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 Important Occasion champion has 16 championship bracelets and $16.3 million in collection winnings. He sits effectively above the next-closest rivals with six extra bracelets than poker legends Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan and Phil Ivey.
There’s little doubt Hellmuth brings loads of abilities to the desk, however his “Poker Brat” persona can rub some poker followers and gamers alike the incorrect means. 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 usually come out. Love him or hate him, nonetheless, 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 abilities 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 collection’ ﬁrst three weeks. He finally 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 time and transferring to the Strip for the ﬁrst time?
I’m actually excited. You already know, for me, it’s a time to form of block oﬀ two months of my time and it’s going to be good. I’ll be coming oﬀ a pal’s birthday celebration in Mexico for 3 days, then it’s straight to the collection.
It’s simply an adjustment course of, proper? I’ve been taking part in the collection 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 wished to be the best of all time, I’d need to 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 attention-grabbing, 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 need to 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 couple of hours of the day, and even these ﬁrst few hours, generally I’d simply blow it. So the drink simply gave me an opportunity to play nice from begin to ﬁnish daily.
However clearly, there are different components, like the way you’re operating. And there’s some luck and may you play your greatest twelve months out of the yr? And I feel generally we’re a bit of 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, not less than I really feel I’m ready. The gasoline aspect is form of set for me, which is sweet. And I’m able to have some exercises too. I additionally assume that if I could make seven ﬁnal tables, I feel it’s attainable 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 collection final yr had 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. Nevertheless it does inform me that issues are attainable that I didn’t assume had been attainable earlier than. So once more, I feel it’s now attainable. I might 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 attainable. Nevertheless it looks like after I had three seconds, I instructed myself, ‘Wow, you can 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 in case you see me down there quite a bit sooner or later. Then Razz has been my sport. I performed some loopy huge 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 sport.
So it’s utterly attainable to win ﬁve bracelets. I prefer it after I assume issues are attainable even when it’s unfathomable for individuals. 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 achieved on the collection. How vital 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 will 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, after 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 wish to win a bracelet in subsequent?
Any blended sport 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 could be very ﬁtting after final yr to win a bracelet in blended video games. I at all times wished a Deuce to Seven bracelet. I needed to wait a very long time for that and bought it. Second for me has at all times been in blended video games.
You will have 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 need 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 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’d 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 right this moment. 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 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 ideas and it’s form 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 will probably 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 form 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 huge 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 had been loopy huge. And so they had been taking part in with plastic guards up on the desk and masks, and we had document 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. No less than three or 4 a yr, and it will be very nice to win one. It’s been very irritating. I bought heads up in opposition to Artwork Papazyan . Early in that match, he went loopy with deuces and I folded Queens. After which I bought it in with Ace-King in opposition to the King-Queen, and a Queen got here on the ﬂop. I’d have been again near even in chips with him or perhaps with the chip lead. It form 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 bear in mind loads of bizarre fingers over time. And there have been a couple 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 loads of shut calls there, however that gained’t get it completed. You need to win them.
On one other be aware, you’ve had some dominating performances on PokerGO’s “Excessive Stakes Duel” in opposition to some huge 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 a terrific cash supervisor which is why I’ve this superb 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 robust as nails.
You had been not too long ago 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 likelihood. I used to be in opposition to a man that might make two out of 4 baggage each time. I’d solely been taking part in for every 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 Avenue Interactive and predicted in 2020 that the corporate would get into on-line poker. The corporate not too long ago 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 glad for Phil Galfond. I feel Phil has been an upstanding member of the poker neighborhood for a very long time and he’s proven loads of class. I’m very glad for him to have a pleasant exit. On the Rush Avenue Interactive aspect, I’m actually glad. 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 form of robust. I by no means bought a share as a result of I’ve loads of religion. However so far as on-line poker within the U.S., you’ll most likely see me become involved in an enormous cope with anyone within the subsequent few months. Not Rush Avenue.
Actually? That looks like a pure ﬁt for you.
No, not now. It’s attention-grabbing, as a result of I’m form of shocked myself. I believed it will have been a superb ﬁt. However what I’m going to announce goes to be large. We had been hoping to announce it final yr. Issues have been transferring slowly.
Do you’ve gotten any perception on when Rush Avenue plans to enter the U.S. market?
No perception. They preserve 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 form 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 loads of 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 seem like within the day they usually had been large numbers. It looks like loads 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 attention-grabbing. 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 frequently oﬀer criticism of your sport 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 adore it. They instructed me there was an ideal strategy to play the Eighties and I invented my very own system. And then they stated the right strategy to play within the ’90s. And Daniel Negreanu criticized the best way 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 all the things.
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 need is a bit of 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, ‘Nicely, 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 completed that. Nobody within the historical past of on-line poker or anyplace has ever thrown away Ace-Jack of spades in that spot. It turned out I used to be in dangerous form. And people individuals stated, ‘Nicely, you can 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 superb. I imply, I raised Dwan 13 instances and 13 instances he folded. They’re like, ‘Nicely, we’re unsure if Phil knew one thing.’ The mathematics is staring him within the face. However on the identical time, I do need extra respect however I additionally don’t need individuals to ﬁgure it out [says laughing]. For certain you guys preserve going. You guys preserve telling me how nice you’re and I’ll simply preserve successful all of the bracelets.
Talking of Daniel Negreanu, you guys snipe forwards and backwards from time to time. 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 attainable choice matrix.
He stated I suck at blended 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 means forward lifetime on that factor. So there’s all this math that claims, ‘Wow, Phil’s a terrific participant. He’s even means 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 seems like a one-way rivalry to me.
You’ve written a number of books and appear to get pleasure from that. Do you’ve gotten anything within the works?
I ought to have written a ebook through the pandemic. The issue is I wrote Poker Brat [his autobiography] after which inside months I wished #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’re in life. So right here’s the reality: you learn #POSITIVITY, it’s going to have eight life ideas which are going that will help you. Right here’s a fact that takes 70 minutes to learn.
Since then, I used to be taking part in loads of poker through the pandemic. I gained some huge cash, however it will have been a superb time to write down a ebook. In all probability writing books that may assist or entertain society is perhaps a greater long-term transfer for me. So these days, I’ve been toying with the concept of writing a ebook—extra of an journey ebook about somebody who’s 16 years outdated, however ﬁnds some actual magic.
I’m considering of a ﬁctional ebook that may additionally incorporate some positivity and a few life classes. Good versus evil form of factor. I wrote the concept down in 1986. However not too long ago after I was in mattress, I requested my thoughts to increase on the subject a bit of 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 wished 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 like Tony Robbins does. Perhaps a pair hundred individuals at every cease and that’s a technique we will enhance individuals’s lives.
Tony Robbins works himself so arduous, however he’s making all people’s lives higher. That’s a terrific mannequin and I’m certain I might make some huge cash doing it too. However my life is so good and so glad. It’s arduous to ﬁnd that motivation. I’ve been blessed ﬁnancially, I’ve been blessed with an excellent 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 hundredth Time on the WSOP.
There’s no denying Phil had a banner 2021 WSOP, having reached a document seven ﬁnal tables. In whole, he entered 34 occasions, purchased in for $448,379, and cashed out for $1,248,860, for a web proﬁt of $800,481.