Craig gave Phil Hellmuth quite an introduction:
"We have as our guest, a living legend in the game of poker. He holds a record for most WSOP bracelets at 17, he's a best-selling author, successful entrepreneur, and the 1989 Main Event champ, where he won heads-up against Johnny Chan. He's probably the most famous poker player in the world -- he was to me growing up. When I really started playing, about 25 years ago, Phil's was the book I went to".
Hellmuth's Turning Point
Craig brings up a song by Talking Heads, Once in a Lifetime. It reminded Hellmuth of a pivotal moment in his life back in 1987. He was a poker player with $20,000 in the bank, living in Madison, Wisconsin.
One day, feeling restless and bored, he found himself in a bar in the middle of the afternoon, playing pool for $20 a game.
He recalls, "I'm playing and I just am like, is this my life right now? What the... is this? You dropped out of college to be at a bar on like a Monday at like 3 in the afternoon, smoking pot, playing $20 a game, drinking and it's just like a light went off in my head".
"So that song (Once in a Lifetime) with, "many days go by, many days go by" is kind of like, time is passing in your life. And you find yourself here, and I thought, "What a f****** loser I am".
Later, Hellmuth recalls calling for a taxi home and heading outside into the street.
"In this dingy bar, where it's just completely dark and I'm in a dark place also mentally, and then – boom! I'm just hit by this light you know. I just thought to myself, "Man, you talk about, you know, a sign".
Motivated and possibly a bit blinded by the snow, he returned home.
"So, when the snow's melting and I left and I went back to my apartment (and I had a nice apartment) I just started writing down, "What are you going to do the rest of your life?"
A New Path
This moment of self-realization led Hellmuth to reevaluate his life and set new goals.
He wrote down his long-term goals, which included:
- Winning the Main Event.
- Meeting and marrying a wonderful woman.
- Buying a nice house.
- Buying a car.
- Writing a New York Times best-selling book.
- Become the best poker player in the world (he's unsure if he wrote that one down).
He also set short-term goals and created a "poker pyramid" (not a pyramid scheme) of things he needed to improve on, such as money management and studying the game.
Compulsive gambling was on the pyramid. Phil said he didn't have a problem, but that he lost his entire bankroll playing baccarat once.
Money management, exercise, and study were also on there. If Phil was writing the list today, he would probably have a note somewhere to build a bankroll from freerolls.
Hellmuth went on to achieve all the goals he set that day.
He won the Main Event, married his wife Katherine, with whom he has two children, and wrote a New York Times best-selling book. He also became a world-class player in several poker games, including Hold'em, Omaha, and Triple Draw tournaments.
We assume he has a car.
Seeing Reality Clearly
Hellmuth attributes his success to his ability to "see reality clearly."
He explains, "Seeing reality clearly just means that I can watch a football game and I can see all the obvious mistakes the coaches make... when it comes to poker strategy, I can see what's right and what's wrong".
"I can do it at a world-class level".
Does this mean that both of the famous Phils of poker are NFL savants?
Beyond poker, Hellmuth has also found success as an entrepreneur and advisor.
He has signed official advisor agreements with 23 companies, helping them with strategic vision and raising non-VC money. He has also invested in many companies, some of which have gone big.
He shares, "I have one point in one company that is now arguably worth... $10 billion. That's $100 million for me".
The Power of Positivity
Hellmuth's book, "Positivity," has been influential, with Tony Robbins recommending it in his advanced seminars.
The book shares eight life tips, including the mantra, "You are always in the right place at the right time."
Hellmuth believes that this mindset has been key to his success in poker and beyond.
Getting a Big Hug from Elon Musk
Phil recounted his story with Elon Musk:
"In August, I was in Italy with Elon just when X launched.
I didn't expect him to join us because of his commitment to Twitter. Despite working 18-hour days, he managed to make the trip. When X launched, he showed it to me on his phone, excited about the new release. I know Elon well; he's in my circle of friends, and one of my best friends is also very close to him. I'm confident that his purchase of Twitter was motivated by a desire to preserve free speech.
During the trip, I expressed my admiration for his dedication, especially for sleeping on the floor of Twitter's offices to uphold free speech (however, it seems that Musk chose a couch, not the bare floor).
He gave me a big hug in response.
I understand his actions and get frustrated when he faces criticism from both Republicans and Democrats for various reasons. But if you champion free speech, you're bound to upset many people. It takes someone with Elon's strength to bring free speech into our lives despite the backlash.
Elon has faced immense scrutiny while trying to achieve monumental goals like colonizing Mars and the Moon, pioneering electric cars, and now, advocating for free speech. These endeavors are fundamental to him, and it angers me to see him attacked on social media."
"As for handling praise, I've learned from Elon that it's best to stay grounded. He tries to ignore it, which is challenging but necessary to avoid being swayed by criticism. I've experienced similar situations; excessive praise can inflate your ego, leading to a harsher fall when criticism comes. Elon's approach is to remain detached from both praise and criticism.
Reflecting on my own experiences, I've realized that praise can be detrimental to performance. It's important to distinguish between confidence and praise; the latter can negatively impact your work if you let it get to your head."
To watch the full interview, visit the PokerOrg YouTube channel and get comfortable.