Phil HellmuthTo mark the release of the brand new Phil Hellmuth autobiography by D&B Poker, entitled Poker Brat: The Story of the World’s Greatest Poker Player, Phil was kind enough to grant us this feature-length interview.

You’ll see that we covered a ton of ground, so I just want to publicly thank Phil for being incredibly gracious with his time and answering all of my questions.

When you spend so much time doing research on someone, you begin to feel like you know them quite well. Over the last couple of weeks corresponding with Phil, that feeling has deepened. He has been incredibly responsive and quite simply a pleasure to work with; a true mentsch, in every sense of the word.

While he has of course been interviewed numerous times before, I have no doubt that you’ll enjoy this one, which dives deep into the man, the myth, and the legend that is Phil Hellmuth. He is the kind of person whose autobiography is by definition a must-read.

Without further ado…

The Beginning

Let’s start at the beginning. You’re Wisconsin born and bred and have four younger siblings. Your father was a Dean at the University of Wisconsin and your mother an artist. What was it like growing up in your family? What were the dynamics with you as the oldest sibling?

My mother sculpts, collects antiques, and spreads a lot of positivity. Mom had this sign up on the bathroom mirror when I was growing up (until I was 18 years old):

You are what you think;

You become what you think;

What you think becomes reality.

Reading this everyday had a profound influence on my life. It made me believe that I could choose my own destiny.

Being the oldest of five was difficult, and I talk about my struggles with that in my autobiography Poker Brat. First, when I was seven years old, we had a 6-year-old (my brother David), a 5-year-old (my sister Ann), a 2-year-old (my sister Kerry), and a newborn (my sister Molly). So, it was hard to get any attention! And, the oldest paves the way; leading negotiations for what the children can (and can’t!) do.

Hellmuth kids

There was a lot of friction between my father and me. He wasn’t happy that I was getting a 2.78 GPA in high school. He wasn’t happy that I didn’t work harder to improve my grades. As the oldest child, he expected me to do well and lead the way for my younger siblings. Of course, I had ADD (or perhaps ADHD) and that makes it difficult to do well in a standard school setting. This led to my father and I shouting at each other when I was in high school. I remember my brother and sisters kind of scrambling out of the room and out of earshot. I was strong! I stood up to my father, but my father is strong as well!

Hellmuth family
From left to right: Ann, Phil Sr., Phil Jr., David, Kerry, Lynn, and Molly Hellmuth

You realized that you loved being on camera way back when you were a young kid, as you won a local TV comedy contest. A few years later, you took acting classes. What did you enjoy most about those acting classes?

Weird. I somehow ended up on television when I was five years old! I can’t even remember how or why, and neither can my mom! I vaguely remember being in front of the cameras, in a well-lit studio on the campus of the University of Wisconsin. Then, I ended up in a play for a few years. I played the kid in the streets when Ebenezer Scrooge says, “Boy, is that turkey in the window still available?” I say, “I believe it is sir.”

Do any of the lessons you learned from those classes still resonate with you today and cause you to act a certain way on camera?

No. For better or for worse, that poker brat persona is naturally me! I HATE losing THAT much! Away from the table it’s different. I’m probably the most fun-loving guy that I know.

Growing up, you had a best friend who turned out to be quite famous later on in life, before his tragic passing. Tell us a bit about your relationship with Saturday Night Live alumnus Chris Farley.

Chris and I were best friends in kindergarten. In Poker Brat I talk about a system I invented in kindergarten to “create your own reality.” Chris was the only person that I taught that system to. In fifth grade I moved to a different school, so Chris and I lost touch. He lived on the other side of Madison, Wisconsin.

While you attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, you dropped out after three years to become a poker pro. Do you ever regret not finishing and getting your college degree?

Never once regretted it. I tried to major in Business, but my grades weren’t quite good enough for Business school. Even when I pulled a 3.67 GPA one semester in my junior year, just to show the business school I could do it, they rejected my application. I continued on studying Philosophy. Poker is a mix of business and philosophy.

