Victor Ramdin: “Ivey Saved My Career, Hellmuth is My Idol”

Victor Ramdin

Long-time Team PokerStars Pro Victor Ramdin seems like a fixture of the poker industry these days but there’s a chance he wouldn’t even be in the game if it wasn’t for Phil Ivey and Phil Hellmuth.

Victor Ramdin was born in Guyana and came to the US as a child. The high school dropout made a living as a taxi driver and real estate agent before he was introduced to poker.

At that time he was 35 years old so he started playing at an extraordinarily late stage.

At the EPT Sanremo, he told PokerListings how he almost fell out of poker and who picked him up.

By Dirk Oetzmann and Christian Henkel

Phil Ivey to the Rescue

Phil Ivey
Phil Ivey

“I started playing in 2002”, says Ramdin. “I had some quick success early on, but then I hit a wall, and 2005 turned into a very bad year for me.

“Everything I did at the table went wrong. You know how it is sometimes. I got very frustrated, and I ran out of money. I was very close to quitting poker.”

In life and in poker, however, things can take unexpected turns, and they certainly did here.

“I had met Phil Ivey but I didn’t really know him. He was already at the top of the world in 2005. When I was most devastated, he walked up to me and said, ‘I saw you play, Victor, and I want to back you’.”

“I was amazed, as I wasn’t really doing well. I asked Phil what I had to do differently and he said ‘nothing’. A couple of months later I won WPT Foxwoods for 1.3 million dollar. You can say that Phil Ivey saved my career.”

From then on Ramdin never had to look back. He was offered a pro contract from market leader PokerStars, and he’s been on the team ever since.

Ivey doesn’t back him anymore, but it seems there wouldn’t be any need for it anyway.

Living in New York, Las Vegas and Toronto

Las Vegas Strip
Victor Ramdin loves the buzz of Las Vegas.

Today, Victor Ramdin spends his life partly in New York, partly in Las Vegas, and in Toronto, where he owns some property, respectively.

On Sundays he likes to fly over to Toronto to play the Sunday majors. There are actually a handful of well-known players on his flight almost every time, among them Joe Cada.

In summer, Victor obviously spends three months in Las Vegas, a place which he’s deeply in love with: “the buzz, the heat, the WSOP, it’s great”.

Not too bad of a life, you think? But it isn’t always easy for Victor Ramdin. He has a son who suffers from a chronic disease called cluster headaches.

“His headaches start some time in the morning and can last for several hours. After that, he is so exhausted that he can’t do anything. In fact, it became so bad that he missed two years of high school.”

The last couple of months, Victor took a break from poker to support his son, but now he seems to have recovered.

“He said, you did your share, now head off and do what you really like. So I feel like I am allowed to go,” smiles Victor.

“I like to go to Europe for three reasons: the food, the weather here in the South, and the fact that there are just not so many players in Europe that are terribly well-known.”

Players with a Heart

Philipp Gruissem
Another charitable poker player.

Recently there have been more and more stories about poker players engaging in charity work. It seems like players are looking for a meaning in life that poker can’t give them.

“I wish everybody would do that. I want to make an impact on someone’s life that is in danger.”

For many years, Ramdin has engaged in charity work for children with heart disease.

And he is not alone: “Phil Ivey, Erik Seidel, Michael Binger, Nick Binger, and especially Barry Greenstein have been with me on this for years. There are also some others who don’t want to be mentioned.

“We collect the invoices for a series of necessary surgeries. Then we show these to potential donators and tell them that this is exactly where your money goes.”

This direct connection seems to make it easier for people to give, as they can monitor exactly what’s happening with their money.

We have a motto, say Ramdin: “The hands that serve are as blessed as the lips that pray.”

The Genius of Phil Hellmuth

At the felt, there is still room for ambition and admiration, even if you have achieved as much as Ramdin has.

“My idol is Phil Hellmuth. Hellmuth can get inside your head like nobody else. He can make bad players play worse. He convinces you to do stupid things.

And whatever the size of a field is, be it 50 players or a thousand, Hellmuth finds a way to come out on top.

I like the styles of other players like Negreanu, too, but the sheer number of bracelets tells you that he is a genius.”

And who is the favourite here in Sanremo?

“I wouldn’t want to pick a name, but my guess is the winner will be a Frenchman. The French are hot right now, they are taking over.”

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