WSOP APAC Extended Interviews: Phil Hellmuth

Published on 8 April 2013 by Pokerlistings 578

Today we took a close look at the poker legend Phil Hellmuth and to give you the full story we've posted the extended version of the interview. Hellmuth explains where the poker brat came from and what drives him to accomplish amazing feats at the poker table. To get more perspectives on Hellmuth check out our feature video "What's So Special About Phil Hellmuth?" in the WSOP APAC video gallery.

Phil: It's really nice to be here, and I was here one time at the Crown Casino and I just remembered it was huge and had like 50 restaurants. It was beautiful. But it's like a totally different trip for me. My wife was here, we did a lot of tourism. I was really tired all the time. Now, I'm resting, I'm shift sleeping if I need to, and first tournament out of the box I made it all the way to 20th with 1,070 players. So it feels like a different trip to me. So one for one on cashes and today's the mixed game. So pretty excited. White magic, duh, duh, duh.

I mean, I play a style based on my reading abilities. So I don't do things that other people do. They might snap call. I might take a minute or two and then fold. They might fold and I might move in. So I'm doing things different than they are. I am not playing a mathematically based game. I understand the math and I've worked hard on the math but that was...took like a couple of weeks to see exactly what they're doing with the math and the short stacks. I don't agree with the way the mathematically solved short stack strategy is. I don't agree with that.I think that you can use your white magic to give you a few extra lives.

So that's just the way I play. On the other hand, on the internet, I will play just by the book. Because I believe that they have solved it there. So I do things differently than the rest of the guys. It's not about thinking about making history. Because if you think about making history, then I was a little bit freaked out yesterday thinking wow, am I going to come back and win the very next WSOP event? And it was a little freaky because you started to think of the historical implications. You can't think that way.

What you have to think about is playing great, staying in the moment, and just finding a way to win, whatever that means. And so I probably could have closed a little bit better yesterday, but I won't make that mistake again. So you can't think in terms of making history. Rather, you think in terms of trying to play great that day. Solve the table and solve the game. Two things. Solve the table and solve the game. Solving the game, I've had a lot of experience and that's why I'm looking forward to the eight game next. But then solving the table adds to it.

And it's always a challenge and I'm not one of these guys that just remembers everything all the time. Unfortunately, I wish I were, I mean poker's a constantly changing, constantly evolving game and I think that practicing and being ready is big. But I think that I forget stuff and then I might not play good for a while and then I remember. And so right now I'm as grooved as I could be because I've just spent a month working on my game. So I'm really, really in the groove and today is a mixed game. If I get a hold of some chips and have a smooth day, I could win this very easily because I'm so grooved.

But a little more luck involved in a limit game. I think it's proven that charisma helps in every sport, right. You see a Tiger Woods, you know. You see a LeBron James, a Michael Jordan, you know these guys and so our sport which isn't the PGA Tour, which isn't the NBA still benefits by charismatic players. And so I think that that's really good for our game and some of the younger guys I wish would show a little bit more personality, a little bit more charisma. But we have a great crop of young players, a great crop of great young players coming up and it keeps the sport exciting and entertaining.

In 2010, I started working really hard on my mixed games. I started playing every night on the internet, $5 buy in, $10 buy in, $20s, just to practice and all the stuff came back to me because I've been playing the mixed games and the highest stakes throughout the 80's and 90's. Not as much in the last decade. So I've played tons of mixed games and all the stuff came back. I'm like, oh, that's right, you have to do that. Oh, that's right, you have to do this. Oh, that's right, you have to make this lay down. Oh, that's right, you have to make this raise. And so everything kind of clicked in 2010.

The results weren't immediate, but in 2011, in the mixed games, I just got there, got there, got there, got there. Even in 2012, I finished fourth in the eight game mix or whatever it was. The H.O.R.S.E event and I had another...I won the rest. So all these games just started to make sense again in 2010 and then I started adding to that. What can I do? And I started noticing that a lot of the tournament players who were playing mixed games just weren't playing right, even the great players, and I was like wow. Because I believed in the criticism.

I can't play these mixed games and then I got there with my best game and I realized that there's a lot of mistakes in a lot of games by a lot of the great players and this might be a good spot for me. I'm a big game guy. Yeah, absolutely. It started, actually, it started when I was young. I was the oldest of five and I was a guy and all my brothers and sisters had great grades and I had horrible grades and so I had to beat them at every game. And so at least that was my salvation was winning every game. Scrabble, whatever we played, monopoly, dice, whatever we played, I had to discover the optimally perfect way to play it and when I lost, that's where the Poker Brat kind of personality developed because I'd be screaming and yelling because I didn't have anything left if I couldn't beat them at a game.

And so I think, yeah, I'm a real games guy. I love solving games. I just love seeing the beauty of a game and exactly the optimal way to play it and then to be able yeah, games guy, yes. One hundred percent of the way I act, unfortunately, is natural. Unfortunately, but I've improved the last few years. I think I've gotten really better at dealing with...I think three second places just crushed me but I managed to shake hands and not make excuses and just shut up and move on. And yeah, I went out drinking, but at least, I didn't go off in that moment.

So I feel like I've come a long ways and the Poker Brat, unfortunately, is just me and it's this competitive drive, the spirit, you know. I have so many critics all the time, no matter what I do. I can win like ten bracelets in the next seven years and no one else wins four and I'll still have all these critics. But they drive me and I listen to them, unfortunately. But that's good because I think I don't ever really want to be happy in poker. I always want to be driving, I always want to be grinding, I always want to be learning, I always want to be moving forward and winning.