire, known for announcing his new stakes in companies via Twitter and publicly bashing CEOs and corporate boards at the center of his activist campaigns, was the "Alpha Agitator" at 2013's conference. Icahn touched on a slew of topics, including his thoughts on two big positions he held at the time: Dell and Herbalife.
Dell: Icahn ripped the board of Dell, saying he's never seen a board as dysfunctional. Although Icahn's activist plan for Dell didn't pan out exactly as he wanted, he reportedly pocketed about $70 million on a six-month investment in the company. Dell officially went private and delisted from the Nasdaq after close of trading on Oct. 29, 2013.
Herbalife: Icahn referred to HLF as the "daughter of all short squeezes" and disclosed that he hadn't sold a share of the nutritional supplement company. Icahn has since added to his position—as of March 31, he held 17 million shares, making him the No. 1 shareholder of the company. Herbalife is up 21 percent since July 17, 2013.
The activist investor also showed the audience his comedic side, joking about how his wife complicates his investing because she watches him like a hawk and checks his returns every day to make sure he's making money. And that he did—Icahn's investment fund returned 31 percent in 2013.
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Clint Carlson and Andrew Feldstein were both featured on the "Powering America" panel and both had stock picks that produced.
Carlson was hot on natural-gas drilling sites and his pick, Whiting Petroleum, has surged 65 percent since last year. Feldstein said coal wasn't going anywhere anytime soon and said he liked low-cost producers in the Illinois Basin. The BlueMountain Capital Management CEO also disclosed that his firm owned the debt of Armstrong World Industries, which is up 13 percent. Feldstein also gave Tesoro as a long pick—TSO is up 11 percent since last year.