Hello, this is the Nick Vertucci show and my guest today is Phil Hellmuth! Phil, let's start with this. You are an amazingly talented, successful and popular player. Why is there always so much hate for you on the Internet?
Because I always say that I am the best. People can't stand it. The same Negreanu always tells everyone that I play worse than the average granny. And then heads-up with him, I win all three rounds. And all these professionals just keep saying that I'm not good at high stakes tournaments. But I have $1.7 million profit in the high rollers, actually! The last high roller series I played was the US Poker Open. I made 3 finals there in four days and took 10th place in the main. Over the past year, I am the only player in the world who has been in the top 9 14 times. And all this in the most significant tournaments on the planet!
OK! You have a lot of records in tournaments: bracelets, final tables and so on. Your merits speak for themselves. I agree that you are one of the greatest tournament players. What about the cash game? Do you consider yourself the best there?
– If we talk about mixed games, I recently finished in the black 30 sessions in a row. Matusow can confirm! Since 2012, I have played 24 out of 25 TV poker shows. And people still go and grumble, they say, oh, Phil can't play cash games. Do you hear, fools? 24 out of 25! In general, over the past 11 years, I have not had a single minus month.
Ha-ha! Phil, I want to make it clear right away – I'm not laughing at you, I'm just very amused by your manner of communication. But still, what's with the hate? I'm not talking about crowds of trolls, who do not care, who write all sorts of rubbish on the Internet, everyone is faced with this. But why are the likes of Daniel Negreanu, Doug Polk , Matt Berkey constantly saying nasty things about you? The latter is generally regularly bad mouthing you.
“Listen, about Berkey – I don’t even really know who he is. I listened to his podcast for exactly one minute in my life. I blocked him on Twitter a long time ago, so this person does not exist for me. From 2004 to 2008, I lost in TV cash games, okay. And people are still watching those old sessions: they just don't know that I've been playing better for a long time.
Why are Polk and Negreanu digging? Or do you not know yourself?
– I know of course! Look at Michael Jordan, the greatest player ever. Or Tiger Woods. By the way, I'm friends with both! And how many memes there are about them.
So it's all about jealousy?
– Of course! Damn Doug Polk. The guy who records stinging videos about me in the basement. When I said that time that I would “burn down the casino”, he simply cut out the piece where I specified that this was a joke! He could have achieved so much in life – much more than now.
But he lost the confidence of the poker community. All he has to do is stop messing around. I told him so: “Doug, stop with clickbait! If you tell the truth, you will have more viewers!'' And at the same time, he knows what my results are. Therefore, he promotes the idea that I am the "luckiest" player. Lucky, ha, so cute!
But still, don’t you think that saying “I’m the best in the world” is a bit too much even for you? I understand that such confidence helps in life. But remember LeBron James once said, "That shot made me the greatest player in history." Do you remember how much hate he got and how many people turned their backs on him? Still, when others say that you are the greatest, it is more significant than when you call yourself that, you know?
Well, I didn't say I was the greatest cash game player. But I think one of the best right now. 30 positive sessions in a row, remember? I look at all the other players at the table, even the strong ones, and I see what mistakes they make!
Haters don't discuss whether you're the greatest or just cool. They say you don't know how to play at all.
Listen, let it be. I have a unique life. I spend a lot of time at home, I'm still crazy about my wife, I love being with her! I am on the advisory boards of 15 different companies. I have money invested in businesses around the world. The founders of companies worth 200 million call me for advice, we talk for hours. I helped get a company on its feet, which is now worth a billion. Yes, I have the best life imaginable! So, I don't have time to go to Bobby's Room or Aria and prove to everyone there that I'm cool.
Phil, I’m going to be cursed for what I’m about to say because everyone wants to you be pinned to the wall during an interview. But over the years of your career, you have made a name for yourself, turned it into a brand, you have turned poker into a business and made millions. And you are often criticized by players who still play with backers. So what you've achieved is very impressive. But anyway. You just played a high stakes cash game for the whole session with a stack of 5-10 thousand bucks. I understand that being short stacked is +EV in crazy games. But you get terribly criticized for it! Don't you think it just wasn't worth it? Especially if you're really that strong? Why are you afraid to play deep stacks?