There were a few times while you were an up-and-comer that you lost your bankroll. Each time, you rebuilt it by heading back home to Wisconsin to work on fields and farms. What was that like? How did you cope psychologically?

Looking back, I managed my money decently right from the start. I had $20,000 in the bank before I started heading to Vegas – built from nothing and in debt with student loans. I slowly lost it all in Vegas over 14 months and 10 trips, which isn’t bad for a 21-year-old! Most lose it quickly in Vegas! I would lose in Vegas, then win at home.

When I went broke, I took a job working in the corn fields for a few months. That was rough!

California Living and the Warriors

You won the WSOP Main Event in 1989. Soon after, you got married and moved to northern California. What do you enjoy most about living in Palo Alto? In what ways is it different than Wisconsin life?

Palo Alto is a dream! Perfect weather. People that think they can do anything, and reach for the stars. I saw great people in Wisconsin as well, but I moved out of there when I was 27 years old.

You’re a huge Golden State Warriors fan. What did it mean to you when they won the championship in 2015… and when they lost in 2016?

My friend Joe Lacob bought the team, and – along with his amazing long-term girlfriend Nicole Curran – they have been very generous and very good to me. They have invited me to sit next to them on the floor for years, and I have been their biggest cheerleader! I’m proud of what Joe and Nicole have accomplished. There are cool inside stories about how the team was built (for another time). And the GM Bob Myers, along with Jerry West, and Joe’s super genius son Kirk (assistant GM) have been brilliant.

Watching them win a championship was inspiring! It wasn’t that long ago that Joe was booed in public, by tons of Warriors fans, for trading Monta Ellis. I called him the next day and said, “Don’t worry, I was booed by 250,000 NASCAR fans! In your case, when it turns around they will love you even more!” I won bracelet 14, then a few days later I was at Game 5 vs the Cavs, series tied 2-2, and we won! I must say that I’ve been good luck for the Warriors!

They’ve lost one game in years when I was there, and zero games when I sat with Joe and Nicole…When the won in 2015, I partied with the team in Vegas for a couple days; Elon Musk even joined us one night! 2016 really hurt…I thought we had it when we went up 3-1.

You’ve become quite friendly with many of the team’s players as well as a number of the owners. What are some special things you can tell us about the organization and how the team is run; the ownership style?

Joe is a winner and his son Kirk is a winner. It starts there. Of course, Bob Myers, Jerry West, and Steve Kerr have done a wonderful job, but I can tell you that the Warriors are a “nice guy” team. Not too much drama, and everyone appreciating their circumstances and they play with such joy! It really is a special group of guys.

When David Lee lost his starting spot, did you hear him whine? Here’s a two-time all-star, and he didn’t say anything negative; in fact, he manned up and was the first guy to stand up and applaud everyone else; giving players high fives and positivity. I’m proud of DLee, he handled himself like a man, a class act, and a true team player!

Twitter

When posting pictures of yourself at the Warriors games, special team events, or just doing some really cool things with famous people, you use two Twitter hashtags: #positivity and #PHNiceLife. Why? Who are those hashtags for exactly? Twitter’s hashtags are about “joining the conversation”. Who is supposed to join in that conversation?

I never read the rules for twitter! I do smile when people accuse me of name dropping. I mean, if I’m flying w Jim Harbaugh and Desmond Howard on the private Michigan jet to the Super Bowl, should I NOT mention that? I happen to find myself with some of the world’s most successful people and celebs, and I bring tons of positivity and energy with me.

I think I’m fun to be with, and I’m real, and authentic. I don’t play games. I’m straight up. The #PHNiceLife hash tag is meant to be aspirational. I live an amazing and blessed life. It’s meant to say, “You can be a professional poker player and have a great life!”

A few years ago, I wrote an op-ed analyzing the (at the time) 13 people you followed on Twitter. The common thread among them was that they were proven winners in all walks of life. While researching for this interview, I came across something you once said; that you were “inspired by the best in the world at the top of their game.” Who are some people you haven’t yet met that you would like to sit with and learn from for a couple hours?

