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16-Time World Collection of Poker Champion Phil Hellmuth Discusses His Life in Poker and Quest for Greatness

By Sean Chaffin


The World Collection of Poker kicks off on Might 31 and no participant could also be extra synonymous with the occasion than Phil Hellmuth. The 1989 Principal Occasion champion has 16 championship bracelets and $16.3 million in sequence winnings. He sits effectively above the next-closest opponents with six extra bracelets than poker legends Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan and Phil Ivey.

There’s little question Hellmuth brings loads of expertise to the desk, however his “Poker Brat” persona can rub some poker followers and gamers alike the unsuitable manner. The household man, investor, businessman, and next-level poker participant has tried at instances to rid himself of the bratty persona, however his anger and frustration nonetheless typically come out. Love him or hate him, nevertheless, Hellmuth attracts followers to the sport. Whether or not at a WSOP final desk or dominating heads-up matches on PokerGO’s Excessive Stakes Duel, discounting Hellmuth’s expertise appears foolish at this level.

The final WSOP was held within the fall and Hellmuth had a large run, scoring five final-table appearances within the sequence’ first three weeks. He in the end scored his sixteenth bracelet in a $1,500 Deuce to Seven Triple Draw occasion and in addition added two runner-up finishes. With the WSOP proper across the nook and shifting for the first time to the Vegas Strip at Bally’s (quickly to be Horseshoe Las Vegas) and Paris, Hellmuth sat down with On line casino Participant to debate his storied profession and the sport he loves.

How does it really feel to see the World Collection of Poker returned again to the summer season and shifting to the Strip for the first time?

I’m actually excited. You recognize, for me, it’s a time to sort of block off two months of my time and it’s going to be good. I’ll be coming off a buddy’s birthday celebration in Mexico for 3 days, then it’s straight to the sequence.

It’s simply an adjustment course of, proper? I’ve been taking part in the sequence because it was on the Horseshoe in I haven’t missed a yr. To me, that is an important occasion for the skilled poker gamers instances 10. And I made a decision that if I needed to be the best of all time, I’d must do it on the World Collection of Poker. So I’m going to work arduous to proceed to burnish my legacy.

For me, it’s fascinating, as a result of I keep at Aria. So I could find myself strolling in quite a bit. However when it comes to change of location, I feel it’s simply alright. It doesn’t matter the place we play. You simply must be prepared to point out up.

What are some methods you get ready and ideas on this course of?

Utilizing BreinFuel [an energy drink Hellmuth endorses that can help with focus] simply actually helped me. These previous few hours of the day, and even these first few hours, generally I might simply blow it. So the drink simply gave me an opportunity to play nice from begin to finish each day.

However clearly, there are different components, like the way you’re operating. And there’s some luck and may you play your greatest 12 months out of the yr? And I feel generally we’re somewhat bit extra like baseball gamers the place we’ve got slumps, after which we hit the ball out of the park for some time. So it’s going to be a pleasant problem. For me, a minimum of I really feel I’m ready. The gasoline aspect is sort of set for me, which is good. And I’m able to have some exercises too. I additionally assume that if I could make seven final tables, I feel it’s potential that I can win five bracelets in a single yr. In order that’s an outrageous factor to say, however I simply made seven final tables.

Your first three weeks of the sequence final yr had been simply huge. Did that even shock your self?

Nobody, together with me, was anticipating five final tables the first 18 days or no matter it was, and a bracelet and a second place. Nobody was anticipating that first and second. Nevertheless it does inform me that issues are potential that I didn’t assume had been potential earlier than. So once more, I feel it’s now potential. I may win five bracelets in a single yr, which is outrageous.

I had three seconds in a yr after which got here again with two firsts the following yr. So it’s good to assume issues are potential. Nevertheless it looks like after I had three seconds, I informed myself, ‘Wow, you could possibly have three firsts after which I had two firsts.’ So it’s an odd factor to say, however seven final tables is feasible. Omaha Eight or Higher, I wouldn’t be stunned in the event you see me down there quite a bit sooner or later. Then Razz has been my recreation. I performed some loopy large pot the place if I win I’m going to have like second chips after we’re eight-handed. And I’ve already gained two bracelets and had a second in that recreation.

So it’s utterly potential to win five bracelets. I prefer it once I assume issues are potential even when it’s unfathomable for folks. My profession’s been unfathomable to lots of people.

