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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 Essential Occasion champion has 16 championship bracelets and $16.3 million in sequence winnings. He sits nicely above the next-closest opponents with six extra bracelets than poker legends Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan and Phil Ivey.

There’s little doubt Hellmuth brings loads of expertise to the desk, however his “Poker Brat” persona can rub some poker followers and gamers alike the incorrect 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 an enormous 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 likewise added two runner-up finishes. With the WSOP proper across the nook and transferring 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 transferring to the Strip for the first time?

I’m actually excited. , 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 party in Mexico for 3 days, then it’s straight to the sequence.

It’s simply an adjustment course of, proper? I’ve been enjoying the sequence because it was on the Horseshoe in I haven’t missed a 12 months. To me, that is a very powerful 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 exhausting to proceed to burnish my legacy.

For me, it’s attention-grabbing, as a result of I keep at Aria. So I’ll find myself strolling in lots. 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, typically I might simply blow it. So the drink simply gave me an opportunity to play nice from begin to finish day-after-day.

However clearly, there are different elements, like the way you’re operating. And there’s some luck and may you play your finest twelve months out of the 12 months? And I feel typically we’re just a little bit extra like baseball gamers the place we now have 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 gas aspect is sort of set for me, which is sweet. And I’m able to have some exercises too. I additionally suppose that if I could make seven final tables, I feel it’s potential that I can win five bracelets in a single 12 months. In order that’s an outrageous factor to say, however I simply made seven final tables.

Your first three weeks of the sequence final 12 months have been simply large. 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. However it does inform me that issues are potential that I didn’t suppose have been potential earlier than. So once more, I feel it’s now potential. I might win five bracelets in a single 12 months, which is outrageous.

I had three seconds in a 12 months after which got here again with two firsts the following 12 months. So it’s good to suppose issues are potential. However it looks as if after I had three seconds, I informed myself, ‘Wow, you could possibly have three firsts after which I had two firsts.’ So it’s a wierd factor to say, however seven final tables is feasible. Omaha Eight or Higher, I wouldn’t be shocked for those who see me down there lots sooner or later. Then Razz has been my recreation. I performed some loopy massive pot the place if I win I’m going to have like second chips once we’re eight-handed. And I’ve already received two bracelets and had a second in that recreation.

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

You have been second in WSOP participant of the 12 months final 12 months 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 largest cake in historical past and there’s a ton of frosting on it too. However it could be good to have that little cherry on prime. I feel it says lots about me that I’ve 4 instances finished second in participant of the 12 months. Within the early years, once I finished second, it was primarily Maintain ’em. And now it’s as a consequence of combined video games. I had a shot final 12 months 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 wish to win a bracelet in subsequent?

Any combined recreation bracelet and I’ve had seconds and thirds. I’ve had a ton of final tables in combined video games and for no matter cause I haven’t received a bracelet. It might be very fitting after final 12 months to win a bracelet in combined 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 combined video games.

You have got 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 bear in mind the three seconds in 2011 or ’12. Everybody was like, ‘No less than you locked up participant of the 12 months.’ I feel that was the 12 months that Greg Merson needed to win participant of the 12 months within the final occasion [the $10,000 Main Event]. He needed to finish first; even second doesn’t win participant of the 12 months  After which there are a pair tournaments a 12 months, the place if I simply last more then I might have locked up participant of the 12 months. However it occurs.

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

Sure, as a matter of truth, [WPT CEO] Adam Pliska known as me right now. I do know that I’m capturing my subsequent segments in L.A. on March 30. And due to that, my spouse and I are going to rejoice our wedding ceremony anniversary March 31 in L.A.

For me, it’s enjoyable as a result of they ship me the fingers after which I write the scripts. They’ll ship some recommendations and it’s sort of a collaboration between the writers, producers, and me. Generally they’ll ship me humorous stuff that I really 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 nicely. I actually jive nicely 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 may 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 massive occasions post-COVID and appears to be seeing development. What are your ideas on the tour?

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

Are you going to be enjoying some WPT occasions this 12 months?

I at all times play WPTs. No less than three or 4 a 12 months, and it could be very nice to win one. It’s been very irritating. I received heads up towards 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 towards 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. A whole lot of it may be simply due to fatigue after which there’s been some very unfortunate stuff. I bear in mind numerous bizarre fingers through the years. 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 social gathering—I’m not whining, however it’s irritating. There are numerous shut calls there, however that received’t get it finished. It’s important to win them.

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

A whole lot of 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 received, 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 ideal 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 offered the vast majority of myself within the match and I received that one. So I’m trying 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 robust as nails.

