Phil Hellmuth Fields Questions in Reddit AMA
If you are like me, then there is nothing you love more than hearing 14-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth talk about himself. That’s why spending time on Reddit over the weekend was invigorating. It was then that “The Poker Brat” held an AMA, an “Ask Me Anything,” during which people could, um…ask him anything. Of course, he didn’t ANSWER everything, but people could ask whatever they wanted. What follows is a sampling of Hellmuth’s discussion.
At the outset, Hellmuth simply introduced himself, giving a summary of his career and accomplishments. One interesting note: he was friends with Saturday Night Live star Chris Farley growing up. They were the same age and both grew up in Madison, Wisconsin.
Hellmuth feels very confident that online poker will both be legalized in the U.S. and thrive. His responses to questions about it weren’t particularly fascinating, but they were at least enthusiastic. “Legalized online poker is coming; 100%! It is simply a question of when…” he said.
He also believes that when that happens, so will another poker boom. “A bigger BOOM is coming when the USA legalizes online poker again!” Hellmuth said. “We have witnessed this in Italy, France, and Russia when online poker was actually legalized, and the operators were shocked because they had 10 times as many people play (10X) than was expected. Ditto in the USA: coming soon…”
Of course, people asked Hellmuth about his “Poker Brat” reputation, his antics at the tables. When asked if it’s all just an act for the cameras, Hellmuth replied, “unfortunately, I DO lose control sometimes! But a lot less than the world thinks or understands…If I lose it, then ESPN is there to play it over and over, but when I’m good they aren’t using that footage as much”
In a related question, he added that he does try to keep his temper under control:
But I try really hard to NOT let any bad luck I have at the tables affect me away from the tables. I have gotten better and better at this over the years, but I’m sure my wife will tell you i was bad at this in my twenties and thirties. I don’t want that stuff to impact my relations w my friends and family in a negative way…
Hellmuth also relayed the story of how he played in a private poker game with his professors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a story which sounds straight out of the movie Rounders:
Yes, I did play against two professors at the Univ of Wisconsin way back in 1984! In that game, we also had Psychiatrists, lawyers, and doctors. None of them were under the age of 40, and I was 20. Each was a professional w multiple degrees, I was an undergrad. But i’m pretty good at this thing we call “Poker”.
I started in the smaller games at UW, at the Memorial Union, and as I crushed that game, then I found the bigger games, until I made it into the “Docs game.” I once won $2,700 in one night in that game, in about 1985! Seemed like a fortune to me then!
One redditor asked Hellmuth the awkward question, “When did you realize that you were the greatest poker player in the world.”
Naturally, Hellmuth didn’t shy away, saying, “I thought I was the best well BEFORE anyone considered me in that league!! Thinking you’re the best, or listening people that say you’re the best is dangerous for me. It’s better to know I’m good, keep my head down and stay focused on winning bracelets.”
To a similar question, he was a bit more measured, replying, “I’m pretty good! Let me keep my head down and focus and in 30 years lets see where people rank me in the pantheon of great poker players.”
Perhaps the most intriguing response, though, was to a question posted by poker information guru Kevin Mathers. Mathers asked, “Could you have done more to help recover player’s money on Ultimate Bet?”
I was proud to have had a big role in forcing an investigation at UB, which led to $25 million being returned to the players. People said I should have left the site, and that would have been easy to do as I was wanted by Full Tilt. But I saw another pro get haunted for years because the site he repped DID NOT pay the players back. Staying was the right move, and I was happy when the players were paid back. I was also happy when evidence emerged a few years later that made it clear that I wasn’t aware of what was happening. The poker world stuck by, but the evidence was nice and completely shut up the haters.
It appeared that Hellmuth was referring to the time after the superuser scandal at UB, whereas Mathers said later that he was asking about Black Friday. While Hellmuth was correct that most players were repaid after the cheating scandal, some were not, and nobody got their money back from UB after Black Friday, as the site just up and disappeared.
There were many more questions submitted and several more answered. The complete AMA with Phil Hellmuth can be seen on Reddit.