One of the most controversial players in the world of poker, Phil Hellmuth, Jr. is often known by the not-so-affectionate moniker of “The Poker Brat.” But while his antics at the table have been known to ruffle a few feathers, Hellmuth has also been one of the most dominating players over the course of his career. In fact, many fans of the game view him as the face of professional poker, especially Texas Hold ‘em.
Born July 16th, 1964 in Madison, Wisconsin, Phillip J. Hellmuth, Jr. was the oldest of five children. Being the son of a successful university assistant dean, Phil excelled in school and looked poised to follow in his father’s academic footsteps. Fate, however, had other plans.
Phil enrolled in the University of Wisconsin, and it was here that his poker career got off the ground. He was initially invited to play in cash poker games at the student union, but soon found that the low-dollar games didn’t present enough of a challenge. Months later, he was competing against professors and other members of the campus community in $100 buy-in games. Hellmuth did so well that he was able to pay off his student loans and still have a $20,000 bankroll left over. At this point, he dropped out of college in his junior year and became a professional poker player.
In 1989, the 24-year-old Hellmuth defeated Johnny Chan to become the youngest champion of the World Series of Poker main event. As of 2006, he has won an impressive nine World Series of Poker bracelets (bracelets are awarded to tournament winners), all in the Texas Hold ‘em events. He was the season three champion of Late Night Poker, and he defeated Chris Ferguson in 2005 to win the inaugural National Heads-Up Poker Championship. As of 2006, his total live tournament winnings exceed $7,200,000.
His World Series of Poker accomplishments include: first place finishes in The Championship Event in 1989, Limit Hold ‘em in 1992, 1993, and 2003, two No Limit Hold ‘em events in 1993, one in 2001, and one in 2003, and Pot Limit Hold ‘em in 1997.
However, for all his accomplishments, Phil has yet to win at the final table of a World Poker Tour event. He finished fourth at the Lucky Chances event (season one) and third at Foxwoods (season two). No doubt, this brings a smile to the face of his detractors.
Hellmuth is also involved in many ventures away from the card table. He frequently contributes to Card Player Magazine, as well as having penned Play Poker like the Pros, Bad Beats and Lucky Draws, Poker Brat (which was on the best-seller list for a month), and The Greatest Poker Hands Ever Played. He has also made several instructional videos, including Phil Hellmuth’s Million Dollar Poker Secrets. He is a spokesperson for the Ultimate Bet online poker room, and has been collaborating with Oakley on a signature line of sunglasses (no doubt, to compliment his signature line of clothing). Phil also writes a syndicated column which is printed in over 40 U.S. newspapers.
When he’s not traveling around the world playing poker, Hellmuth makes his home in Palo Alto, California with his wife Katherine (a psychiatrist at Stanford University) and two sons, Phillip III and Nicholas. His favorite food is salmon, while his favorite music and movies range from Pearl Jam and The American President to The Rolling Stones and The Matrix.
He estimates that his skill at poker and fondness for self-promotion may earn him as much as $400,000,000 in his lifetime. Then again, would you expect anything less from the face of modern professional poker?