About Phil Hellmuth

Phil Hellmuth
Phil Hellmuth

As famous for his antics at the poker table and bad beat tirades as he is for his incredible record as a tournament player, Phil Hellmuth Jr. will always be known as the Poker Brat.

A living legend, Hellmuth joined Johnny Chan and Doyle Brunson in 2006 as one of only three poker players in history with ten WSOP bracelets to their names. But what separates Hellmuth from even this legendary pack is that all of his WSOP wins have come in Texas Hold'em events - that and a record 11th bracelet in No-Limit Hold'em won by the Poker Brat at the 2007 Series.

He also holds the distinction of being the youngest man to win the WSOP Main Event after beating two-time defending champion Johnny Chan in 1989 at just 24 years old.

Born on July 16, 1964 in Madison, Wisconsin, the first of five children, Hellmuth is the son of an assistant dean and professor at the University of Wisconsin who holds an M.B.A., J.D. and Ph.D.

Growing up with five siblings, Hellmuth played a number of different board games with his brothers and sisters and was always competitive, feeling like he had to win because he was the oldest.

Hellmuth was raised in a middle-class Madison neighborhood. The entire family shared just one bathroom, where his mother had posted a sign on the mirror that read, "You are what you think. You become what you think. What you think becomes reality." Hellmuth said he read that sign every time he brushed his teeth or took a shower and was inspired by his mother's belief that he and his siblings could all achieve great things in life.

He learned the game of poker while he was a student at the University of Wisconsin, moving up from cash games at the student union to higher stakes poker with the professors and eventually dropping out of school to play professionally, much to the chagrin of his academic father.

After the win at the 1989 WSOP, Hellmuth spent the next decade and a half accumulating more tournament victories than any other professional poker player before him. In addition to the ten WSOP bracelets, he has more than 50 tournament titles, five World Poker Tour top-ten finishes and has amassed tournament winnings in excess of $8.8 million.

Eventually, Hellmuth's father and the rest of his family came to see poker as a viable career choice for him. He promised to buy his father a new Mercedes if he won the WSOP Main Event in 1989 and convinced him to fly out to Las Vegas to watch the finals. When he beat Chan to take the title, he delivered on his promise and his father never bothered him about playing poker again.

Hellmuth claims they got on even better terms after he married an M.D. and graduate of the University of Chicago, his father's alma mater.

While Hellmuth's reputation for having a huge ego and a less than professional attitude when he loses has earned him the "Poker Brat" nickname, it has also made him a favorite of poker television producers across the globe.

He once boasted that if luck weren't involved, he'd win every pot he played; told opponents, "I can dodge bullets, baby!" during the 2005 WSOP Main Event after laying down A-K to pocket aces; and even accused another player of not being able to spell poker after taking a bad beat.

Hellmuth is often compared to tennis star John McEnroe because of his antics, and the cameras are always on him at televised tournaments because you never know when the Poker Brat's next tirade is coming.

The Brat claims his temper tantrums only last a few minutes and in interviews following his public rants he is often calm and rational. He says it drives him crazy when opponents make mistakes only to be saved by the luck of the cards, and he can't control himself. While many find it entertaining and good for poker ratings, Hellmuth claims none of it is intentional.

The one knock on Hellmuth is that he may not play cash games as well as other top pros. Hellmuth disputes the charge, claiming he simply doesn't play in as many cash games in order to pursue other business interests and spend time with his family.

In his defense, his business interests are many. Hellmuth writes for poker magazines and has penned a number of best-selling poker books including Play Poker like the Pros and Bad Beats and Lucky Draws.

A screenplay based on his life story has been optioned and an autobiography is also planned. Hellmuth has interests in an online poker Web site and has taken part in a number of instructional poker videos. He is working with Oakley to develop his own line of poker-style sunglasses, is planning the launch of a clothing line and has several endorsement deals on the go as well.

Hellmuth lives in Palo Alto, California with his wife, a psychiatrist at Stanford University, and two sons. He is a dedicated family man who often remarks that the athletes, movie stars and other poker players he admires most are the ones who can balance family and work.

He is one of the best poker players in the world - just ask him. But seriously, in 1996 Hellmuth's professional poker playing peers voted him the best No-Limit Hold'em tournament player in the world, and while many professionals lament his antics at the table, there is no doubt he's earned their respect as a player and a person.

Hellmuth has said he wants to be known as the greatest poker player of all time. In his own mind, he's already almost there.

