If Phil thinks you will gamble with him, he won’t let up. At the Million Dollar Cash Game in London in September 2007, he seemed much more interested in the prop bets than in the high-stakes poker action. He was constantly chatting up the props, especially as new players came into the game. When Brian Townsend starting playing, he held firm but admitted, “Phil’s been trying to tempt me with the props.” Howard Lederer said he would play props with Phil but only if Phil played him $10,000 per hour.
Phil said, “Write down your ten best props.”
“TEN?” Howard exclaimed. “I’ll sleep every other prop with ten.” Phil smiled and said, “That’s my plan.”
Later that day, after Erick Lindgren entered the game and won a $58,000 pot, Ivey started hounding him about the props. “It’s not too late to jump in Erick. Diamonds have been hot.”
PHIL VS. PHIL
Maybe sometimes Phil is about as subtle as the world’s loudest used car-salesman. But this approach usually works. It seems that every time Phil Ivey and Phil Helmuth get together, Hellmuth loses a lot of money. Hellmuth mentioned at the World Series in ‘07 once that he lost a half-million dollars at the VIP suite’s putting green to Ivey. Another time, he made reference to losing a similar amount at Chinese poker.
Of course, there is no context for this. Maybe Hellmuth has taken millions of dollars from Ivey â but I wouldn’t bet on it. I wrote a Blog back in 2007 about watching Phil Hellmuth at the final table of the $3,000 NLHE. Phil Ivey sat in the bleachers for that final table and sold Hellmuth “insurance” every time Hellmuth was all-in. So, for example, if he was all-in with TT against 99, Ivey would offer him a bet at odds that would allow him to make the same money if he busted as if he had won the hand and finished in the next higher place. But there were three fundamental flaws in Phil Hellmuth’s thinking. First, if he kept winning these showdowns (as he was already favored to do), he would accumulate cash loses every time he won a showdown. Second, Hellmuth’s strength is not in figuring the exact odds. In every case, he took odds much worse than he had in the showdown. Finally, the last time he went all-in, he was an underdog and there was no insurance deal. As a result, Hellmuth earned $74,00 for finishing in sixth place, but owed Phil Ivey $109,000 in lost insurance bets. Even Mike Matusow thought Hellmuth was sick to bet like that with Ivey.
PHIL VS. ROLAND
Roland de Wolfe is another gambler who has been caught in the Ivey Vortex. (Roland will be the first to admit that it doesn’t take a lot to get him to bet on something.) When they traveled together from Germany to London in September 2008, they rented a jet and played Chinese Poker on the flight. Roland lost enough to pay for the jet.
I wrote about them playing rock-paper-scissors for $5,000-$50,000 per throw. Ivey even won $20,000 betting that a random person in the restaurant would throw Rock. “That’s what I’m talking about.” Phil said. “You go out to a nice restaurant with some friends, have a nice time, and see what develops. You never know what’s going to happen.”
Shauna and I had dinner with Roland nine months later at the World Series and asked him if it was possible to beat Ivey. “Sure,” he said, “you can get the best of it against Phil. But whenever I have, he just comes back stronger and beats you.” I asked if it was possible to quit Ivey after getting ahead, already knowing the answer.
“Why would you want to quit,” De Wolfe asked, uncomprehending, “when it feels so good to win?”
DOES IVEY LIVE TO GAMBLE? OR GAMBLE TO LIVE?
Even people who consider Ivey a “sick gambler” would stop short of saying he NEEDS to gamble to survive. But I’m not so sure, based on the things I’ve seen up close. Phil told me during the matches against Andy Beal that he hadn’t read any books about poker. “Books bore me. I don’t do anything but gamble. I am an action junkie.” In the few bits of small-talk Andy Beal would allow, Phil asked Andy if he ever played baccarat at a particular Australian casino where “they’ll let you bet $300,000 per hand at baccarat, right off the street.” Phil also mentioned the great beaches in Southern France – specifically, that he missed them because “I played poker for fifteen hours.”
My best example of how Phil Ivey needs gambling the same way he needs oxygen is from a discussion that took place between hands of the Million Dollar Cash Game in 2007.
At about 8:20 PM, after the action restarted, it took a few hands but the huge hand seemed to loosen everybody up. Lindgren asked Ivey, “How much would it take for you to get a desk job for a year?”
This was defined pretty vaguely but Erick explained, “You have to get a desk job and hold it for a year. What’s your price?”
Howard adds in, “And you can’t bet on anything at that job.”
Phil asks, “How much money, Erick, or how much of YOUR MONEY?”
Erick: “Yeah, how much money of mine that I wish I had? But you won’t have any trouble getting a job. You ever hear of affirmative action?”
Phil: “I’d need it. How about this? You write down the number on a sheet of paper but if I say yes, it’s action.”
Erick: “Pencil and paper, Table One!”
Lindgren predicted the handicapping of such a bet. “I think your number would be $20 million. You’d say $10 million but you wouldn’t be able to for $10 million.
Ivey: “What if I get fired?” After thinking about it, he added, “I wouldn’t do it for $100 million. I like my life too much.”
That’s actually kind of cool when you think about it, isn’t it?
Customary video – Phil Ivey AMAZING BLUFF