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Phil Hellmuth Goes Mainstream with CNBC, Wall Street Journal Interviews

Phil Hellmuth Goes Mainstream with CNBC, Wall Street Journal Interviews 0001
  • Phil Hellmuth took full advantage of the spotlight last week. "I'm a personality and a promoter."

It was a good week for Phil Hellmuth and, by extension, for poker. The release of his new autobiography, Poker Brat, has garnered some mainstream attention. In true Hellmuth fashion, he is taking advantage of the spotlight.

Hellmuth was interviewed on CNBC's "PowerLunch", quoted on MarketWatch, featured in The Wall Street Journal, and even spent close to two hours talking to Doug Polk. And if all that isn't enough, he announced that he accepted an exclusive and well-sought-after invitation to speak at SXSW, a global event that attracts the best creative and professional minds in film, music, and technology. That appearance will take place in early 2018.

Attention is something Hellmuth understands is important, not only to help grow his brand but to help celebrate the game of poker.

"I'm a personality and a promoter," Hellmuth said on Polk's popular video blog that has already garnered over 110,000 views. "I believe that anyone who is great at poker can make a ton of money outside of poker. That's what I believe."

Regardless of what you think about him, Hellmuth brings eyes and interest to a game that has struggled to enter the world of corporate sponsorship.

Whether it's through his infamous tantrums, name dropping, or beyond stellar results at the World Series of Poker, Hellmuth attracts attention and is fascinating enough to keep it. That is no small feat in a world where the average attention span is less than that of a goldfish.

The Poker Brat on His Notorious Temper

"That’s less than 1% of my life," Hellmuth tells the Wall Street Journal, referring to his "Poker Brat" antics. He then added, "I talk about how I’ve changed, but then I still lose it."

Even though he loses it on the felt, Hellmuth tells Polk, "I strive to get along with everyone in the poker community. I think I've done a great job at that. I have zero enemies. There might be a few guys that don't like me. But zero enemies, that's what it feels like."

While Hellmuth didn't receive any penalties this summer at the WSOP for his behavior, he did have a few admittedly embarrassing moments where he wished he could have handled himself better.

"I'm always very careful when I start whining not to direct it at an individual. There were floor men waiting on both sides for me to say 'him' or to point at somebody. I wish I could handle myself better in those moments. But that's just me. I'm just so hyper competitive."

Once labeled a brat, always a brat ... or so it seems. While Hellmuth continues to work on his temper, people have come to expect the flare-ups, and in some cases even try to provoke it.

Why? Because a good old-fashioned, drama-filled outburst is good for TV. It makes an otherwise boring sport entertaining.

In fact, Hellmuth is often seated at TV tables in hopes of catching him in "the moment." According to the Wall Street Journal article, producers encourage him to be himself, to be the "Poker Brat." His tirades aren't "a strategy to throw off his opponents; he just can’t help it."

Phil Hellmuth

The Poker Brat on How to Beat the Games

Interestingly enough, when asked on CNBC to provide one piece of advice to budding poker players, Hellmuth didn't talk about tilt prevention; he preached patience.

"I think you can beat 50 percent, maybe even 70 percent of the games out there in the world. It's about not playing very many hands. It's about playing maybe 15 percent of the hands, whereas most amateurs think to be patient means playing 30 percent of the hands. Cut some of that fat, and that alone will put you in good stead in 70 percent of the poker games."

If you follow poker, you've watched Hellmuth's patience in action as he waits for the right spot. He is often ridiculed for allowing his stack to dwindle down to just a few big blinds, guaranteeing several callers. There are cases for both sides of this argument, but who can argue with his success?

He has over $21 million in lifetime earnings, the most WSOP bracelets (14) and the most WSOP cashes (126) and is the only person to win both the WSOP Main Event and WSOP Europe Main Event.

The Poker Brat on Staking

It's these successes, along with his bigger than life personality, that has earned him a best-seller ranking on Amazon and attracted attention from MarketWatch to talk about staking players. This financial side of poker is not usually a topic discussed in the mainstream.

Having been on both sides of the staking game, he talked about the rush of it.

"Imagine having a piece of a horse at the Kentucky Derby. You get a one-minute sweat," Hellmuth said, referring to the adrenaline hit of watching live competition. "Imagine you have a piece of [a poker player] for $60 ... They start to go deep. You’re at home, you’re pressing the refresh button. Then he goes deeper, and you don’t dream at that point, with 1,000 players left, that he’s going to win it. Now all the sudden you’re thinking man, if he could make the final table, that’s a million bucks. It’s exciting. It"s, like, what a sweat for $60."

He was referring to the fact that four of 2017 WSOP Main Event Champion Scott Blumstein's college friends invested $60 each toward his buy-in. By winning the Main Event, that $60 turned into $40,750.

But not all staking sees such a hefty reward. Hellmuth provided this advice: "Pick someone who's 'in form.' In poker, when you’re hot, it usually leads to multiple good things happening versus when you’ve been cold for a while or in a slump."

The Poker Brat on Slumps and Life

Hellmuth knows a thing or two about slumps, particularly during a cold stretch in 2009. "I just wasn't winning anything," he confessed to the Wall Street Journal. And that prompted him to look inward. He changed his email from "tryingtobethegreatest" to "beingthegreatest," and he started winning again.

You might call it variance. Hellmuth just happens to be "a big believer in the power of your own words."

When Polk asked about his hashtags, #PHLIFE and #POSITIVITY, Hellmuth responded, "I think it's aspirational. It's an aspirational life that I lead. I'm hanging out with the coolest people on the planet, and I know it. I've been to the coolest places, the coolest hotels. I understand that I have a very cool life. I'm really thankful."

Hellmuth's love of the game is not in question. Whether you love him or love to hate him, Hellmuth is good for poker. Let's hope he keeps tapping into the promoter within and continues to bring attention and more players to the game.

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