"I'm the greatest Hold'em player of all time." - Phil Hellmuth
Phil Hellmuth made poker history in 1989, when the 24-year old became the youngest player to win the World Series of Poker main event. He beat out Johnny Chan, who was on his way to winning his third straight WSOP Championship.
Hellmuth dropped out of college at the University of Wisconsin after he realized he could make more money playing poker and moved to Las Vegas. He crushed the local games at school by only playing his "Top 10 Starting Hands." His father, a professor at Wisconsin, was vehemently opposed to his son leaving his academic studies to pursue a career as a professional gambler. The elder Hellmuth eventually warmed up to the idea after his son won the World Series of Poker.
Hellmuth was once quoted as saying, "If luck wasn't a factor, I'd win every time." That makes him an easy target for critics of his overbearing confidence in his own poker acumen. He often draws criticism for the way he berates players who beat him out of pots. Although his behavior has improved over the years, there are moments when he falls into the role of "Poker Brat."
Last year at the 2005 WSOP, I witnessed two Hellmuthian incidents. One was when he kicked his chair across the room after he was busted from a PLO event. And the other was at the featured TV table during the first day of the main event. That's when he uttered one of my favorite Hellmuth lines, "I can dodge bullets, baby!"
Phil Hellmuth might be tied with Johnny Chan and Doyle Brunson with 10 bracelets each after last night's victory, but Hellmuth is in his own category when he became the first player in the history of the WSOP to win 10 bracelets and cash at least 50 times.
As of today, he has 55 cashes which is also a record. He cahsed six tmes this year, which puts him in second place behind Kiril Gerasimov with 7.
Hellmuth also made an outstanding 36 WSOP final tables in his career. He's cashed every year since 1988 except in 1995. Hellmuth has almost $8 million in career tournament earnings and is 6th all-time on the WSOP money list behind Joe Hachem, Greg Raymer, Steve Dannennman, Johnny Chan, and TJ Cloutier.
Hellmuth's 10 Bracelets:A month ago, I predicted that Hellmuth would win his 10th bracelet and become poker's first 50/10 player. He made me look like a genius but it took Hellmuth three chances to do it. If you count the final table he made last year, Hellmuth had four chances to tie Brunson and Chan.
2006 $1K NL w/ Rebuys $631,863
2003 $3K NL Hold'em $410,860
2003 $2,500 Limit Hold'em $171,400
2001 $2K NL $316,550
1997 $3K Pot Limit Hold'em $204,000
1993 $5K Limit $138,000
1993 $2,500 NL $173,000
1993 $1,500 NL Hold'em $161,400
1992 $5K Limit Hold'em $168,000
1989 $10K NL $755,000
Here's Hellmuth's WSOP history at a glance.
2006 WSOP:In 1993, Hellmuth won three bracelets and nearly took home a fourth but lost heads-up to Billy Baxter in $5K Deuce to Seven Draw. Hellmuth has six second place finishes in his career.
$1K NL w/ Rebuys 1st $ 631,863
$5K NL Short Handed 44th $ 8,340
$3K Omaha Hi/Lo 6th $ 48,576
$5K NL 2nd $ 423,893
$3K Limit Hold'em 13th $ 10,309
$1,500 NL 67th $ 7,578
$5K PLO 8th $ 70,625
$1,500 PLO 10th $ 5,080
$1,500 Limit Hold'em 42nd $ 4,200
$1,500 NL 24th $ 15,905
$3K Pot Limit Hold'em 7th $ 34,880
$2K Pot Limit Hold'em 6th $ 29,800
$2K Omaha Hi-Lo Split 21st $ 2,580
$2,500 Limit Hold'em 26th $ 3,280
$1,500 Omaha Hi-Lo Split 17th $ 4,120
$10K NL 27th $ 45,000
$3K No Limit Hold'em 1st $ 410,860
$3K Limit Hold'em 6th $ 15,040
$1,500 Limit Omaha 3rd $ 15,800
$2,500 Limit Hold'em 1st $ 171,400
$2K H.O.R.S.E. 12th $ 3,160
$2,500 NL Gold Bracelet Match Play 2nd $ 17,000
$1,500 Limit Omaha 8th $ 3,640
$2K NL 1st $ 316,550
$10K NL 5th $ 303,705
$5K Omaha Hi-Lo 2nd $ 103,785
