When Phil Ivey took home the Pot Limit Omaha at his first WSOP tournament, in 2000 and at the tender age of 23, he became the youngest WSOP winner to date. It is hard to imagine a better start to a poker career. Since his breakthrough, Phil has continued to rack up some great results and, today, the 32 year old American has a collection of five WSOP bracelets – albeit without any in Hold’em – as well as having made over 8 million dollars in prize money.
Phil Ivey was born in 1976 in California, but soon headed East from the sunny West Coast sun to the cooler climes of New Jersey. Having four brothers, it was perhaps not completely unexpected that Phil started to hone his instinct to win and when his grandfather introduced him to stud poker, his interest bloomed.
Before online poker became widespread it was not particularly easy for younger players such as Phil to get into games. In order to be able to play, the then 16 year old Phil decided to try his luck in Atlantic City, a few miles south of his hometown of New Jersey. Using ID from an older friend, he got into a casino at the renowned East Coast city.
Phil operated for several years under his friend’s name of Jerome and, when he finally reached 21, he was able to stop using the false identity. It was under his real name that his poker career really began to take off. In the beginning, Phil got a lot of help from professionals such as Daniel Negreanu and John Juanda. However, it was not long before he was standing on his own two feet.
Phil Ivey wins three WSOP bracelets in the same year
In addition to his break through victory in PL Omaha at the WSOP, in 2000, Ivey achieved a serious triple in the 2002 edition of the WSOP, when he took home the Seven Card Stud, Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo and S.H.O.E. tournaments. An amazing feat and, if we take a closer look, we realise we are talking about an all-round player. His latest WSOP title came in 2005, when he again won the PL Omaha tournament.
It was also in 2005 that another couple of highpoints in Phil’s career took place. Within the space of a few days, Phil first won the Monte Carlo Millions, with many of the top players in the world taking part. He then went on to win Full Tilt’s prestigious invite only tournament in the same city. At the time, Phil Ivey was the world’s most talked about poker player.
Tough times for Phil
However, the charismatic American’s career has not been without its downs. Just like all those who have ever played poker, Phil has faced adversity. Among others, he was involved in two famous hands where he was seen as the table’s big loser. The first one happened in the 2002 World Championships when Phil looked like he was about to take home a massive pot, only for John Shipley to come up with a four of a kind, after incredibly hitting aces on both the turn and the river.
The following year, history repeated itself. This time, he was eliminated by the then unknown Chris Moneymaker, in an even more memorable hand. After the turn, Phil had a strong hand, having hit a full house – three nines and a pair of queens. Unfortunately for Phil, the river produced an ace, giving Moneymaker a higher full house. Once again, Phil had crashed out of the tournament in a highly improbable manner.
The explanation behind Ivey’s successes
According to the man himself, Phil’s journey to the top is not due to any outstanding mathematical or strategic ability. Instead, he claims it is concentration – focusing on what he is doing – and being in good physical shape that laid the ground for his successes. Phil regularly works out, with strong emphasis on running, but also began to include golf, which he discovered a while ago. Another strong interest of his is playing dice games at the casino.
There is absolutely no doubt that Phil Ivey is one of the world’s most popular players. The fact is that he is also one of the regular participants in The Big Game at the Bellagio – together with other heavy hitters such as Doyle Brunson, Jennifer Harmann and Barry Greenstein – speaks volumes about how far Ivey has come within poker. And we think he will remain at the top for a good while yet.