About Phil Ivey
It looks like the face of a kid who just roofed his tennis ball - eyes darting left and right, like he's figuring out how to get it down without being sent to the office.
It also, however, happens to be one of the most frightening faces in poker. Particularly if you're on the other side of a big pot from it.
The face belongs to Phil Ivey: deified tournament hero, feared cash-game icon and quite possibly the best all-around poker player on the planet. He's grown from known and respected to famous and feared, and he reaps the rewards of that status, on the table and off.
And he's earned it.
Born in Riverside, California in 1976 but transplanted to Roselle, New Jersey shortly thereafter, Ivey was introduced to poker young. His grandfather dealt from the bottom of the deck while he taught an eight-year-old Ivey Five-Card Stud, trying to hustle him out of becoming a gambler.
It didn't work. By 16, he was playing backroom games for money. By 18 he had a $50 ID from a guy at his telemarketing job named Jerome Graham and was playing - a lot - at the live tables in Atlantic City. He spent so much time there players in the casino nicknamed him "No Home Jerome."
His nickname, unfortunately, didn't progress very quickly to "Bringing It Home Jerome." He lost. And often. Things weren't great. There were times the rent was late, the hot water shut off, the electricity cut.
But shortly thereafter, as with all feel-good stories (and you knew this was going that way ... he is Phil Ivey, after all), the tide turned.
He started a relationship with a woman he met at the telemarketing job, Luciaetta, who eventually became his wife. He continued playing poker. He turned 21; announced his name was Phil to the casino floor staff. He continued playing poker. And he made progress.
And then came the World Series of Poker. In 2000, at the age of 24, he took the leap to the big time. And never looked back.
In $2,000 No-Limit Texas Hold'em, he finished fifth.
In $2,500 Pot-Limit Omaha, he sat down at the final table with poker legends Amarillo Slim Preston, David "Devilfish" Ulliott, and Phil Hellmuth and walked away with his first bracelet.
And that was that. The Phil Ivey legend was born.
In 2002, he won three more WSOP bracelets in three different games: Seven-Card Stud, Stud Hi-Lo and S.H.O.E., tying Hellmuth and Ted Forrest for most wins in a single year.
He took his fifth bracelet in a Pot-Limit Omaha event in 2005, putting him almost halfway, at younger than 30 years old, to the standing record of 11.
In 2006, he almost took the total up to seven, placing second in an Omaha Hi-Lo event and third in the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event, cashing in for over $800,000.
By any measure, Ivey has proved his poker mettle. Tournament success? The five WSOP bracelets. Six World Poker Tour final tables. Wins at the Monte Carlo Millions, the Bellagio, the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles.
Cash-game resume? Consistent wins in the "Big Game," the $4,000/$8,000 table at the Bellagio - to some, the pinnacle of poker cachet - where he butts heads regularly with Doyle Brunson, Chip Reese, Chau Giang, Jennifer Harman, Barry Greenstein and Ted Forrest.
Not big enough? How about serving as clean-up hitter for "The Corporation" - a collection of the absolute best high-stakes poker players in the world - in their latest match-up with billionaire banker Andy Beal, and reportedly taking him for over $16 million?
How about kicking off 2007 taking $120,000 on NBC's Poker After Dark from Phil Hellmuth, Tony G., Mike Matusow, Andy Bloch and Sam Farha?
The list goes on.
And for those who suggest - and believe it or not there are a few, despite all evidence declaring otherwise, who do - that he still hasn't finished at the top enough to justify his reputation:
Phil Ivey has made nine final tables at the World Series of Poker. He's finished first five times. And when asked how many bracelets are possible before he's done? "I want to win 30," he says.
In a sport notoriously void of consensus and rife with backdoor excuses (can't compare cash games to tournaments, old to new, Omaha to Hold'em, fat guys to little guys, etc.), Ivey's status as one of the best all-around poker players, past, present and future, is as close as it gets.
The "Professor," Howard Lederer, says before his career is over Ivey may well be considered the best player in poker's history. Legendary philanthropist and big game player Barry Greenstein calls his raw talent "unmatched."
