Phil Hellmuth: “I Got Cocky and Tried to Bluff the Billionaires”

Hellmuth says he plays in the billionaire home games purely for social reasons. Sure Phil.

Phil Hellmuth plays in private games in the Bay Area with billionaire tech moguls but according to the Poker Brat it's anything but easy pickings.

“The guys I play poker with in the Bay Area are all geniuses. These are the guys that run the universe,” Hellmuth told PokerListings.com in Las Vegas.

“They've all made billions of dollars across a variety of amazing tech companies.”

Hellmuth is self-described best friends with former Facebook VP Chamath Palihapitiya and is also close with Sacremento Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé who is credited with digitizing Wall Street in the 1980s.

“They're so sharp,” said Hellmuth. “I've played with these guys in the private game for three years and after three years I'm basically losing money and I was like, 'What in the world is going on here?' because I've been crushing everyone in Hold'em my whole life.

“A lot of it was my fault. I won a few tournaments and got cocky and tried to bluff the billionaires. Do not try to bluff the billionaires, folks at home.

“This January the game got a lot bigger and I made some real money but I decided after three years that I play this game for social reasons.”

It was also a few of these tech moguls that Hellmuth turned to for backing in the $1 million WSOP Big One for One Drop, the world's second seven-figure buy-in poker event.

Last-Minute Financing Falls Short of $1 Million Buy-In

In 2012 Hellmuth competed in the inaugural Big One and finished fourth for $2.64 million but this year he left the financing too late, way too late.

“The backing was there but I did a really bad job,” said Hellmuth.

Chamath Palihapitiya
Hellmuth is tight with former Facebook VP Chamath Palihapitiya.

“I should have been in that tournament. It was just silly of me not to be in that tourrnament. I'm not saying I would have won it. Maybe I would have been the first one out. But I should have given myself that chance.

“I'll never make that mistake again.”

Hellmuth has legendary skills at the poker table but he said he's far less comfortable approaching people for stake money.

“I wasn't aggressive enough asking for money. That's another skill set. I have a lot of friends who have been very successful in life and made billions or hundreds of millions but I don't like to just ask them for money.

“I asked Charles Barkley. I asked Matt Kenseth the Nascar driver. A lot of these guys were willing to step up.”

Hellmuth said that Vivek Ranadivé and Janet Jones Gretzky also expressed interest.

“So what it boiled down to was, right at 9pm I raised the million. I came to the WSOP around 10pm ready to buy-in and $130,000, the only guy I didn't know said he had $130,000, and it wasn't here. So that was awkward.”

“In retrospect what I should have done is pick up the phone and call one of my other friends.”

Watch Full Phil Hellmuth Video Interview from WSOP 2014