Man, I LOVED watching Michael Jordan play basketball, and it was even better in person. The energy that he put out playing defense was something to behold in person (at the game). I LOVED watching Tiger golf, especially in the majors. I marveled at how he hit the ball so close to the pin. Luckily, I get time with Tiger and MJ, and it’s fun! I ask them how they deal with fame. Same thing with Elon Musk and President Clinton. Elon seems to have no ego and that’s special. I’ve enjoyed hanging out with Draymond Green, he has great joy and passion for life.

I suppose I would enjoy some time with President Obama, and Oprah (we’ve met, but briefly).

Poker Writing + Autobiography

Speaking of learning from people, you’ve written numerous books in the past, designed to teach poker. You also used to write a column in Card Player magazine. In addition, you’re also a minority owner of the enterprise. How did those opportunities come about and why did you decide they were worth your time and investment?

I started my column “Hand of the Week” (I own the trademark) in the 1990s, and wrote it until 2010. It was part marketing, and part “let’s show the world these amazing hands that I witnessed and played” (both great plays, and blunders!) I invested in Card Player thinking that we would go public. I invested $900,000 for three points; that’s a $30 million valuation. I have faith in the Shulmans.

Let’s move on to your current book, the Poker Brat autobiography. Why did you specifically ask Daniel Negreanu to write the foreword?

Daniel LOVES me! We have a lot of love for each other, but he isn’t afraid to call me out. Daniel has written many negative blog posts about my style of poker or plays that I have made, but he is speaking his truth, and he has never ever crossed any lines with me. It was never personal. Although he wrote those blog posts, he roots for me, and he loves me! Daniel is great for poker, and no one works harder than he does. I’m honored and happy to have him write a beautiful foreword, thanks Daniel!

Hellmuth Negreanu
Image credit: PokerNews, Jamie Thomson

We all know why you’re called the “poker brat”, but who originally coined the term? At what point did you feel it started to catch on?

I coined it myself with my old friend Andy Glazer (may he rest in peace). It seemed to fit, and Andy started using it in his writing, and it caught on because it fit.

Phil Hellmuth Poker Brat book

Poker Brat is also the moniker you use for your clothing company, publishing company, casino games company, and real estate company. Most poker fans are familiar with your line of apparel, but those latter three companies seem pretty interesting, too. Can you tell us a bit about them?

The clothing line never took off like I hoped it would. We have some GREAT clothing at PokerBrat.com, but we never spent too much money marketing it. These days, I have a deal with the 3Bet Clothing company, and I wear 3Bet every day!

My publishing company did a book called Deal Me In about 20 players and how they found poker. We sold a lot of copies, and I was intending on doing my autobiography within Poker Brat Publishing, but instead I did it with D&B Poker. I didn’t want to hire any more full-time employees.

The real estate company is low key. I only have two houses in there, one in Vegas and one in Minneapolis.

The games company could be the one that makes us $100 million! We have issued patents on several games. And one of them, a game called Poker Jack (a blast to play), is ½ poker and ½ blackjack. Poker Jack could be the one! We also own Poker 123, and that game is in the late stages of going to market.

Do you have hopes that your autobiography might someday get made into a movie? If so, which actor ought to play you?

The Madison Kid is a script about my life. I started to get paid for that in 2003, over $100,000 I believe. In 2007, we had Hayden Christensen attached to play me, and it was green-lit! Boy oh boy was I excited, but Hayden ended up passing and making Jumper instead. Hayden was HOT at the time because he had played Anakin Skywalker. We also had Ashton Kutcher involved for a while.

If it is green lit again, then the script has been written for years, and we will need a young actor. I had a terrific offer to make The Madison Kid into an ESPN, or television movie, but I vetoed it: big screen or nothing for me!

If Poker Brat turns into a major motion picture, then that would be another script entirely, and I would want to either write the script myself, or have the option to take a crack at it myself before they hired professional writers. Poker Brat is over 400 pages long, and I wrote it all.