Phil Ivey is a player's player: the one the talkers keep their mouths shut around and the silent talk nervously through hands with.
He believes he'll win if he plays how he's capable, and no evidence has ever surfaced to the contrary.
Nothing, likewise, has surfaced to suggest it has gone to his head. While some players have spent more time promoting their image away from the tables than winning tournaments at them, Ivey stays focused on being just a guy who really likes what he does for a living, letting the fame and fortune sort itself out.
Aside from poker, Ivey likes videos games and basketball. He likes traveling with his wife and going to the movies. His MySpace profile says he likes the Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Lakers; when pressed in an interview he says his favorite team is the one he's got money on.
He's taken time to tutor up-and-coming pro Victor Ramdin. He plays regularly online at his sponsor site, Full Tilt Poker, showing up at $0.50/$1 tables to play with people who might not get a chance to play with him in a real game; he offers tips, and sticks around long enough to show he's interested in seeing them used.
He likes prop bets, shooting dice, playing golf. But mostly he just likes to play poker.
"I'm not a prodigy," he says with his usual humbleness. "I just work at what I do.
"I work at poker very hard. And I'm always thinking about how I can get better at it."
And everyone in the game is in trouble if he does.
I think he is the best tournament player in the world. He’s the only player to graduate from the tournament field and be successful at the biggest game. Some of the top players are still skeptical, but they don’t seem to realize he is still an improving player and he has unmatched raw talent.
I often hear people saying Phil has been less successful than he has been in the past. 2004 was Phil’s best year in poker, but he hasn’t played many tournaments. And when he has played in a tournament event, he has played tired because of the cash game the night before. (I know because I have been in the games with him.)
He also has had to adopt a style geared to build up quickly or get knocked out quickly during the event, so that he won’t wear himself out for the cash game later that night. There were two big events in 2004 where there wasn’t a big cash game: the live Fox telecast in Turning Stone, N.Y., which Phil won, and the Monte Carlo Millions, in which he came in third.
Phil had started playing in Los Angeles several years back and he asked me, “Where is the best place to live?” I told him, “I live in the best area, but it’s pretty pricey.” Phil always thinks big. He said, “I want to take a look at it.”
He came over to the house with his wife Luciaetta, and I needled him when I said, “See, this is how a successful poker player lives.” He said, “This is out of my league now, but some day I’ll own a big house like this, too.”
Phil was especially interested in the sit-down Ms. Pac Man game that was in my game room. I mentioned that I bought it for my girlfriend because she was the best that I had ever seen at it. He said he was the best that anyone had ever seen.
I got a call from someone at the airport who wanted me to pick them up. Phil and Luciaetta were having fun with my kids and I asked them if they minded watching my kids until I got back. Phil asked, “Can I play the Ms. Pac Man game?” I said, “Of course.”
When I returned an hour later, Phil was still sitting playing the game. He smiled and said, “Well, your girlfriend doesn’t have the high score anymore.”