You have been just lately a part of a star 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 towards a man that might make two out of 4 luggage each time. I’d solely been enjoying for every week. They put me towards 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 Avenue Interactive and predicted in 2020 that the corporate would get into on-line poker. The corporate just 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 completely satisfied for Phil Galfond. I feel Phil has been an upstanding member of the poker neighborhood for a very long time and he’s proven numerous class. I’m very completely satisfied for him to have a pleasant exit. On the Rush Avenue Interactive aspect, I’m actually completely satisfied. I went public and stated I’ve 165,000 shares of Rush Avenue, and it hasn’t been enjoyable watching them fall from $20 all the way down to $8—12 factors at 165,000 shares, that’s like $2 million. That’s been sort of robust. I by no means offered a share as a result of I’ve numerous 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 someone within the subsequent few months. Not Rush Avenue.

Actually? That looks as if a pure fit for you.

No, not now. It’s attention-grabbing, as a result of I’m sort of shocked myself. I believed it could have been a great fit. However what I’m going to announce goes to be large. We have been hoping to announce it final 12 months. Issues have been transferring slowly.

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

No perception. They maintain closing offers. I noticed that they simply closed a on line casino deal in Ontario. It appears to be like like they introduced one thing about Mexico. So I’m sort of shocked—for one of many main corporations 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 numerous shares. So clearly, I’m bullish.

How do you are 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 appear like within the day they usually have been large numbers. It looks as if numerous 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 attention-grabbing. I’m very bullish on poker. I hope that we are able to get to what they name shared liquidity between states  after which issues can actually take off.

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

I find it irresistible. They informed me there was an ideal technique to play the Nineteen Eighties and I invented my very own system. And then they stated the proper technique to play within the ’90s. And Daniel Negreanu criticized the best way I used to be enjoying in 2010, ’11, and ’12, and I received extra bracelets and had two back-to-back second-place finishes in WSOP participant of the 12 months and simply continued to only crush all the pieces.

So now they’re saying, ‘Hey, there’s an ideal technique 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 need is just a little 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, ‘Properly, 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 positive I used to be beat. Nobody in historical past has finished 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 unhealthy form. And people individuals stated, ‘Properly, you could possibly get a Jack.’ Yeah, I might have hit a Jack. It additionally might have come Ace-high and I might 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, ‘Properly, we’re unsure 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 individuals to figure it out [says laughing]. For positive 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 best way I play poker from head to toe at each potential choice matrix.

He stated I suck at combined video games for years and years. He stated 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 ideal 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 feels like a one-way rivalry to me.

You’ve written a number of books and appear to get pleasure from that. Do you may have the rest within the works?

I ought to have written a ebook in the course of 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 ebook that might assist the world. The ebook has eight life ideas and even Tony Robbins tells individuals to purchase my ebook. It’s insane. So to me, that’s fact. And the extra you already know about fact, 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 can be going that will help you.  Right here’s a fact that takes 70 minutes to learn.

Since then, I used to be enjoying numerous poker in the course of the pandemic. I received some huge cash, however it could have been a great time to put in writing a ebook. In all probability writing books that may assist or entertain society is possibly a greater long-term transfer for me. So currently, I’ve been toying with the thought of writing a ebook—extra of an journey ebook about somebody who’s 16 years previous, however finds some actual magic.

I’m pondering of a fictional ebook 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 just lately once I was in mattress, I requested my thoughts to develop on the subject just a little bit. Then, there are a bunch of follow-up books I might do on positivity. I might write a small ebook on every chapter, speaking concerning the energy of it. I feel if I needed to, I might very simply do a positivity motion. I might begin a tour the place I simply have a bunch of individuals are available in like Tony Robbins does. Perhaps a pair hundred individuals at every cease and that’s a technique we are able to enhance individuals’s lives.

Tony Robbins works himself so exhausting, however he’s making all people’s lives higher. That’s an ideal mannequin and I’m positive I might make some huge cash doing it too. However my life is so good and so completely satisfied. It’s exhausting to find that motivation. I’ve been blessed financially, I’ve been blessed with an excellent full plate, and so it’s exhausting for me to think about stuff like that.


Sean Chaffin is a contract author and senior author for On line casino Participant and Strictly Slots magazines. Observe 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 12 months, within the 2007 WSOP, Hellmuth received his recordbreaking eleventh bracelet within the $1,500 No Restrict Maintain’em Occasion.




Phil Hellmuth Finishes “In The Cash” for the a hundredth Time on the WSOP.




There’s no denying Phil had a banner 2021 WSOP, having reached a report 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: Philip Butler