The 40th Annual World Series of Poker is only weeks away. Between now and the start of the Main Event BluffMagazine.com will be presenting the 40 Greatest Champions in WSOP history exclusively on WorldSeriesofPoker.com.
What else can be said about Phil Hellmuth that he hasn’t already said about himself? Yes, he’s the greatest Hold’em player in the history of the WSOP. Yes, he’s the all time bracelet leader with eleven. Yes, he has more tournament cashes than anyone else (69). Yes, he recognized the historical importance of bracelets when not many did. Since his breakthrough Main Event win in 1989 Hellmuth has been inseparable from the WSOP, forging his legend while solidifying the WSOP’s.
Hellmuth was born a world away from poker’s capital in Madison, Wisconsin. He attended the University of Wisconsin until he could no longer resist the urge to follow his dream of playing poker professionally. His father, an academic at heart, did not approve of Phil’s choice. He had a few notable cashes and tournament wins before the Main Event of 1989 which allowed him to fly his father to watch him play the most important tournament of his life. All was changed when Phil stopped Johnny Chan’s quest for three Main Event wins in a row when he defeated Chan heads up.
Hellmuth’s Hold’em bracelet wins are a three-headed monster, winning in each variation. He won bracelets in Limit Hold’em in 1992 and 2003; and a Pot Limit Hold’em event in 1997. His No Limit Hold’em bracelets came in the 1989 Main Event, two bracelets in 1993, a $2k event in 2001, a $3k in 2003, and then consecutive bracelets in 2006 and 2007.
Hellmuth had another deep run the in the Main Event in 2008 when he finished in 45th place. His place among the legends of poker was confirmed when he was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2007. His critics have pointed out that he has sporadically played cash games against the best players, but with multiple appearances on High Stakes Poker and Poker After Dark he has begun to silence them.
Hellmuth is perhaps the most widely discussed poker player, fueled by the outbursts, meltdowns, and player abuses that “The Poker Brat” performs more than reacts. Some of this discussion is unfairly earned because of the intense spotlight that he plays under. Every player to ever sit at the felt has muttered a few unkind words or stormed away from the table after a bad beat, but the vast majority doesn’t have ESPN cameras following them.
Hellmuth is heavily involved with poker away from the tables as well. He has released several training videos, wrote a must read strategy book, “Play Poker Like the Pros,” and is the face of Ultimate Bet. He has played less poker than most pros for the last few years deciding to dedicate more time to his family in Palo Alto, California. Hellmuth’s goal to become the greatest poker player of all time could have an argument if he decided to stop playing tomorrow, but don’t bet on him retiring anytime soon.