Born in Dublin, Ireland, Phil Laak learned to play cards while growing up, but the game wouldn’t become his profession until later on in his life. Before professional poker, Laak came to the United States and attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst where he obtained a degree in mechanical engineering. After college, Phil tried out various career paths including an engineer, a day trader, and investing.
After those forays, Phil became immersed in poker with both high stakes cash games and tournaments. Laak took sixth in the Legends of Poker in 2003 and made himself over $50,000. Later that year, he also made a deep run at the Five Diamond World Poker Classic. In February of 2004, he won the WPT Invitational event. In other WPT success, Laak has final tabled two other events. One of those was the Five Diamond World Poker Classic in 2005 where he placed sixth for over $160,000.
In 2005, Laak made a final table at the WSOP. The event was a $2,500 buy-in, Pot-Limit Hold’em event and the only thing that stood between Laak and his first bracelet after hours of play was seasoned champion Johnny Chan. Chan defeated Laak and went on to win his tenth bracelet, leaving Laak with second place and nearly $160,000. That same year he also made the money in another WSOP event.
At the William Hill Poker Grand Prix, Phil would get another chance at a big win when he got heads up with Ram Vaswani for the £150,000 first-place prize. Laak proved better than Vaswani and took down the event. He also won Poker After Dark for $120,000 once, defeating a table stacked with Doyle Brunson, Phil Hellmuth, Erik Seidel, Jennifer Harman, and good friend Antonio Esfandiari.
Outside of tournament poker, Laak regularly plays cash games and is considered one of the best players around, participating in the highest limits around. He’s also appeared on High Stakes Poker multiple times.
Laak earned the nickname “Unabomber” because he usually can be found wearing a hooded sweatshirt and sunglasses at the table. The look makes him look like the police sketch of Theodore Kaczynski. He also acts out a lot at the table. Running around to get a better look at the deal of the cards, pushups, and tightly wrapping himself up in his sweatshirt are all antics put on by Laak. At the WSOP in 2008, Laak went one step further and disguised himself as an older man, complete with a latex mask, wig, and make up.
The show “I Bet You” also stars Laak alongside Antonio Esfandiari. The show is a reality show where Phil and Antonio expose their degenerate side with bets on anything and everything. Laak also actively contributes to various poker publications.