Sponsorships

Well, if a movie does someday get made about you, it wouldn’t be your first mainstream exposure. You’re one of the rare poker personalities known outside the game, namely for the sponsorship deals you’ve had with companies like Milwaukee’s Best and Carl’s Jr. On the poker front, you’re of course an ambassador for numerous brands, including the Aria Hotel and Casino, 3Bet Clothing, Poker Central, and the Share My Pair app.

I’m also on the Muzik Connect (headphones and more) advisory board. MuzikConnect.com is super exciting as we have Michael Jordan, Drake, Kevin Hart, Chris Paul, Von Miller, and Novak Djokovic (to name a few) as investors and brand ambassadors. Jason Hardi built the best headphones ever created! He built both the hardware and the software from scratch, and they have their own app with programmable smart keys; advanced!

What’s your dream sponsorship? Wheaties? A particular vehicle? Something Wisconsin-related?

Muzik Connect is a dream deal! To rep cutting-edge technology alongside the biggest athletes/names in the world and have stock in a winner like this company is amazing! Another dream one is Kimo Sabe Mezcal. I always wanted to start my own alcohol brand, and I was onboard early as an owner in Kimo Sabe. Kimo Sabe was the “Official Spirit of South-by-Southwest” in 2017, and we just won another gold medal in the American Distilling Institute awards for “Best in Class” for ALL Tequilas and Mezcals!

And the Carl’s Jr. commercial blew my mind! They shot six or seven different people/celebs with different versions, and I was shocked that my version was the one I saw over and over! It was all over college football and the NFL; I was really excited. I rarely saw another version, so I felt like mine was the best by far. Maybe a little charisma on my part, maybe just a better theme…

I always wanted to be on the covers of Time Magazine and Sports Illustrated. I have appeared in both magazines many times, but never even close to the cover. My number one commercial, if I could choose it, would be a shoe commercial for Nike or Under Armor! I want my own gold shoes!

We talked to Under Armor for a few months in 2010, but nothing ever came of it. I think a car commercial would amazing. And a mainstream soda commercial would be amazing.

I did a commercial for Diet Pepsi for the Super Bowl, but they wanted me to have a bigger role and I wouldn’t take my sunglasses off. That commercial was downgraded to the NBA playoffs, but I wish I would have taken the glasses off because maybe it would’ve made it to the Super Bowl. Wheaties would be amazing as well. One that didn’t happen, that hurt a lot, was Oakley sunglasses. They promised me my own sunglasses line, and it didn’t happen.

Are you doing anything specific to try and make that type of sponsorship eventually happen, or is that all in the hands of your agent, Brian Balsbaugh?

I don’t actively seek commercials, although my people did reach out to Under Armor and Nike, and we moved down a path towards me repping them.

Speaking of Brian Balsbaugh, a couple years back you won a Corvette Stingray for him at a charity poker event. You must really like the guy! Tell us about your relationship with Brian and his company Poker Royalty. How did it start and how has it evolved over the years?

Brian and I have had a great relationship! He has helped me a lot, and I helped him early on when he needed it the most, when I gave him 5% of the WSOP Tournament of Champions freeroll, which amounted to $37,500 for him. That cash really helped him get started in Vegas, but of course Daniel has made Brian the most money because of PokerStars. Brian adds value to every single deal, and if it doesn’t make sense for him to be involved, then he’ll say “It’s a relationship deal for you.” Brian is a genius, and a really good guy to boot.

OK, back to sponsorships. It seems like the big online poker rooms are sponsoring more and more poker players these days. You’ve noticeably been absent such a sponsor since the Ultimate Bet days. In a 2014 interview, you said that hitching up again to an online poker sponsor was “inevitable”, but it’s been three years since then. Obviously you’re the biggest “free agent” on the market, so when specifically do you think it will happen and what would you be looking for in an online poker brand to represent and stump for?

I didn’t realize how close I was to being hired by PokerStars back in 2011! Recently I learned that there was only one roadblock in the way back then. A deal with them would have increased my net worth significantly, but maybe I would have had worse health or separated from my wife had I joined them because when I take a deal I work hard! As I wrote my autobiography, I noticed that I worked like 320 days out of the year for UltimateBet.com from 2004–2009! Appearances, TV shows, tournaments, commercials, blog posts, traveling everywhere, and much more.