|430||$25,756.00||WSOP 2014 - $10,000 Main Event|
|1||$167,332.00||WSOP 2014 - Event 50 - $1,500 8-Game Mix|
|30||$6,836.00||WSOP 2014 - Event 48 - $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Low|
|22||$5,030.00||WSOP 2014 - Event 12 - $1,500 Pot-Limit Hold'em|
|10||€14,905.00||WSOPE 2013 - Event 3 - €5,300 Mixed Max|
|14||$15,544.00||WSOP 2013 - Event 18 - $1,000 No-Limit Hold'em|
|1||AU$51,840.00||WSOP APAC 2013 - Event 3 - $2,200 Mixed Event|
|208||$3,119.00||WSOP 2012 - Event 59 - $1,000 No-Limit Hold'em|
|8||$21,699.00||WSOP 2012 - Event 35 - $2,500 Mixed Hold'em (Limit/No-Limit)|
|5||$99,739.00||WSOP 2012 - Event 32 - $10,000 H.O.R.S.E. Championship|
|3||$136,046.00||WSOP 2012 - Event 24 - $5,000 Omaha Hi-Low 8 or Better|
|2||$275,559.00||WSOP 2012 - Event 17 - $10,000 Pot-Limit Hold'em|
|7||$34,595.00||WSOP 2012 - Event 15 - $5,000 Seven-Card Stud Hi-Low|
|118||$5,295.00||WSOP 2012 - Event 14 - $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em Shootout|
|12||AU$100,000.00||2012 Special - 2012 Aussie Millions Main Event|
|80||$12,669.00||WPT - Season 9 - Bellagio Five Diamond|
|19||£26,400.00||WSOPE 2010 - £10,000 No-Limit Hold'em Main Event|
|14||£22,847.00||WSOPE 2010 - Event 4: £10,000 High Roller Heads-Up|
|1||$329,840.00||WSOP 2010 - Event 37 - $3,000 HORSE|
|12||$16,075.00||WSOP 2010 - Event 33 - $2,500 Pot-Limit Hold'em/Omaha|
|29||$16,000.00||2010 Special - NAPT Mohegan Sun|
|91||$23,500.00||EPT Season 6 - PokerStars Caribbean Adventure|
|7||$1,404,002.00||2009 WSOP - Event 57 - $10,000 No-Limit Hold'em World Championship|
|8||$16,739.00||2009 WSOP - Event 41 - $5,000 No-Limit Hold'em Shootout|
|44||$4,883.00||2009 WSOP - Event 30 - $2,500 Pot-Limit Hold'em|
|1||$220,538.00||2009 WSOP - Event 25 - $2,500 Omaha/Seven-Card Stud Hi-Lo|
|18||$18,467.00||2009 WSOP - Event 13 - $2,500 No-Limit Hold'em|
|1||$96,361.00||2009 WSOP - Event 8 - 2-7 Draw Lowball (No-Limit)|
|34||$40,855.00||WPT Season 7 - WPT Championship|
|21||$27,135.00||WPT Season 7 - Foxwoods World Poker Finals|
|6||£13,750.00||2008 WSOPE - Event 2, H.O.R.S.E.|
|12||$159,840.00||2008 WSOP - Event 45, $50,000 H.O.R.S.E.|
|24||$7,998.00||2008 WSOP - Event 22, H.O.R.S.E.|
|9||$37,130.00||2008 WSOP - Event 14, World Championship Seven-Card Stud $10,000|
|10||$46,832.00||WPT Season 6 - World Poker Challenge|
|3||$125,000.00||2008 Special - NBC Heads-Up Championship|
|1||$1,596,100.00||WPT Season 6 - L.A. Poker Classic|
|4||$65,424.00||2007 WSOP - Event 26, H.O.R.S.E.|
|2||$143,820.00||2007 WSOP - Event 11, World Championship Seven Card Stud|
|5||$129,684.00||WPT Season 6 - Mirage Poker Showdown|
|2||€371,000.00||EPT Season 3 - EPT3 Barcelona Open|
|3||$617,760.00||2006 WSOP - Event 20, H.O.R.S.E.|
|2||$219,208.00||2006 WSOP - Event 12, Omaha Hi-low Split|
|21||$9,476.00||2006 WSOP - Event 4, Limit Hold'em|
|20||$304,680.00||2005 WSOP - WSOP 2005 $10,000 World Championship Event|
|54||$2,410.00||2005 WSOP - Event 5, $1,500 Omaha High-Low Split|
|6||$264,195.00||WPT Season 3 - WPT World Championship|
|3||$163,908.00||WPT Season 3 - World Poker Challenge|
|1||$635,603.00||2005 WSOP - Event 27, $5,000 Pot-Limit Omaha|
|6||$105,700.00||WPT Season 3 - Borgata Poker Open|
|3||$253,313.00||WPT Season 1 - WPT Championship|
|2||$291,030.00||WPT Season 1 - Jack Binion World Poker Open|
|4||$75,650.00||WPT Season 1 - World Poker Finals|