Of course I'm not afraid. But if I win all the time with the short stack, why should I change anything?
If it's not broken, don't fix it, I understand. But people wanted to see you play and were disappointed. In that sense, don't you think it was a mistake?
Yes, I agree. But listen... Damn, everything I say somehow sounds like I'm showing off, but still. I am the most welcome guest on poker shows on the planet. Now, perhaps, I am second only to Alan Keating, but for 25 years in a row I was definitely called the first everywhere. And everywhere I played short stack, and no one cared before. And now they're criticizing me. And I said to myself: “Okay, Phil, everything was cool all these years, but now, in order to be called everywhere, you have to buy in bigger.” I've also been reproached for being too tight, and this is where I'm not sure I can do anything. But I'm definitely able to sit down with a normal stack. So the next time I play high stakes, I'll put a million on the table. Not 500 thousand from some backer, I'll bet my own million. We'll just have to keep more cash ready now.
Maybe at the same time tell me how much money do you have now?
Oh no. Although... If only people could see what my fortune consists of, there are shares of 60-70 companies! I have the same superpower as Doyle. He just constantly gave money to his wife, and she bought houses. He gave her money and never asked for it back – as a result, she built a whole real estate empire. And I always did about the same thing: all these years I invested in stocks and never sold anything. And then at some point you look at all this and think: “Fuck, is this really all mine?”. By my estimate, in April I had about $100 million. Since then, it has become smaller due to the crisis. For example, one company that was worth $1.2 billion dropped in value to $200 million.
Okay, thanks for the frankness, the approximation is understandable! Let's get back to poker. White magic – can you explain yourself – what is this crap?
Ha-ha! White magic is how I explain my game. Because the opponents don't understand how I play at all.
That is, white magic – it essentially means "I win, and you get rekt?"
No! In general, the story was like this. I had AJ in the BB on the last hand of the tournament before lunch break. All folded, the small blind shoved 17 blinds. And any player on the planet here will just snap call – but not me. I started talking to this guy. And at some point I say, “Eh, I don’t beat AQ.” In the old days I would just tell him I have AJ and see how he reacts, but that's not the case now. So, I told him that I don’t beat AQ – and I saw how he relaxed. I thought for a few more minutes and threw it away. And when I retold this hand to one young reg, he only said that it could never be a pass here. I tried to explain how I found the pass, but he didn't listen to me at all. And so I look at him and think: has a whole generation of players really grown up for whom poker is just mathematics?
It is clear that they look at me as an eccentric. But at the same time, how insultes they must be that I win and win! They look at my deep runs and cannot understand anything. And they will never understand – and I will continue to make money until I am 90 years old. While Negreanu yells about his GTO...
Are you friends with Daniel?
Well, you just can’t tell! He shits on you all the time...
Yes, that's the kind of relationship we have. I have said a million times that he is one of the best players in the world. And he only says that I can not play. But he never seriously insulted me. In general, it always seemed to me that Daniel just wants to look more relevant against my background.
That is, he deliberately trolls you, is this a joke for you?
No, he really thinks I’m no good! Which only emphasizes how easy my life is. No one understands how I win, and instead of trying to learn something from my game, they just laugh at me. So that's great. I've been playing for 40 years now, and with my discipline, patience and ability to read my opponents, I will continue to rip even further. And all my critics are just fixated on their beloved GTO and are sitting in their little cozy world. And God forbid, someone takes a step to the left or right – they immediately pull him back and drag him back. And that's it, in the end they all play exactly the same! And in my opinion, GTO is a very vulnerable strategy, but I will never tell you exactly what its weakness is, because they will immediately change it.
Seriously? Will the entire poker community change its attitude towards GTO?