You had been second in WSOP participant of the yr final yr and that’s one of many few belongings you haven’t completed on the sequence. How essential would successful that title be for you?

That’s the cherry on prime. I have already got the most important cake in historical past and there’s a ton of frosting on it too. However it might be good to have that little cherry on prime. I feel it says quite a bit about me that I’ve 4 instances finished second in participant of the yr. Within the early years, once I finished second, it was primarily Maintain ’em. And now it’s as a consequence of blended video games. I had a shot final yr with actually about 48 hours left within the race. I simply needed to win as a substitute of finishing second.

What’s the format you’d prefer to win a bracelet in subsequent?

Any blended recreation bracelet and I’ve had seconds and thirds. I’ve had a ton of final tables in blended video games and for no matter cause I haven’t gained a bracelet. It might be very fitting after final yr to win a bracelet in blended video games. I at all times needed a Deuce to Seven bracelet. I needed to wait a very long time for that and received it. Second for me has at all times been in blended video games.

You’ve gotten 12 runner-up finishes on the WSOP. As somebody who’s hypercompetitive on the desk, does it simply kill you to finish second and have so many second-place finishes?

Yeah, it does eat away at me. Second place is simply not the place you wish to be. I keep in mind the three seconds in 2011 or ’12. Everybody was like, ‘At the very least you locked up participant of the yr.’ I feel that was the yr that Greg Merson needed to win participant of the yr within the final occasion [the $10,000 Main Event]. He needed to finish first; even second doesn’t win participant of the yr  After which there are a pair tournaments a yr, the place if I simply last more then I might have locked up participant of the yr. Nevertheless it occurs.

Are you continue to doing the “Uncooked Deal” phase for the World Poker Tour?

Sure, as a matter of reality, [WPT CEO] Adam Pliska known as me immediately. I do know that I’m taking pictures my subsequent segments in L.A. on March 30. And due to that, my spouse and I are going to have fun our wedding ceremony anniversary March 31 in L.A.

For me, it’s enjoyable as a result of they ship me the palms after which I write the scripts. They’ll ship some options and it’s sort of a collaboration between the writers, producers, and me. Generally they’ll ship me humorous stuff that I like, and I’ll add like 40% me. Generally there’s not as a lot there and it is going to be extra like 80% of me within the writing.

It simply works out effectively. I actually jive effectively with the producers. I just like the collaborative effort of writing the scripts. It’s simply enjoyable and I sort of simply get to go. It’s like, ‘Alright, you get to say this and this and this and you’ll joke as a lot as you need and let your persona shine.’ I’ll say humorous stuff and so for me, I’ve actually loved doing the ‘Uncooked Deal’ all these years.

The WPT has actually seen some large occasions post-COVID and appears to be seeing development. What are your ideas on the tour?

Huge WPT stuff is going on, huge. These fields are loopy that they’re having. The first WPT again in Florida in 2021, the numbers had been loopy large. They usually had been taking part in with plastic guards up on the desk and masks, and we had file fields. So I feel that the WPT goes to proceed to kill it.

Are you going to be taking part in some WPT occasions this yr?

I at all times play WPTs. At the very least three or 4 a yr, and it might be very nice to win one. It’s been very irritating. I received heads up in opposition to Artwork Papazyan [2017]. Early in that event, he went loopy with deuces and I folded Queens. After which I received it in with Ace-King in opposition to the King-Queen, and a Queen got here on the flop. I might have been again near even in chips with him or possibly with the chip lead. It sort of damage, that second-place finish.

I’ve had a bunch of final tables, so it’s simply unusual I don’t have a WPT title. Numerous it may be simply due to fatigue after which there’s been some very unfortunate stuff. I keep in mind lots of bizarre palms over time. And there have been a number of instances the place I finished seventh or eighth, so I simply missed the official TV final desk. This isn’t a pity get together—I’m not whining, however it’s irritating. There are lots of shut calls there, however that gained’t get it accomplished. You need to win them.

On one other observe, you’ve had some dominating performances on PokerGO’s “Excessive Stakes Duel” in opposition to some large names like Antonio Esfandiari, Daniel Negreanu and Tom Dwan. How enjoyable is being a part of that?

