Nov. 9: Winston touts Phillips for deep run

Dennis Phillips
With the chip lead, Phillips is best-positioned for the Main Event final table.

Dennis Phillips is the first of nine players set to battle for the multimillion-dollar top prize of the 2008 World Series of Poker Main Event final table who we'll be profiling in the upcoming weeks. Stay tuned for the next installment on Thursday.

Single, no kids, a guaranteed $900k and the big stack entering the 2008 World Series of Poker final table. Sound good? Sounds fantastic to Dennis Phillips.

A 53-year-old truck salesman from St. Louis, Mo., Phillips has to be considered one of the favorites heading into the November Nine showdown.

He may not have the big name or the online handle to strike fear in the hearts of many competitors, but based on chip count alone, this fun-loving $200 online qualifier is going to be a force to be reckon with for the 2008 WSOP Main Event bracelet.

"I'm ecstatic," said Phillips. "What more could you ask for?"

How about $8+ million? That's the difference in price for first place versus ninth. And make no mistake: he might be having fun, but Phillips is no dummy, and he'll be taking his best shot at the top prize in all of poker.

At first Phillips wasn't sure he'd do anything out of the ordinary to prepare for the 2008 WSOP final table.

"I've been approached by a number of people, but as of right now [I don't have a coach]," said Phillips after play wrapped up in Las Vegas this past summer. "I am fairly confident in my game. It's brought me here. I've developed on my own. I do have several close friends who help me. I'll listen to people but I doubt I'll [get anybody]."

However, Phillips recently hired noted poker pro Roy Winston to help prepare him for what some are calling the biggest poker event in history. Winston said Phillips has more than enough game to threaten any one of the players at the November 9 final table.

Roy Winston
Roy Winston is lending his poker expertise to Phillips before the big day.

"He is the real deal when it comes to poker," said Winston. "People for some reason love to denigrate winners of events, especially the last several WSOP Main Event winners. People love to say how he was just a donkey that got lucky, or the deck ran them over or some other such nonsense."

It does seem to be the case that not everybody is in love with the idea of Phillips reaching such heights. Wicked Chops Poker even went so far as to imply Phillips is bad for the game.

"Phillips has more of that earthy 'just won the lottery now going to buy a 14 acre farm in Iowa' than that 'let's go pop bottles with models for the next year and promote poker like a rock star' kind of look," the site opined.

Perhaps they were hoping for Tiffany Michelle? We could understand that, but Phillips himself could care less. He's just enjoying the ride, every step of the way.

"I don't know how you could get ready for something like this," Phillips said. "It is something I have never experienced. I was born and raised on a farm. I'm just a Midwesterner having some fun and that's all it is, is fun."

But don't be fooled because Phillips, as Winston said, has game, and his preparation for the event has been pretty solid, at least in part because of Winston's tutelage.

"Dennis's play so far has been extraordinary. My partner Joe McGowan and I are going to help with his preparation for the challenges he will face not only at the final table, but on the way there," Winston said.

"This is a unique experience to have weeks to prepare before play and we want Dennis to have every opportunity and will be there with him along the way."

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That help seems to be working, at least in part. In the recent PokerStars.com European Poker Tour London £1 Million Showdown, Phillips just missed the final table, finishing in 10th place.

This involved navigating a field that included top pros such as 2008 WSOP $50k H.O.R.S.E winner Scotty Nguyen and 2008 WSOPE champion John Juanda.

In the final hand of his tournament Phillips moved all-in pre-flop holding Q 9 with Isaac Haxton following him, holding A 4. The board wound up showing 8 8 K 6 7 and offered no help to Phillips, who was sent packing.

It's true that we're unlikely to see Phillips walk into the final table sporting a racing outfit dotted with sponsorship logos and a bevy of ladies on his arm à la Phil Hellmuth. In fact, Phillips is going to auction off most of his sponsorship potential to the highest bidder and donate all the money he raises to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

"It's a foundation that I've supported for a long time, and I hope this is a good way to raise awareness and maybe raise some money for it," Phillips said. "I didn't expect to make a million dollars or whatever in poker this year, so why wouldn't I help people out?"

How's that for class? What should matter to the other players at the Final Table, however, is the large chip stack and growing experience Phillips will carry into Nov. 9 with him.

"I have played at tables with him a lot over the past couple of weeks, as well as spent hours discussing various aspects of poker and his game," said Winston of Phillips. "His play is really solid and he is constantly trying to improve. As with most things in life, if you are not trying to improve, you are probably falling behind."

According to Phillips, at this stage he is already way ahead, regardless of the outcome at the final table.

"[Poker] is a hobby that I really enjoy, and I can actually make money at it. What better combination could you have?" he said.

Make a deep run at the WSOP Main Event final table, Dennis, and it might not be just a hobby for long.

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