He also won nearly $3 million at the 2012 WSOP with the Main Event yet to come.
Of course the majority of his cash came from finishing fourth in the BIG ONE for ONE DROP and we talked with the “Poker Brat” about what it was like to play in the biggest buy-in tournament of his life.
Phil, you finished fourth in the BIG ONE for $2.6 million. Would you deem that a success?
Phil Hellmuth: It doesn’t feel like a success. Once the WSOP is over I’m happy and I have a great life. I’m blessed. I’ve been married for more than 20 years and I’ve got great kids.
During the WSOP it just seems like it’s all about winning a bracelet that day so it just seems like I’m never happy.
I won my bracelet, I really thought I was going to win the $10k H.O.R.S.E. bracelet. Came right back with the chip lead with five left but ran a little unlucky there.
Here it was kind of brutal, I had Sam Trickett bluffing into me for millions of chips in that hand where he hit a seven with 8-7.
That was frustrating. Listen, I have nothing against Sam, he’s playing the current Internet style and I match up well against that. They like to raise with weak hands and I like to call with strong hands.
I don’t really have any regrets about the final table.
How surprised were you that Guy Laliberte and David Einhorn made it this far?
Guy is a really good poker player. Not only that, both him and Mr. Einhorn are fantastic businessmen. I never underestimate the billionaires. I play with billionaires in my home game.
It doesn’t surprise me, they are some of the smartest people on the planet and they’ll figure out a way – their own way – to play the game.
Eventual BIG ONE winner Antonio Esfandiari
You and Antonio go back a long ways. Back in 2003 it was pretty antagonistic. You’ve grown up since then, has Antonio? Is that why he’s thriving?
It was antagonistic at the WSOPE Main Event when he busted me in 2009. I went kind of crazy and lost it.
Antonio, the way he started out in poker, I didn’t respect it. He’d bust Phil Ivey and start shouting for him to hit the door in the early days.
He’s come a long ways. From everything I’ve heard he’s turned into a really great guy. He’s worked really hard on himself.
Is he a great poker player?
He’s definitely a great poker player. There’s no doubt about it. He has a style that’s super, super fast and he can just completely run over a table. He can also run over himself.
He has his foot to the accelerator and he’s running people over but sometimes you don’t see traffic pull in front of you. If he learned to slow down a bit he’d have a chance to be one of the all-time greats because he has a lot of talent.
His reading abilities are also really good. I give him credit. We’ve had issues in the past but I think we’re done with that.
Can you talk a little bit about how you coined the term “White Magic”?
I was searching for a way to explain to the kids in the commentary booth what I’m doing at the table.
They all make fun of my style. They think the right way to play No-Limit Hold’em is one way, well I’ve read their book, I know what they are doing, I think the right way to play No-Limit Hold’em is different.
They make fun of something they don’t understand. So I started thinking about it, about what they didn’t see and I think it’s my reading ability.
I feel like I’m a good person, honorable to my wife and everyone in the poker industry so Black Magic didn’t really seem right. So I came up with White Magic. It basically means I have reading ability. I have White Magic, the kids don’t.
Would you play this event again?
Yes. Absolutely. It’s a great event and I have a talent for cashing. Especially in No-Limit Hold’em tournaments. I just hang in there and give myself the maximum chance. I make moves when it’s appropriate and all of a sudden I’ve cashed again.
This event is perfect for me because all I have to do is make the final nine to cash and that’s where my talents are.
It seems like I’d make the final nine a lot. That’s enough to get my million back. Unfortunately I just managed fourth this time.
I’d actually like to see this event go seven days since we’re paying $1 million. It would be really tough to take me out in a seven-day tournament. I’m going to cash a LOT.
Phil Hellmuth with his family
You’ve played nearly every big tournament in the world. Other than the buy-in, how is this one different?
There’s a great vibe here. I was the only one that was whining at the table yesterday. Everybody else handled themselves perfectly.
I told myself ‘Phil, you big dummy you better handle yourself perfectly today because this is a great event and they’re raising a lot of charity.’
I feel like I did that. I didn’t lose it at the table once. I know it’s more entertaining for the public when I lose it but there are some formats where I really strive to keep it together.
Does your son, Phil Jr., who was here, also weigh into that decision?
My son has watched me on television many, many times and he’s like ‘who the heck is that?’ I'm very different at home.
How did you sleep the night before the final table?
I only slept for four hours. I was so excited. My family came out. I woke up at 7 a.m. and was too excited to go back to sleep. I knew that I would play perfectly.
When was the last time you were that excited?
I guess a couple weeks ago when I won my 12th bracelet.
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