Numerous enjoyable. I feel I used to be 7-0 after which Dwan beat me. Then I did put up $200,000 to problem. Although I’d gained, I used to be up $800,000 or one thing. I used to be hesitating placing up $200,000. It doesn’t matter how rich I’m, I simply hate risking a ton of cash in poker, which is a bizarre factor. I’ve at all times been an important cash supervisor  which is why I’ve this wonderful home that I’m pacing round within the yard. And I’ve been very fortunate financially. A part of that’s good self-discipline. Anyway, finally I bought nearly all of myself within the match and I gained that one. So I’m wanting ahead to the following one. I’ve to beat Dwan for $800,000 after which $1.6 million earlier than I can money out [per the rules of the show]. So I’ve to win two extra—and he’s powerful as nails.

You had been lately a part of a celeb occasion as a part of Tremendous Bowl weekend for the American Cornhole League on ESPN. What was it like being part of that and representing poker within the mainstream?

I feel within the finals, I had no probability. I used to be in opposition to a man that would make two out of 4 luggage each time. I’d solely been taking part in for per week. They put me in opposition to a semi-pro, a ringer. However I had enjoyable. The six-minute phase they did on me at my home with Cody Henderson [his professional partner in the event] was fairly cool.

You’re a shareholder within the on-line gaming firm Rush Road Interactive and predicted in 2020 that the corporate would get into on-line poker. The corporate lately acquired poker professional Phil Galfond’s Run It As soon as platform and seems to be hoping to launch it within the U.S. What are your ideas on the corporate and the transfer?

I’m very comfortable for Phil Galfond. I feel Phil has been an upstanding member of the poker group for a very long time and he’s proven lots of class. I’m very comfortable for him to have a pleasant exit. On the Rush Road Interactive aspect, I’m actually comfortable. I went public and mentioned I’ve 165,000 shares of Rush Road, and it hasn’t been enjoyable watching them fall from $20 right down to $8—12 factors at 165,000 shares, that’s like $2 million. That’s been sort of powerful. I by no means bought a share as a result of I’ve lots of religion. However so far as on-line poker within the U.S., you’ll in all probability see me get entangled in an enormous cope with any person within the subsequent few months. Not Rush Road.

Actually? That looks like a pure fit for you.

No, not now. It’s fascinating, as a result of I’m sort of stunned myself. I believed it might have been a superb fit. However what I’m going to announce goes to be huge. We had been hoping to announce it final yr. Issues have been shifting slowly.

Do you have got any perception on when Rush Road plans to enter the U.S. market?

No perception. They maintain closing offers. I noticed that they only closed a on line casino deal in Ontario. It seems like they introduced one thing about Mexico. So I’m sort of shocked—for one of many main firms in on-line gaming and on-line sports activities betting within the U.S., I feel that they’re horribly mispriced. However once more [says laughing], I’ve lots of shares. So clearly, I’m bullish.

How do you’re feeling about the way forward for on-line poker within the U.S.?

Bullish, as quickly as we get interstate cooperation. I noticed what the numbers used to seem like within the day and so they had been huge numbers. It looks like lots of the 19-, 20-, and 21-year-olds are getting again into poker, which is bizarre as a result of we had some time the place that wasn’t the case. In order that’s fascinating. I’m very bullish on poker. I hope that we will get to what they name shared liquidity between states  after which issues can actually take off.

Many poker gamers repeatedly offer criticism of your recreation since you make strikes on the desk that others wouldn’t. Do you ever assume there are too many gamers who get hung up on “the” strategy to play in sure conditions?

I like it. They informed me there was an ideal strategy to play the Eighties and I invented my very own system. And then they mentioned the proper strategy to play within the ’90s. And Daniel Negreanu criticized the way in which I used to be taking part in in 2010, ’11, and ’12, and I gained extra bracelets and had two back-to-back second-place finishes in WSOP participant of the yr and simply continued to simply crush every little thing.

So now they’re saying, ‘Hey, there’s an ideal strategy to play in a field.’ I’ve heard all of it earlier than so many instances. To me it’s a bit comical. My spouse would say all I would like is somewhat respect. So I’m watching the commentators and I’m like, ‘Don’t they perceive what I simply did?’ And as a substitute they’re like, ‘Effectively, the optimum play is duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh.’

And I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me? I simply threw away Ace-Jack of spades in a heads-up match. As a result of I used to be certain I used to be beat. Nobody in historical past has accomplished that. Nobody within the historical past of on-line poker or wherever has ever thrown away Ace-Jack of spades in that spot. It turned out I used to be in dangerous form. And people folks mentioned, ‘Effectively, you could possibly get a Jack.’ Yeah, I may have hit a Jack. It additionally may have come Ace-high and I may have misplaced one-third of my chips.