I would love to have a deal with PokerStars or Zynga, but not one where I have to add traveling 5 weeks per year. I’m already slammed with working on great opportunities, but it makes sense for a big site to hire me. Can you imagine Daniel and I standing together at PokerStars? We would have some great commercials…

Ultimate Bet

Well, we’ve broached the subject of Ultimate Bet. You do talk about it for a full chapter in your autobiography, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you a couple questions about that time period when you were associated with the now-defunct company.

While you were representing them, a lot of people naturally trusted you because of your widely-admired skills in poker and as an entertainer on TV. In light of the scandals that later came to light about how that organization was run (and the very sad fallout), how do you feel about players who got victimized?

I felt bad for the people who joined the site because of me. But remember: 1) after the scandal, I stayed with the site until the players were paid back in full; and 2) I left the site five months before Black Friday. In Poker Brat I talk a lot about EXACTLY what happened, and that chapter will be well-read!

Do you regret ever having been associated with that brand or anything specific you did to promote them at the time?

You’ll need to read Poker Brat for full information.

In a 2014 Reddit AMA, you noted that you had a big role in forcing an investigation that led to $20 million+ being returned to the players. That’s why you re-signed with them. Did you continue receiving payments from the company after Black Friday?

I address all of this in Poker Brat. You’ll have to read it.

Click here to order Phil Hellmuth’s autobiography, Poker Brat

WSOP Bracelets

Alright, let’s move on to one of your favorite subjects to talk about: WSOP bracelets. You’ve got 14 of them, including wins in the Main Event and the WSOP Europe Main Event. A dozen of your bracelets are in Hold’em with the other two in Razz. Do you feel that Razz is your second-best game?

Yep. But I like how this suddenly happened! Out of thin air. All of a sudden, I have the best WSOP Razz tourney record of all-time (two bracelets and a second in huge fields)! No one saw that coming. I have the best WSOP records in No Limit Hold’em, Limit Hold’em, and Pot Limit Hold’em, and now, suddenly, in Razz… so why not in other games?

It would be hard to pass Billy Baxter in Deuce-to-Seven No Limit for all-time best record, I think I would need two or three bracelets to go with my two second place finishes, but why not go for it?

It would be hard to pass Mike Matusow in Omaha 8/b tourneys, but pick up two bracelets to go with my second, and that might be enough. I would probably need three seven card stud bracelets, and my game needs to improve in tourney stud. But I can tell you I improved at Omaha 8/b, 2-7 Triple, and Deuce No Limit in February, when I worked hard for two weeks studying with other poker masters Brandon Cantu, Mike Matusow, and Miami John Cernuto. 

Your WSOP results over the last few years prove that you’ve really polished your skills in mixed games. How does preparing for mixed game tournaments differ than preparing for Hold’em events?

Both take practice, practice, practice, and studying with that practice. Practice gets me into a good rhythm, and then studying makes me even better.

You don’t grind hard all year round anymore but specifically choose to focus on the WSOP. Daniel Negreanu likened this to Serena Williams shifting her focus over the years solely to tennis’ Grand Slams. Still, the summer is a LONG grind. Are you relieved when the WSOP ends each year or do you crave more?

I could use a little less time straight. Maybe five weeks straight, and then another five weeks straight would be ideal for me. Daniel is right, I’m after WSOP titles almost exclusively. When I hear my critics talk I wonder if they know what I’ve accomplished?!? I have the best ROI over the last 10 years, and the best ROI in history. Throw out all the $25,000 and higher buy-ins, and I’m number one on the money list; I mean so high they can’t even see me!

In Daniel’s annual $25,000 fantasy draft, where players score points for WSOP events, I have the most points over the last seven years, and I’m not sure it’s that close! I probably listen too much to the critics, but this idea of the all-time money list being important, with 25–50 players playing huge buy-ins ($100,000–$1 million) 20 or 30 times a year, and then having Fedor, a 24-year-old, pass me on the all-time money list? Fedor is fabulous, but how important is that list, really?

