Learning poker from one of the best

Phil Hellmuth Jr. was once muttered

"I guess if it wasn't for luck, I'd win every tournament."

Such arrogance would get you decked in hockey or blind-sided in pro football, but it's the kind of talk that gets you noticed in the exploding world of professional poker, where tournament millionaires are produced just about every week, many of them under the glare of television lights.

Hellmuth has the kind of arrogance that rubs a lot of opponents the wrong way. He's not shy about voicing his criticism of other people's play, their choice of hands and how they play them.

But he's also one of the world's best players -- and that's why we've selected his poker advice column to be published in our newspapers here on the Central Coast, which like the rest of the nation is experiencing a phenomenal growth in the game of poker.

The question poker players ask is: Why would a top pro, who depends on his skills and knowledge of the game, share that information with potential opponents?

"If I believed that by sharing my expertise with the world it would harm my long-term goal of becoming the best poker player in the world, then I wouldn't do it,"

Hellmuth said. "Basically, it enhances that goal. And, after all, the reader still has to be able to apply the concepts I teach them."

Hellmuth is definitely riding the crest of this wave, which some experts says has at least 50 million Americans a day playing in a casino or on-line poker game.

Hellmuth exploded on the poker scene in 1989, at the age of 24, when he won the coveted gold bracelet as champion in the World Series of Poker's main event at the Horseshoe Casino in Las Vegas. Since then he has gone on to win eight more gold bracelets in different World Series events. He also has raked in $3.6 million in World Series winnings, making him second all-time to Greg Raymer, who took last year's World Series title -- and a record $5 million in first-place money.

Hellmuth's stated goal has always been to be considered the world's greatest poker play, and many think he's already reached that plateau. Although his poker playing was reduced by business demands last year, he's committed to more play, tournament and live cash games, this year. You can learn about his activities on his website, PhilHellmuth.com.

His column is a combination of expert advice and actual tournament hands in which he's been involved. His analysis of hand-play situations is without equal, according to most poker experts.

The column starts tomorrow, right here on on page D1. Whether you're a seasoned pro or an amateur just starting out in the game, you can't go wrong taking advice and tips from a poker pro of Hellmuth's stature.

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