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Phil Hellmuth, Jr. is the world's best tournament player, at least if his tally of WSOP bracelets is anything to go by. Since his first, in the 1989 No Limit Hold'em World Championship event, the hot tempered American has racked up a further ten. But it is not just his successes that have made Phil one of the poker world's best known faces. His temperament is at least as responsible, and although he has calmed down in recent years, it is still well documented among both players and fans.
"If there weren't luck involved, I guess I'd win every one." That's what an irritated Phil Hellmuth said after having been eliminated from a tournament. The quote is now a classic and is far from the only one to have been uttered by Phil over the years. Perhaps it is less than surprising that Phil Hellmuth bears the nickname "Poker Brat" - earned from his ability to constantly criticise and comment on his adversaries' decisions at the poker table.
This behaviour has clearly paid a part in the qualified 44 year old's successes, but it has also taken the upper hand at times, leading to a couple of highly talked about outbursts. One came in 2005, when Phil soundly cursed amateur Jim Pittman, who had knocked him out of that year's WSOP Main Event. The other came in a televised event that counted on the participation of Gus Hansen and Annie Duke, among others. That time, when Phil could no longer stand the other players' comments, he had a real outburst, and once again made the headlines.
As we can see, Phil is one gentleman who sometimes finds it difficult to rein in his emotions at the poker table. Something he himself is fully aware of. Phil has pointed out as much in various interviews, saying he later wonders what he was up to when he gets eliminated from a tournament or tries to psyche out an adversary. So, maybe it is not completely wrong for him to be married to, ironically enough, a psychologist. That little morsel is something that Hellmuth has heard innumerable times and the subject is, of course, thankful that it can be joked about.
Even if Phil's outbursts have labelled him as poker's "bad boy", there is another side to him. Together with his wife, Kathy, Phil has two sons and family life has shaped the life of the poker ace from Madison, Wisconsin. Family comes first, which means that Phil mainly takes part in tournament games. Online poker late into the nights is something the family man has consciously chosen to avoid.
Furthermore, Hellmuth has translated his experience at the poker table to a variety of books about his poker knowledge and thinking. He has also written innumerable articles for cardplayer.com, where he is one of the celebrities. In addition, he has authored several other side projects, like the "Pro Player" drink and the Poker Brat Clothing Company.
Phil was born in 1964 and was the eldest of five children. Like a lot of other poker players, school came second for Phil and, when he discovered his poker talent, he decided to gamble it all on the game and give up school for good. A choice that was not exactly well received by his parents, who were both academics and not thrilled with the thought their son would go without a "proper" education. Phil's father, who as we mentioned was a professor, did, however, soften up a bit when, a few years later, the 24 year old sensationally won the WSOP Main Event and became the then youngest Main Even winner ever.
Two years earlier, Phil had tried his luck in Las Vegas, but quickly returned home after having spent all his savings. But, Phil didn't give up and was back in the legendary gaming city the following year. This time, things went significantly better at the poker table.
Phil's first tournament win was a$10,000 No Limit Hold'em one held in 1988, in Los Angeles, the same year he debuted at the WSOP, earning fifth place in the $1,500 Seven Card Stud event. The tournament specialist quickly built up a reputation in Vegas and the following year saw him make his definitive breakthrough with his Main Event victory. Since then, Phil has won a further ten bracelets.
Phil's other two great years were 1993 and 2006. In 1993, Phil took home three bracelets, with two of them being earned on the same day! A unique feat. 2006 proved a welcome confirmation for Phil, as he broke a period bare of successes by taking a first, second and third place at that year's WSOP. The year after he won his historic eleventh WSOP title, meaning Phil Hellmuth became the first player to reach a tally of eleven bracelets. With that, he overtook the legends Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan, who had racked up ten bracelets each. And we might expect more from the controversial WSOP icon.