Off the Felt

by , Oct 5, 2005 | 3:58 pm

hellmuth-badbeatsFrom my column in The Sports Page … an interview with the original “poker brat” — who is very busy these days. (Too busy, perhaps?)

The Real Deal
HED: Phil Hellmuth off the Felt
SUB: He may be the busiest pro in poker, and that’s without even playing the game.

by Dan Michalski

Future poker hall-of-famer Phil Hellmuth was in town this past weekend–signing books and hosting La Riata, the biggest charity tournament of the year in Dallas. He stuck around long enough for a Monday round of golf with Troy Aikman (“Troy is a better golfer, but I’m a better gambler,” Phil reports) before having to jet off on the next leg of his current poker-pimping whirlwind.

I managed to catch the nine-time World Series champion via cell phone in New York City. He had a few minutes to talk before doing a shoot with ESPN, and offered his thoughts about the quality of Dallas players, his new book, his new DVD, amateur mistakes, and whether or not that’s really him you’re playing against online:

Great job this weekend. What exactly do you try to bring to a tournament you host?

Phil Hellmuth: This event in Dallas was craziness. 350 players and they wouldn’t stop rebuying. The enthusiasm in that room was unbelievable. It was just nuts in there. I couldn’t believe it. Obviously in Dallas people just love poker. I think my schtick has become very popular, and uh — Hey Larry, how you doin’? What’s up man? You want me to sign that book for you? And the DVD? Take the plastic off — but it was absolutely insane, so what that tells me is that poker, Texas Hold’em in Texas is hot baby. It’s great to see.

So it’s keeping you busy these days?

PH: Yes, I’m very busy. Hold on — Larry, who should I sign this to? Michael? How do you spell that? M-i-c-h? Did he win a contest on your show? How ’bout “Good luck, you the winnah” or something? OK, Larry. Oh oh, yeah yeah, thank you thank you thank you. I would love to see it. Are you ready to go? Give me one second — Go ahead, let’s get this one done.


PH: OK, I’m with you.

How much of your work these days is off the tables, as opposed to on?

PH: These days I hardly even play poker. The other day a top professional said, “Phil do you even play any more?” Because you know, look, we have clothing lines and we have schools of poker and my book is on the bestseller list the last two weeks. I’ve got a new book that just came out, Bad Beats and Lucky Draws. That’s the tour I’m on.

And then we have Phil Hellmuth’s Million Dollar Poker System. That’s the new DVD, and those are just going like hotcakes too. We’ve got the Phil Hellmuth movie in Hollywood, and we’ve got Phil Hellmuth: The Reality Show. I could go on and on about all the projects I’m involved with, so it really keeps me away from the poker table right now. And yet my all-time goal is to become the greatest poker player of all time.

So right now you’re just hitting the big tournaments?

PH: Yeah, this a 17-day book tour I’m on, but for four days right in the middle I’m playing in the Foxwoods $10,000 buy-in poker tournament.

Good luck with that. Do I have like 30 seconds or do I have like —

PH: Yeah yeah —

— 3 minutes?

PH: You have another two minutes.

What do you think of the “poker brat” title or monicker for yourself now? Is that still the Phil Hellmuth —

PH: Well I try not to be the poker brat, but that’s just who I am, it’s the way I act. I try to improve myself, and I try to get better. But for some reason I just get really upset when I get really unlucky and I’m always saying something about it and I shouldn’t.

What’s the —

PH: And you know in my new book, Bad Beats and Lucky Draws, I talk — that’s a great book. Do you have a copy of that?

No, I don’t. I’d love to get one.

PH: I’ll give you a number. Are you ready?


PH: [Secret promotional book-getting hotline.]


PH: And I’m so proud of that book. It’s about 60 different hands, and some of the weirdest hands that I have seen, some of the World Series of Poker hands, some of the World Poker Tour hands, some of the hands from the European Poker Tour, and then a celebrity chapter. And then also it has a bunch of other hands written by other great players.

When you’re hosting tournaments like the one Sunday, I’m sure you see a lot of ridiculous play. What’s the most costly mistake that you see amateur and/or up-and-coming players make?

PH: Actually, I was surprised by how well they played in Dallas. There was some craziness, but there was also some really good play. But the ridiculous plays, people moving in with king-threes. And if they had top pair or second pair, you couldn’t bluff them. They’d just put all their chips in. In general people over-invest too much money with hands that aren’t strong enough. It’s a big amateur mistake.

Yeah that was my big mistake. I went all-in with a hand I shouldn’t have and lo and behold he didn’t lay down his top pair. Top pair, ace kicker, nut flush draw —

PH: Hold on one second —

— knocked me out.

PH: You guys are ready to roll, right? I don’t want to make you wait too long — OK, looks like they’re ready. You’ve got one last question for me?

Yeah, one of my blog readers was supposedly playing online against you at the same time you were also speaking at Barnes & Noble. What’s up with that? When people are playing against the pros online, are they really the pros?

PH: Yeah, they really are the pros. And that was stupid of me. We were playing online poker in the car on my UB (Ultimate Bet) account with a couple of friends. They didn’t have UB accounts, and I knew it was a bad idea, but we were right at the car and the event, and I had been playing — I was up $16 or something — we were just messing around and they said look, please let us play. They didn’t have online accounts set up and they’re new to the game and I thought it was terrific.

So they’re playing, and then about 12 minutes into it someone said [in the chat window], oh-my-God, Phil’s supposed to be [at a book signing right now] and my friend freaked out and left. You know, it’s one of these things. I felt like an idiot and it’s 100 percent my fault.

Fair enough. I appreciate the candid answer.

PH: It was stupid. OK, have a good one.

Dan Michalski chronicles the poker world in semi-real time at

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