Smart players would definitely hear me. Daniel has said a hundred times that GTO is the best thing in poker. And what is the result? Because I also realized that the theory is vulnerable. All teachers teach the same way. Everything is on the surface. You just have to watch what they do and adapt.
Let's talk about Eric Persson, what's up with him? Why doesn't he love you much?
Yes, he is on the same team as Polk and Berkey – a bunch of dudes who keep saying that I can't play. They keep talking and telling people how terrible I am, and I've had the best results of any tournament player over the past year. Think how silly they look! They are angry! That's all, and this translates into fingers that Persson shoved in my face.
Are there people in the poker community that you can't stand?
There are none. I even text Doug all the time! But he's really obsessed with producing fake news. Like the time he accused Mike Matusow and me of teamplay.
Yeah, that’s the hand when I bluffed you on a board with three spades and Mike, while you were thinking, said out loud that he had two spades.
Yeah, and I folded anyway! Doug could tell it like it was: Mike blurted something out, but I wasn't careful enough to take advantage of it. And he started blaming us for something! Mike – that he does not shut up at the table (also news to me). And it’s not at all clear to me what I did, I threw AA into the muck in this hand, what kind of teamplay is that?
So after all, our whole industry is like that, no? All they do is hurt each other, condemn and joke? About the hands played, and just in life. Don't you think so?
No, this is 5% of the people from the community. The poker world is an amazing community. Well, yes, Doug produces his fake news for the sake of high-profile headlines. That crazy Berkey too – every time he talks about me, his podcast views skyrocket. But they bury themselves – people hear their nonsense and take my side. You can't tell Michael Phelps that he's not a great swimmer – he has an entire wall hung with awards.
99% of the people on the planet think I'm the greatest player. And, it would seem, you should enjoy that, but I concentrate on this remaining 1%. I'm such a sensitive dude. But it's still a small number of people. There are haters in the comments on the stream, all this nonsense on Twitter. And then I come to the WSOP, and no matter what casino I go to, everywhere people come up to me to take pictures, thank me and say that I'm the best.
Yes, I have seen it personally. Finally, what are your plans? What else do you want to do in poker?
I want to win the WPT. I want 24 WSOP bracelets. I also wrote a very important book, POSITIVITY. In it, I gave 8 important life tips. And I think to start traveling the world with lectures, like Tony Robbins. Do you know that Tony in his seminars advises viewers to buy my book? This is crazy, I'm just a poker player. But I really believe in these 8 tips – and I am sure that we need to convey this to people. Because they can help every person on the planet. This book is already changing people's lives every day.
The books worked out really well. The presentation of my autobiography was organized by Sheryl Sandberg ( ed. – American businesswoman, COO of Facebook ). And then came Elon Musk! And Elizabeth Holmes came ( ed. – another American entrepreneur, but less successful: her sensational medical startup Theranos turned out to be fraudulent, Elizabeth is awaiting a court verdict in the coming weeks, a mini-series based on her biography was released in the spring, starring Amanda Seyfried). And I realized that I had to write another book. And while I was preparing it, I told my wife: “If something happens to me, promise that you will finish POSITIVITY! You have all my notes! As a result, in a year I published two books. Whether you love me or hate me, my eight life tips will help you.
Don’t you think that your behavior at the tables contradicts the ideas that you are trying to convey in this book?
No. I'm just an emotional guy. But that doesn't mean I can't inspire people. It doesn't mean that I can't change the world.
Shortly after the podcast aired, Phil was answered by Doug Polk.
Yes, of course, when you promise to burn down the casino, it's my fault. Matusow announces his cards in the middle of the hand – the problem is with Doug. And when you advertise an obvious crypto scam for a whole year, it’s also my fault. In fact, the things that you do are so unthinkable that I don’t even need to say anything, just show clips. But you continue, of course, to make money in your 28 games out of 27.
In the near future we will see Phil Hellmuth play heads-up against Jason Koon in the High Stakes Duel show. They will play for $1.6 million – if Hellmuth wins, he will take the money and become the winner of this show for the third season in a row.