- Nickname: Poker Brat
- Facebook: philhellmuth
- Twitter: @phil_hellmuth
- Website: www.philhellmuth.com
- Birthdate: 16th July 1964
- Birthplace: Madison, Wisconsin
- Residence: Palo Alto, California
- WSOP Bracelets: 13
- Biggest Win: $2,645,333
- Total Winnings: $17,877,921
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Phil Hellmuth’s father was an assistant dean and professor at the University of Wisconsin and he and his other four siblings grew up comfortably in Madison. After high school, Phil attended the University and it was here that he first learnt how to play poker. It was a bitter disappointment to his father when he dropped out to play poker professionally but Phil remembered the words his mother had stuck to the bathroom mirror in the family home, ‘You become what you think.’
After his victory in 1989, Phil’s father came to terms with his son’s choice of profession and no doubt the gift of a Mercedes, paid for out of the winnings, helped smooth things over. He had to wait three years for another tournament win but in 1992, he reached the final table of all five of WSOP events he entered and in the following year bettered that by winning three WSOP bracelets, all in Texas Hold’em.
You can’t win them all, though according to Phil, ‘If it wasn’t for luck, I’d win every tournament I played in,’ and this attitude has drawn much criticism from some quarters. His massive ego often riles opponents and puts them off their game but should Hellmuth lose to a bad beat then he is prone to meting out a tirade of abuse against his victor. Though some players have stories of Phil’s graciousness in winning, as well as defeat, the Poker Brat has to live with the general perception that he is a bad loser. This image is compounded by the fact many of his outbursts are televised and as his antics make great television.
Phil often finds himself the camera’s focal point. One famous incident occurred on NBC’s ‘Poker After Dark,’ when Hellmouth walked off the set because other players were talking while he was making a decision as to whether to play an important hand or not. Phil swore at Shawn Sheikhan and went on to say that ‘this isn’t poker, it’s more like the Worldwide Wrestling Federation.’ There is a school of thought that believes Hellmouth’s comments and behaviour to be acts of deliberate showmanship and though he denies this claim, his tantrums have certainly increased his profile.
By 2007 he had won a record eleven WSOP bracelets, rising above legends Johnny Chan and Doyle Brunsen. More impressive was the fact that all his bracelets were achieved in Texas Hold’em and in 2007 he was inaugurated into the Poker Hall of Fame. In June 2012, Hellmuth won his 12th World Series of Poker bracelet in the $2,500 Seven-Card Razz event, defeating Don Zewin and earning $182,793. In October 2012, Hellmuth won his 13th World Series of Poker bracelet in the €10,000 WSOPE No Limit Hold’em Main Event, earning €1,022,376, he became the first ever player to win both the WSOP and WSOPE Main Events. This brings his WSOP bracelet count to 13, unlucky for some, his 1st places in big poker events stands at over 50.
As a youngster, Phil wrote children’s stories and he has continued writing with credits including the best-selling, Play Poker like the Pros. 2003, Bad Beats and Lucky Draws: Poker Strategies, Winning Hands, and Stories from the Professional Poker Tour (2004), Phil Hellmuth’s Texas Hold ‘Em (2005) and his book company Phil’s House published Deal Me In (2009). He has written many articles for Cardplayer magazine and you can even buy clothes from him at pokerbrat.com.
Among all this, he still spends much of his time at home in Palo Alto with his wife, Katherine Sanborn and two sons, Philip III and Nicholas though she has paid more than a passing visit to his workplace, entering the 2005 WSOP, in the ladies event. However, it is Phil who holds the spotlight and because of his arrogance, boorishness and propensity for outrageous quotes, he is one of the most recognized poker players. But his celebrity is certainly not superficial for Phil Hellmuth is a consistent poker winner with one of the most incredible tournament records of all time. Being a consistent source of moans and arrogant one-liners is a little further down the list of reasons for deserving his fame.
In 1989, after having knocked out Don Zewin and Steve Lott in a single hand, Phil Helmuth found himself in a heads-up against defending champion Johnny Chan in the 20th WSOP Texas Hold’em final. He was just twenty-four years old and it was only his second year at the WSOP. Hellmuth was holding 9♣ 9♠ when he called ‘all on’ against Chan’s $130,000 raise, pre-flop. Phil folded his arms and stared impassively at Chan.
Despite his youth and the legendary status of his opponent, Phil was just playing his game. ‘I’m treating him as I treat anyone else heads-up,’ he said prior to the finale. Chan took a long time before calling and turning over A♣ 7♠. Hellmuth had taken off his personal stereo, which had remained plugged into his ears for much of the final table play and now stood watching the flop.
A K♦ 10♥ K♣ went down but then a Q♠ on the turn meant that although the odds were still in Phil’s favour, anything higher than a ten would mean the hand was Chan’s. But the river card of 6♠ saw Phil punching the air and becoming the youngest ever WSOP Texas Hold’em champion along with being $755,000 richer. The ‘Poker Brat’ had arrived.
In 2007, Hellmuth found himself opposite Andy Philachack in a heads-up, WSOP Texas Hold’em event 15. Philachack was all-in with A♣ 10♣ and Hellmouth decided to call him with A♠ 3♥. Luck may have played a hand in some of Phil’s tournament losses but this time it was to come to his aid with a flop of 9♥ 3♦ 4♣. Hellmouth, a fan of the movie ‘The Matrix,’ said he too could ‘dodge bullets,’ and he watched as a Q♥ and a J♥ on the turn gave him the title. ‘Wow!’ was all he could say.
Last updated May 2013