You’re over 50 years old now. Are you motivated to win the WSOP Seniors Event bracelet? How about the Super Seniors bracelet down the line?

I haven’t played a WSOP Seniors tourney yet, but I’ve been kinda busy playing other WSOP events.

Do you feel that if you played more often throughout the year, you’d be even more “on top of your game” and a better player each summer; more likely to win bracelets, perhaps?

Yes, definitely. Not playing enough hurts my chances for sure. I checked my record at HendonMob.com a bunch of times as I wrote my autobiography, and I discovered that almost every time I had a bad WSOP, I did well in a bunch of other important tournaments later in the year or earlier in the year.

Why WSOP bracelets more than anything else? You said in an interview once that you want to “add some WPT titles.” You’ve made four WPT final tables, but have yet to take down an event. Do you view it as the one flaw on your resumé? Maybe the trophies and championship belts would start rolling in if you started grinding the WPT circuit harder?

I have no doubt that I would start winning WPTs if I played 10–15 a year (instead of 1–3). WPTs have been somewhat diluted though, as they spread so many tournaments all over the world. Still, I would LOVE to win a classic WPT, like a championship event at the Bicycle Club or Bellagio.

Being in the Limelight

You once spoke at Oxford. Tell us a bit about that speaking engagement. How did you get the invite? What was the topic of your speech? When did this take place? What were your impressions of the university and the students?

Speaking at the Oxford Union was an honor! To speak the same place that Churchill and a bunch of U.S. Presidents spoke was fabulous. I teased my dad by asking, “Did you think the child of yours that dropped out of college would be the one to speak at Oxford?” I talk more about this in Poker Brat.

Well, you obviously enjoy the limelight, whether at the university lectern or in front of the cameras. Over the past couple of years, you’ve done some on-camera commentary work for ESPN during the WSOP Main Event broadcast. In past interviews, you’ve said that you enjoy feeling connected and sharing poker wisdom with viewers. Would you do it even if you weren’t getting compensated for your time?

Don’t tell the WSOP, Mori Eskandani, or ESPN this, but I would do it for free! Come to think of it, they don’t pay Daniel and I very much anyway!

Charity

Apropos, giving of your time, let’s talk charity. In the Philanthropy section of your websiteit lists a lifetime goal of raising $100 million for charity. You’re almost halfway there. Congratulations! What do you like most about charity poker events?

The atmosphere! I have the microphone all night and everyone gets so pumped up; it’s a beautiful thing. I’ve raised $46.5 million and counting…

In what ways have you gotten to be a better host over the years? Is there anyone you’ve learned from in this respect, or have you just learned how to do what you do through trial, error, and personal experience?

Trial and error. I “rap” lyrics like Jay Z or “Black and Yellow” and liven the room up. I call hands. I make fun of people. I give chip updates with players’ names so they get a little respect from their peers/friends. I have emceed over 100 tourneys, and I enjoy it.

When it comes to choosing which events to host and which organizations’ events to become involved with, is that something you handle personally or through your agent? Perhaps some of your family members help you make those decisions?

When President Clinton asks you to emcee his charity poker tourney, you say, “Yes sir!” I do one every year for Tiger Woods, JB Pritzker, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and a lot more. Most of these have come to me through someone other than my agent, like Dan Shak, Seth Palansky, or celeb friends.

Family

As public a personality as you are, you obviously have worked hard to have a good balance and spend time with your family. We know you love playing golf and attending all sorts of sporting events. Are these interests that other members of your family share and take part in with you from time to time?

I do have a great balance in my life. Poker, family, friends, appearances, Warriors games, walks with friends, drinks with friends, and time on the couch in the evenings watching television with my wife. And I sleep in 90% of the time! My wife doesn’t attend Warriors games very often because they end at 10 PM.

Longtime poker fans know your wife, as “HONEY!” from all the WSOP broadcasts. In her professional life, she’s better known as a doctor. By appearances, then, it seems that yours is a marriage in which opposites attracted.

Opposites attract for sure with my wife and I. I rarely received an A in class, and she rarely did not receive an A. I am spontaneous, she is scheduled. I take big chances, she plays it safe.