$1,500 Ace to Five Draw Lowball 15th $ 1,850
$2,500 PLO 15th $ 4,910
$3K Limit Hold'em 6th $ 19,555
$1,500 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo 9th $ 4,685
$2,500 PLO 4th $ 29,250
$2K Pot Limit Hold'em 6th $ 16,450
$2,500 Omaha 8 5th $ 20,925
$2,500 No Limit 12th $ 9,210
$2,000 Omaha 8 14th $ 4,080
$1,500 PLO 16th $ 3,870
$10K NL 21st $ 21,200
$3K Hold'em Pot Limit 1st $ 204,000
$2,500 Omaha 8 6th $ 12,375
$1,500 No Limit 2nd $ 67,500
$5K Limit 1st $ 138,000
$ 2,500 NL 1st $ 173,000
$1,500 NL Hold'em 1st $ 161,400
$5K Deuce to Seven Draw 2nd $ 72,500
$5K Limit Hold'em 1st $ 168,000
$2,500 Hold'em Pot Limit 8th $ 6,700
$2,500 Limit Hold'em 2nd $ 84,000
$5,000 Deuce to Seven Draw 4th $ 26,500
$1,500 No Limit Hold'em 9th $ 5,715
$2,500 No Limit Hold'em 5th $ 32,500
$10K NL Main Event 1st $ 755,000
$2,500 PLO 5th $ 25,300
$1,500 Ace to Five Draw 14th $ 2,985
$10K No Limit Hold'em 33rd $ 7,500
$1,500 Seven-Card Stud Split 5th $ 15,450
Hellmuth is very serious when he says that he expects to win every tournament he enters. He has been known to show up late to the first day of the World Series of Poker, in an attempt to gain a psychological edge on his opponents. One of his strengths is being able to read players very well. His reputation and physical presence (he's almost six and a half feet tall) can also be an intimidating factor. If Hellmuth has any weaknesses, it's his overflowing self-confidence and his willingness to get into arguments with other players at the table.
If you ask Phil Hellmuth who the best player in the world is, he'll quickly tell you, "Phil Hellmuth." He might be right after becoming the first 50/10 player in poker. After you dismiss all the stories about Phil Hellmuth the Poker Brat, you'll see that his statistics do not lie. He has won tournaments in No Limit, Limit, Omaha Hi/Lo and Seven-card Stud. Phil has won tournaments all over the world, including the world's largest Seven-card Stud tournament in Austria and Late Night Poker in England. He also has five World Poker Tour top ten finishes and has made the TV table twice, including the infamous battle at Foxwoods against Hoyt Corkins. Hellmuth also won the 2005 Heads-Up World Championship after he beat out Chris "Jesus" Ferguson.
All of Hellmuth's WSOP bracelets came in a form of Hold'em. He has one PL Hold'em bracelet, three Limit, and six NL bracelets. He's also made the final table in almost every form of poker. Hellmuth is a solid all-around player but makes an argument for himself why he should be considered one of the best Hold'em players of all time.
Sure, Doyle, Chan and Phil Ivey might have more skill as a NL player, but Hellmuth has won more Hold'em bracelets than those three legends. Ivey is stil the best player under 30 years old in the world and in twenty years he might set every single WSOP record as far as number of cashes, bracelets, and career earnings. Ivey looks like the only player who has a shot at the exclusive 50/10 club.
Phil Hellmuth considers himself a family man. Ironically, he married a psychiatrist. His wife is often sitting in the stands cheering on and calming down her husband during final tables. Hellmuth and his wife live in California with their two children.
Hellmuth recently replaced Phil Gordon as the host of Celebrity Poker Showdown. He's the author of a few poker books including Playing Poker Like the Pros. Hellmuth is also a contributing author to Card Player Magazine. Hellmuth's life story was recently optioned to become a feature film and he's currently working on his autobiography. You can often see him wearing hats, jackets, and hockey jerseys sporting the logo of his online site, Ultimate Bet.
All of these photos of Phil Hellmuth are courtesy of Flipchip. Take a peek at his 2006 WSOP Photos.