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Phil Hellmuth

Phil Hellmuth is one of the most polarizing, popular, and successful players in the history of poker. He’s an iconic poker star who holds one of the most coveted records in the game — an incredible  17 World Series of Poker bracelets.

Who is Phil Hellmuth?

Phillip Jerome Hellmuth Jr. was born July 16, 1964 and grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, where he would later attend college at the University of Wisconsin. The future poker star had a troublesome childhood, which included struggling to make friends and keep his grades up to par. In his early 20s, Hellmuth took a gamble and moved to Las Vegas so he could become a poker player. Like many aspiring poker pros with dreams as big as the moon, he failed early on and went bust multiple times. But unlike most others who chase that high of making millions playing a card game, the Wisconsinite eventually figured it out and proved those who doubted him wrong.

If you want to know the real Phil Hellmuth you can watch our in-depth Interview with him, conducted in February 2024.

Phil Hellmuth biography

At 6 feet 7 inches, Phil Hellmuth is one of the tallest professional poker players in the world. He always stands out in a crowd and has been one of the top players since the late 1980s. At the 1989 World Series of Poker Main Event, Hellmuth ended up heads-up against the two-time defending champion Johnny Chan.

Back then, most of the Main Event field consisted of top pros. Hellmuth, who was just 24 years old at the time, was a relatively unknown player and hadn’t earned the respect of the poker community. He went on to upset Chan, arguably the best player in the game at the time, and quickly became one of the most feared tournament players in the world.

Hellmuth has long been one of poker’s top ambassadors, and doesn’t shy away from marketing the game to a casual audience. 

Ultimate Bet

Hellmuth is a businessman as much as he is a poker player. He’s always looked for additional ways to make money away from the felt. Part of that extra income has come from sponsorship deals with poker rooms, poker sites, and various products. One of the endorsements he will forever be linked to was the Ultimate Bet poker site, which was 86’ed by the U.S. Department of Justice on April 15, 2011, the infamous day dubbed Black Friday.

Ultimate Bet and its sister site Absolute Poker, part of the Cereus Poker Network, were popular poker sites in the 2000s. But the site was so mismanaged that when the DOJ shut down the top poker sites in the U.S. in 2011, CPN didn’t have money to pay back its players. As Ultimate Bet’s top ambassador, Hellmuth took some heat from the poker community following Black Friday. But most gave the player a pass because they understood he was merely the face of the company and had no control over CPN’s finances.

Phil Hellmuth poker accomplishments

Along with legends such as Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey, and Doyle Brunson, whether you love him or hate him, Phil Hellmuth is one of the most accomplished poker players ever. And that isn’t really debatable. The resume is uncanny, and any poker player would die to match his results.

As of 2024, Hellmuth holds the record with 17 WSOP titles, and no one is even close to catching up. Ivey and Chan are all stuck in second place with 10. Hellmuth also holds another WSOP record with 204 cashes in bracelet events, and has over $17 million in earnings for all World Series of Poker tournaments. He’s the only player in history to win bracelets in five different decades (1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, 2020s).

Although he’s most known for his prowess at the WSOP, poker’s most prestigious annual series, the “Poker Brat” has done far more than just win some bracelets. In 2005, he won the inaugural 64-player NBC Heads-Up Poker Championship for $500,000, and then finished in second place during the event’s final year (2013). Hellmuth has over $12 million in live tournament cashes in non-WSOP events and was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2007 along with Barbara Enright, still the only woman to ever reach the WSOP Main Event final table (fifth place finish in 1995).

Getting out of line

Phil Hellmuth has an extensive history being called out for whiny behavior at the poker table. In most cases, his antics are merely an annoyance to his opponents. Sometimes they even provide extra entertainment for television viewers. But his actions don’t typically impact the outcome of a game. There is one exception, however, and it cost one player a chance to run deep in poker’s most prestigious annual tournament, the WSOP Main Event.

On Day 2 of the 2018 WSOP Main Event, Hellmuth drew the ire of many in the poker world. With pocket sevens on a flop of 4-3-10 with two diamonds, Hellmuth bet 6,000 into a pot of 16,000. James Campbell, a short-stack, then moved all-in for 29,000 with A-9 of diamonds (flush draw). Shortly after Campbell shoved, Hellmuth expressed frustration that he got raised.

That would be fine if the players were heads-up, but they weren’t. Another player (Alex Kuzmin), who had K-2 of diamonds, was still in the hand and had yet to act. In that spot, it’s likely Kuzmin would fold his hand.

But because Hellmuth made it clear that he would fold before it was his turn to act, Kuzmin made the call and ended up winning the hand. Campbell was out short of the money because of Hellmuth’s actions. To his credit, Hellmuth later apologized and then paid for Campbell’s 2019 WSOP Main Event buy-in.