Player Analysis

Phil may go down as the pioneer in a method of playing a lot of hands and making small bets and raises that keep opponents in the pot, the theory being that he will make better decisions than they do on subsequent streets.

This strategy guarantees large fluctuations and has a lot to say for it against weak opposition. This method would not work as well in a cash game where there is no rush to build up a chip stack and by virtue of playing too many pots opponents can easily take the betting lead away.

In a tournament, the extra fear of going bust can keep your opponents at bay and the bad players are confused by what looks like mass hysteria to them. When Phil has his banter and his A-game working, he not only can control the table, but he can mesmerize the entire room.

Players who have been successful adopting a similar style are Gus Hansen, Layne Flack, Antonio Esfandiari, Alan Goehring, and to a small degree Daniel Negreanu.

Phil has assured me that he is a much better player than I give him credit for. He feels he has enough technical skill to win at higher limits, but when he has tried in the past, he often gotten derailed by his lack of self-control.

Amusing Anecdote

I first played with Phil in a No-Limit side game in Los Angeles in 1992. I didn’t pay attention to tournament poker back then, but I had heard that he was a cocky kid who had won a big tournament. He was playing fast and loose and showing his hands and needling people whenever he outplayed them.

Well, I was pretty cocky too. Phil opened for a raise, I re-raised and Phil called. After the flop, I bet, Phil raised and I re-raised him all-in. He thought for a while, showed me top pair and then folded. I showed him Deuce-Three off-suit which bore no relation to the flop.

Phil stood up and said, “Nice play buddy, but that’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever done. Do you realize that giving me that kind of information is going to cost you all of your money? It’s because of players like you that I make millions of dollars a year playing poker.”