And so a few of these laydowns and a few of these strikes I make are wonderful. I imply, I raised Dwan 13 instances and 13 instances he folded. They’re like, ‘Effectively, we’re undecided if Phil knew one thing.’ The mathematics is staring him within the face. However on the similar time, I do need extra respect however I additionally don’t need folks to figure it out [says laughing]. For certain you guys maintain going. You guys maintain telling me how nice you might be and I’ll simply maintain successful all of the bracelets.

Talking of Daniel Negreanu, you guys snipe backwards and forwards occasionally. Do you two nonetheless get alongside? We get alongside simply fine, one hundred pc. He’ll let you know I used to be at each of his weddings. That’s his joke. The humorous factor is, he’s criticized the way in which I play poker from head to toe at each potential choice matrix.

He mentioned I suck at blended video games for years and years. He mentioned I suck at Maintain ’em now. Daniel has a $25,000 fantasy poker contest he holds yearly. And I’m far and away primary over 10 or 12 years. Nobody’s even shut proper now.

And so I’m manner forward lifetime on that factor. So there’s all this math that claims, ‘Wow, Phil’s an important participant. He’s even manner forward in my very own contest over 10 or 12 years.’ However then he continues to criticize me head to toe. The one factor you’ll ever hear from me about him is he’s one of many nice poker gamers. So that nearly appears like a one-way rivalry to me.

You’ve written a number of books and appear to take pleasure in that. Do you have got anything within the works?

I ought to have written a e-book throughout the pandemic. The issue is I wrote Poker Brat [his autobiography] after which inside months I needed #POSITIVITY out as a result of I believed that’s a e-book that would assist the world. The e-book has eight life ideas and even Tony Robbins tells folks to purchase my e-book. It’s insane. So to me, that’s reality. And the extra you recognize about reality, the higher off you might be in life. So right here’s the reality: you learn #POSITIVITY, it’s going to have eight life ideas which might be going that will help you.  Right here’s a reality that takes 70 minutes to learn.

Since then, I used to be taking part in lots of poker throughout the pandemic. I gained some huge cash, however it might have been a superb time to jot down a e-book. Most likely writing books that may assist or entertain society is possibly a greater long-term transfer for me. So recently, I’ve been toying with the thought of writing a e-book—extra of an journey e-book about somebody who’s 16 years outdated, however finds some actual magic.

I’m considering of a fictional e-book that may additionally incorporate some positivity and a few life classes. Good versus evil sort of factor. I wrote the thought down in 1986. However lately once I was in mattress, I requested my thoughts to broaden on the subject somewhat bit. Then, there are a bunch of follow-up books I may do on positivity. I may write a small e-book on every chapter, speaking concerning the energy of it. I feel if I needed to, I may very simply do a positivity motion. I may begin a tour the place I simply have a bunch of individuals are available like Tony Robbins does. Possibly a pair hundred folks at every cease and that’s a technique we will enhance folks’s lives.

Tony Robbins works himself so arduous, however he’s making everyone’s lives higher. That’s an important mannequin and I’m certain I may make some huge cash doing it too. However my life is so good and so comfortable. It’s arduous to find that motivation. I’ve been blessed financially, I’ve been blessed with a brilliant full plate, and so it’s arduous for me to contemplate stuff like that.


Sean Chaffin is a contract author and senior author for On line casino Participant and Strictly Slots magazines. Comply with him on Twitter @PokerTraditions or e-mail him at seanchaffi[email protected] for story assignments.




On the 2006 World Collection of Poker, Hellmuth captured his tenth WSOP bracelet within the $1,000 No Restrict Maintain’em with rebuys occasion.[ On the time, it tied him with Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan for many bracelets. The next yr, within the 2007 WSOP, Hellmuth gained his recordbreaking eleventh bracelet within the $1,500 No Restrict Maintain’em Occasion.




Phil Hellmuth Finishes “In The Cash” for the one centesimal Time on the WSOP.




There’s no denying Phil had a banner 2021 WSOP, having reached a file seven final tables. In whole, he entered 34 occasions, purchased in for $448,379, and cashed out for $1,248,860, for a internet profit of $800,481.

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Author: Jesse Campbell