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Phil Ivey..Enough said – Part 1

Posted by Aditya Sushant on 2011-05-10 at 12:00 AM

Havent got much to talk bout rite now so thought I’d do a small series on The Man, Phil Ivey! This is part 1 of a rare series of articles I came across by Michael Craig.

An essential part of Phil Ivey’s success can be attributed to his gambling philosophy. It is a simple philosophy:

(1) gamble on anything;

(2) gamble on everything;

(3) gamble with everybody;

(4) gamble all the time; and

(5) gamble as high as you can.

Looking back at Phil life as a gambler, it’s easy to say, “Sure, if you run like Ivey and you have his ability, of course you’ll make more if you bet a lot than if you bet a little.” But Phil didn’t have all that ability when he started living this way. By practicing this philosophy, Phil obtains the following benefits, including those he DEVLOPED through this lifestyle: (a) he gets more practice than anyone in the world in sizing up propositions; (b) he gets more practice than anybody in negotiating; (c) he learns through all this gambling what he can do and, sometimes more important, his limitations; (d) anybody who bests Phil is honor-bound to give him action (often for higher stakes and on better terms); and (e) it gives him a reputation for manners and openness that encourages people to gamble with him and encourages them to KEEP gambling with him.


A simple example demonstrates all these things (especially the last). I really got to know Phil Ivey during his three-day heads-up match against Andy Beal. On the first occasion when Beal came to the Wynn, he played five days against Todd Brunson, Ted Forrest, and Jennifer Harman and lost $3.2 million. On the second occasion, he played the same players and won $10 million. When the pros saw how much Andy wanted to keep playing, they imposed some additional terms, the most important being that the stakes would be reduced from $50,000-$100,000 to $30,000-$60,000.

Beal acceded but he had a particular problem with the 30-60 game. The 50-100 game was a two-chip/four-chip game (using $25,000-chips). The 30-60 game required using some combination of many more ($5,000-denomination) chips or two chip denominations. Andy didn’t want to fumble with the different chips, and he was afraid – this was a constant worry of his – that any variation of his routine would make it possible for the pros to “pick up tells.” This led to a series of pretty silly negotiations: Could Wynn make $15,000-chips or $30,000-chips? Could they play with undenominated chips? Could they play with small denomination chips and have the loser settle up with the winner for the “big” amount at the end of each day? There were problems with all these things, so Beal insisted on using the $25,000-chips and having the winner rebate 40% to the loser at the end of the day. The pros wouldn’t budge: it had to be those stakes, with regulation chips. Andy told me he’d walk if he had to play with two chip denominations.

Phil Ivey showed up and resolved it in less than one minute: whatever Andy wants is fine.

The next day, Phil told me he did not agree with the haggling or lowering the stakes. “If I had the money, I’d play Andy a lot higher than this. We should be playing him higher than this. Magnify the wins, magnify the losses. Gamble. Everyone is afraid to gamble.”

By the end of that day, Ivey had recouped the group’s net loss of $7 million. After setting the starting time for the next day, he told Beal, “I’ll talk to the others about us playing fifty and a-hundred [thousand] tomorrow.” The next morning, he agreed to play Andy at his preferred stakes, $50,000-$100,000 and said, “I always believe in giving a guy a chance to get even.”

In just under eight hours, an ordinary workday, Phil Ivey won $10 million from Andy Beal, $4 million more than he would have won without doing him the favor of raising the stakes. Even though Andy hasn’t played for ultra-high stakes since, within two days we were on the phone and he was talking about the possibility of playing Phil again, if he would come to Dallas. Beal soon changed his mind – it was a passing thought – but Phil’s philosophy, even when it made him millions of dollars, had them coming back for more.


Not that Ivey knew at the time that raising the stakes would work in his interest. He was in favor of gambling, which magnified the wins AND losses. Even though Phil will “haggle with the best of them, he’ll bet without the nuts. With Phil, the betting window is always open.”

These conversations, in retrospect, were very interesting. First, everybody is reporting how Ivey made millions of dollars – some say more than $10 million – on bracelet bets in 2009. He never came close to a bracelet in 2008 but paid out seven figures on those bets. Has anyone really considered the relationship between the money he paid out in 2008 and what he has raked in from 2009?

No gambler could quit Ivey on the same bet in 2009 and I imagine he probably won much more this year than he lost last year, not even including the millions he will pick up in prop bets if he wins on November 9.

Phil’s banter was also impressive to listen to. One day in the VIP suite, he was offering a variety of props involving combinations of himself, Allen Cunningham, and John Hennigan. Howard Lederer and David Grey argued with Ivey and each other over disparities in the different prices. I couldn’t follow it all but at one point Grey said to Lederer, “No Bub. It’s the RECIPROCAL of four-ninths.”

Phil Ivey’s response was perfect: “You guys know all the math and shit. I just want to bet with my friends.” When somebody in the room turned down all his bets by saying they didn’t gamble, Phil was dumbfounded.

“What’s the point in life if you don’t gamble?”

Obviously, Ivey needs to be a good negotiator and a good performer or all this action is just going to cost him money. But once you conclude he is a great negotiator and a great performer – some of which is due to him always gambling on everything – it is easy to see how this philosophy multiplies his success. It seems everybody who gambles with Phil Ivey gambles a lot, and they end up losing. It’s not that Phil Ivey never loses; it’s that this philosophy gives him ample opportunity to win more than he loses.

It’s hard to say no to the guy after you’ve beaten him, and it’s hard to insist on the nuts when you are ahead of him and because he didn’t insist on the nuts before you won.

In case u havent seen this, check it out. Awesome video done by E:60 :-


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Aditya Sushant

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