Interview With LAPC Champ Phil Ivey

He's The Champ
Phil Ivey after his victory at the 2008 Los Angeles Poker Classic.

Going into the final table of the World Poker Tour's Los Angeles Poker Classic, Phil Ivey held the dubious distinction of being the player with the most final-table appearances (seven) without a first-place finish. For all of his tremendous accomplishments in other areas of the poker world, you just knew that lack of a WPT title had to stick in his craw just a bit.

As of Thursday night, that monkey is off Phil Ivey's back. The Full Tilt pro overcame early setbacks to defeat a final table that included the likes of Phil Hellmuth, Nam Le and Quinn Do to take down the LAPC, earning a $1,596,100 first prize and further solidifying his standing among the greatest poker players to ever toss cards.

PokerListings.com caught up with Ivey moments after his thrilling victory.

You beat one of the strongest final tables in WPT history. Does it mean more to you that in order to earn your title you had to beat Phil Hellmuth, Nam Le and the other players that you did tonight?

It means more to me to win the title than anything else, just because it was my eighth appearance and it was getting very frustrating getting down to the end, playing well to get to the final table and then not finishing at all, you know? So it just means more to me to just get this out of the way.

What was going through your mind after that first hand where Charles Moore doubled through you?

Yeah, I was kind of thinking, you know, here we go again, but I just gave myself a little pep talk and said don't let it bother you. If I could recover from that, I knew I could win the tournament. I didn't have to call him but he moved all-in on me 30 times yesterday and I just got a little stubborn with the hand and decided that if he moved all-in during that hand I was going to call.

Phil Ivey
At the final table.

And then as I was thinking about it, I kind of went the other direction. I was going to fold and then at the last second I just decided, let's just see what he has.

After that hand you seemed to tighten up and not play very many pots for a while, but after Scott Montgomery was eliminated you changed gears and started picking up a lot of chips. What made you decide to switch your strategy to a more aggressive approach there?

Well, I know that there comes a time when you have to start playing hands if you want to win these tournaments. You can't just sit around and wait for things to happen; you kind of have to make things happen sometimes. You know, you sit around sometimes and wait for a hand and try to get your money in with the best hand, but sometimes you just have to make something happen.

I was fortunate in that I was able to win a lot of key hands in some key spots. Drew out a couple times, but that's what it takes to win these tournaments. You have to be lucky when you need to be and fade the bad luck.

Phil Hellmuth
Just an oversized Kewpie doll.

You told Mike Sexton earlier that Phil Hellmuth is kind of your good-luck charm. How does that work?

It's just because we've made say four final tables and I've ended up winning the tournament every time he's been at a final table with me. So, just one of those things.

As far as this tournament goes, you doubled through him yesterday to accumulate most of your chips heading into the final table.

Yeah. He'd raised with ace-king in the cut-off seat and I re-raised with two aces. And he ended up moving all-in and that was a big hand for me. It was the biggest hand of the tournament up to that point.

Do you feel like he was your biggest competition at this final table?

Phil Ivey
King of the Phils.

Well, he's definitely the most experienced. He and Nam are definitely great players, and Quinn played really well, too.

You have a World Series of Poker bracelet now, and a WPT title, and you just crossed $8 million in career tournament earnings. Do you start to think about where you rank amongst poker's all-time greats at this point?

No, I don't ever think about that, you know. I just take it one tournament at a time, one cash game at a time and just play poker. However I land, what people think of me is what people think of me. I'm not too worried about that.

Finally, how do you keep focused in a six-day event like this when you could probably be playing juicier cash games downstairs?

You just have to take it one hand at a time and just keep your eyes on the prize, you know. There's a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow; you just have to bear down and take it one hand at a time, and when you lose a big hand not get frustrated. You have to be able to switch gears.

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Phil Ivey may not think much about his standing amongst the world's best poker players, but he can be certain that the rest of the poker world does. Ivey's first WPT title, five WSOP bracelets and now more than $8 million in career earnings give his fans plenty of ammunition in the debate to determine the Greatest Of All Time - although Phil Hellmuth, whose sixth-place finish at the Commerce failed to provide him with his first WPT title but did push his total earnings over the $10 million mark, may have a legitimate claim to being the G.O.A.T. himself.

Either way, it's Phil Ivey's day and a historic one at that. Congratulations to tha boy and so long from the City of Commerce!

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