How did you two meet? How did you propose?

Those are some great stories… I need to save them for the book!

I apologize if this comes across as a strange question, but I can’t help it. It seems like in every interview you do that you mention the fact that in all your years of marriage, you’ve never cheated on your wife. Chris Rock famously did this bit (warning, NSFW language) about being proud of things you’re supposed to do. People are not supposed to cheat on their spouses. Why is this something you’re so particularly proud of?

As a celebrity, the number of women who have interest in you spikes up and I have trifecta for that: I’m viewed as a bad boy, rich, and famous. It hasn’t been easy, but to your point, I suppose that I’m way too proud of it.

You’ve said that you watch a lot of TV at home. Do the two of you have some favorite shows that you watch together?

We LOVE Billions. Also, Blacklist, Major Crimes, Sherlock (BBC and U.S. versions), and Dr. Blake Mysteries, to name a few.

What else do you do around the house? Do you sometimes do the shopping? Take out the garbage? Fold the laundry? Wash dishes? Cook?

We have our long-term house assistant, Betty, come in and clean four days a week for four hours a day. When the kids moved out, we didn’t need Betty as much, but we kept her on (12 years now) and now the kids are living at home temporarily, so we really need her! I do clean up after the dog in the backyard, especially when I’m feeling too cocky…

What’s your relationship like with your parents nowadays? How often do you see them?

I’ve been blessed with a close family. My parents have been a great source of support for me (never financially!) since I started in poker. I see my parents at least twice a year. They join me at the WSOP for a week, and in New York when I emcee the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia charity poker tournament. I still call them for wisdom and advice…

Ending Off

It’s now been a decade since you were inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame. In recent years, the nomination and voting procedures have been a topic of much discussion in the poker community. Do you feel that any changes ought to be instituted?

Yes, the professional poker players in the Hall of Fame need to take control of the process; not the ones voted in for other worthy achievements in poker. The players know who is great and who isn’t. We have been around for decades playing with them.

At minimum, the players need to nominate the list of potential inductees, as some top players were not on the last list of potentials.

Do you feel that a physical Hall of Fame ought to be built to perhaps give the distinction additional prestige and allow fans more chances to engage and interact with the game and its legendary players?

I feel like that will happen naturally one of these days.

You’ve made some interesting prop bets in your day. Is there perhaps one mega prop bet you’d love to make with someone? If so, would your motivation be money, proving something to yourself/the public, or just beating the person betting against you?

I enjoy prop bets, but you can’t make them with too much ego in mind! And you can’t make “Life altering” bets, where someone else dictates your life: like not eating sweets for six months!

You’re turning 53 this summer but you’re still quite young – and you look even younger! Let’s say you live to be Doyle’s age. That’s another 30 years; you’ve had a 30-year poker career already, so that would double it. What else do you hope to accomplish? In other words, what type of material do you hope you could fill a second autobiography with?

One big thing I want to get out there is my next book #POSITIVITY, my “we are all in the right place at the right time book” OR “How to do more with your life book.” #POSITIVITY will have “Phil’s top five life tips” and I truly believe that it will help many millions of people think bigger, act bigger, and do more with their lives. I need to win at least 10 more WSOP bracelets, and at least four WPT titles. Also, I need to maintain my friendships, and I need to keep finding time for my precious friends and their families.

What excites you?

Tons of things excite me! Winning bracelets, having good times with my wife, good times with my friends, playing no limit Hold’em, playing mixed games, sitting on the floor at Warriors games with Joe and Nicole, writing books, giving speeches about #POSITIVITY, deep conversations with people, golfing great golf courses, hosting television shows, playing on television, commentating WSOP on ESPN, playing basketball with friends, staying at the Aria, sleeping in a lot, and taking time to smell the roses – we actually have many pods of roses in our backyard…

What saddens you?

Too much negativity!

Is there anything that you consider to be “out of reach” that you wish you could do?

I think I would be a good U.S. President, but I wouldn’t want that level of stress… and I wouldn’t want to give up chasing WSOP bracelets!

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