There's no player on earth that carries the same aura Phil Ivey does when he walks into a poker room.
Not Phil Hellmuth. Not Doyle Brunson. Not Daniel Negreanu. Not even the blindingly handsome Patrik Antonius.
Eyes are drawn to Ivey. People can't help but stare. That is until those famous eyes of his dart back in their direction. Then there's never a big enough hole to climb in to.
Ivey's stare stops time, and quite probably cures cancers. It's that powerful.
Those darting eyes have coerced hundreds of men stronger than you to call that extra bet or throw away the best hand.
And quite simply his aura seems larger than life because, well, he is larger than life.
He wins and loses millions of dollars every single week. He takes a helicopter to the dentist. When he wins one bracelet and ships all his bets, he insta-books second-bracelet bets and then wins those.
He considers winning $600k equal to breaking even ("Yeah I broke even, won 600 ... What's the difference?")
He's also the only player in the world that seems to have absolute free reign in the Rio. Ivey will be playing two tournaments at once, but rather than running through the halls, fighting through all of the normys, he just appears at his seat.
All through random doors, back halls, busboy entrances and, presumably, secret tunnels.
His day-to-day life is so out of this world it almost seems fictional as is. A small pot in his regular poker game is an average yearly salary. It's virtually unfathomable to the average person how much money he gambles for, professionally or casually.
$100k a golf hole? $10,000-a-point Chinese Poker? Sure.
Which is why Phil Ivey is the perfect storm for myth making. Poker fans are infatuated with him. They want to know every move he makes.
But more importantly, they want to believe every crazy story they hear about him.
Dropping $100k on vintage champagne in a battle of one-upmanship with some high-rolling businessmen? Sure. Scooping $14 million in side bets for winning his second bracelet in a week? Seems reasonable.
If the outlandish rumors were about anybody else, you'd call bullshit instantly. But because Ivey is Ivey, anything seems believable.
And the fans eat it up - without any push from him. Where most people would jump at the chance for self-promotion, to perpetuate the myths, Ivey shuns it at every turn
Play it up for the fans and market a brand around it? That's for the other Phil. Ivey doesn't want to be a brand; he just wants to be.
And if that involves betting $1 million on the Lakers to win (in '08), or turning down a prop bet to get an office job for an entire year ("I wouldn't do it for $100 million. I like my life too much."), well, so be it.
It's sick, but it's true. Or it's not true. Because that's the thing with Ivey. In the end, it doesn't really matter which are which.
Just how big will the legend of Phil Ivey get if he wins the 2009 Main Event? (He sits 17th in chips heading into Day 3 tomorrow - follow the live updates here.) Lord knows.
But it will undoubtedly be right on the edge of unbelievable. His fans won't settle for anything less.