Tournament Placing

Place Winnings Tournament
8 $46,553.00 WSOP 2016 - Event 48 - $5,000 No-Limit Hold'em
15 $15,464.00 WSOP 2016 - Event 20 - $10,000 Seven Card Razz Championship
45 $5,081.00 WSOP 2016 - Event 18 - $3000 H.O.R.S.E.
417 $21,786.00 WSOP 2015 - $10,000 WSOP Main Event
6 $696,821.00 WSOP 2015 - Event 58 - $111,111 High Roller for ONE DROP
16 $20,263.00 WSOP 2015 - Event 47 - $2,500 No-Limit Hold'em
17 $5,360.00 WSOP 2015 - Event 39 - $1,500 Ten-Game Mix
31 $5,388.00 WSOP 2015 - Event 24 - $1,500 H.O.R.S.E.
1 $271,105.00 WSOP 2015 - Event 17 - $10,000 Razz Championship
4 AU$38,909.00 WSOP APAC 2014 - Event 7 - $2,200 6-Max No-Limit Hold'em
6 $46,885.00 WSOP 2014 - Event 61 - $10,000 Seven-Card Stud
35 $18,318.00 WSOP 2014 - Event 49 - $5,000 No-Limit Hold'em
30 $5,397.00 WSOP 2014 - Event 47 - $1,500 Ante Only No-Limit Hold'em
30 $5,397.00 WSOP 2014 - Event 45 - $1,000 No-Limit Hold'em
18 $3,471.00 WSOP 2014 - Event 36 - $1,500 2-7 Draw Lowball
29 $9,877.00 WSOP 2014 - Event 26 - $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em
8 $45,022.00 WSOP 2014 - Event 15 - $3,000 No-Limit Hold'em 6-Max
2 $74,848.00 WSOP 2014 - Event 7 - $1,500 Razz
29 €4,206.00 WSOPE 2013 - Event 5 - €2,200 No-Limit Hold'em
42 $3,246.00 WSOP 2013 - Event 39 - $1,500 Stud Hi-Low
26 $11,915.00 WSOP 2013 - Event 35 - $3,000 Pot-Limit Omaha
5 $54,024.00 WSOP 2013 - Event 16 - $10,000 Heads-Up
20 AU$9,049.00 WSOP APAC 2013 - Event 1 - $1,100 No-Limit Hold'em Acc.
4 $2,645,333.00 WSOP 2012 - Event 55 - $1 Million Big One for One Drop
4 $134,056.00 WSOP 2012 - Event 32 - $10,000 H.O.R.S.E. Championship
1 $182,793.00 WSOP 2012 - Event 18 - $2,500 Seven Card Razz
15 $11,637.00 WSOP 2012 - Event 15 - $5,000 Seven-Card Stud Hi-Low
52 $4,817.00 WSOP 2012 - Event 8 - $1,500 Omaha Hi-Low 8 or Better
61 $7,204.00 WSOP 2012 - Event 2 - $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em
7 €24,183.00 WSOP Europe 2011 - Event 1 - €2,680 Six-Handed No-Limit Hold'em
2 $1,063,034.00 WSOP 2011 - Event 55 - $50,000 Poker Player's Championship
28 $10,560.00 WSOP 2011 - Event 45 - $1,000 No-Limit Hold'em
36 $17,270.00 WSOP 2011 - Event 40 - $5,000 Six-Max No-Limit Hold'em
2 $273,233.00 WSOP 2011 - Event 33 - $10,000 Stud Hi-Lo Championship
2 $226,907.00 WSOP 2011 - Event 16 - $10,000 2-7 Lowball Championship
15 $39,906.00 WSOP 2010 - Event 55 - $10k Pot-Limit Omaha Championship
7 $30,633.00 WSOP 2010 - Event 41 - $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Low
50 $14,517.00 WSOP 2010 - Event 17 - $5,000 No-Limit Hold'em
15 $25,472.00 WSOP 2010 - Event 8 - $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em
6 $117,000.00 WPT Season 8 - Bay 101 Shooting Star
436 $25,027.00 2009 WSOP - Event 57 - $10,000 No-Limit Hold'em World Championship
24 $26,823.00 2009 WSOP - Event 56 - $5,000 Six-Handed No-Limit Hold'em
14 $11,347.00 2009 WSOP - Event 48 - $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo
17 $8,019.00 2009 WSOP - Event 38 - $2,000 Limit Hold'em
113 $3,231.00 2009 WSOP - Event 34 - $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em
29 $12,761.00 2009 WSOP - Event 11 - $2,000 No-Limit Hold'em
6 $75,000.00 2009 Special - NBC National Heads-Up Championship
93 $21,620.00 WPT Season 7 - Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic
12 £6,188.00 2008 WSOPE - Event 2, H.O.R.S.E.
45 $154,400.00 2008 WSOP - Event 54, Main Event No-Limit Hold'em
3 $93,168.00 2008 WSOP - Event 51, H.O.R.S.E.
33 $2,895.00 2008 WSOP - Event 47, Seven-Card Stud Hi-Lo Eight-or-Better
71 $6,604.00 2008 WSOP - Event 32, No-Limit Hold'em
8 $100,292.00 2008 WSOP - Event 28, Pot-Limit Omaha w/re-buys
6 $229,820.00 WPT Season 6 - L.A. Poker Classic
95 $4,840.00 2007 WSOP - Event 52, No-Limit Hold'em w/Re-Buys
31 $13,344.00 2007 WSOP - Event 45, No-Limit Hold'em / Six Handed
25 $7,761.00 2007 WSOP - Event 34, Limit Hold'em
6 $76,464.00 2007 WSOP - Event 28, No-Limit Hold'em
1 $637,254.00 2007 WSOP - Event 15, No-Limit Hold’em
18 $123,760.00 WPT Season 5 - WPT World Championship
3 $53,945.00 2006 WSOP - Event 45, No-Limit Hold'em
44 $5,498.00 2006 WSOP - Event 41, No-Limit Hold'em
1 $631,863.00 2006 WSOP - Event 34, No-Limit Hold'em w/re-buys
44 $8,340.00 2006 WSOP - Event 30, No-Limit Hold'em- Short handed 6/table
6 $48,576.00 2006 WSOP - Event 24, Omaha Hi-low Split
2 $423,893.00 2006 WSOP - Event 9, No-Limit Hold'em
13 $10,309.00 2006 WSOP - Event 7 Limit Hold'em
67 $7,578.00 2006 WSOP - Event 2, No-Limit Hold'em
10 $5,080.00 2005 WSOP - Event 19, $1,500 Pot-limit Omaha
42 $4,200.00 2005 WSOP - Event 4, $1,500 Limit Hold'em
24 $15,905.00 2005 WSOP - Event 2, $1,500 No-limit Hold'em
8 $70,625.00 2005 WSOP - Event 27, $5,000 Pot-Limit Omaha
3 $0.00 WPT Specials - WPT Poker by the Book
3 $281,700.00 WPT Season 2 - World Poker Finals
4 $34,000.00 WPT Season 1 - Gold Rush