Players who stand out in the crowd
Since the rise of poker, in different times there have been different players who really made a mark in the poker world with their game. Players, whose plays are remembered and relived even today. Really interesting personalities, philanthropists and even geniuses.
I would like to mention 13 of them and briefly tell you their story. Of course there are many more and a good place to look for the best poker players in history is the Poker Hall of Fame.
It’s quite a long read, so if you want to jump to a certain name, I’ve prepared a clickable list for you to do so.
- Johnny Moss
- Jack Strauss
- Doyle Brunson
- T.J. Cloutier
- Dan Harrington
- David “Chip” Reese
- Stu Ungar
- Barry Greenstein
- Men Nguyen
- Johnny Chan
- Erik Seidel
- Scotty Nguyen
- Phill Helmuth
Johnny Moss was born in Marshall, Texas in 1907 and grew up in Dallas, Texas. He learned how to gamble as a young kid and became good at cheating as well. This came in handy when as a teenager he was hired at a local saloon to watch over games and make sure that no one was cheating. Moss didn’t just watch over the games, though. He used the time he worked there to practice his poker and developed a really good strategy.
Johnny Moss played at every WSOP from 1970 to 1995 and during that time he won 9 WSOP bracelets. He won 3 WSOP Main Events in 1970, 1971, and 1974. His other bracelets came from Seven Card Stud and Ace to Five Draw events.
There’s an anecdote about Moss that he played a 5-month long heads-up poker marathon with Nick the Greek, in which he won between $2 and 4$ million. At the end of the game Nick uttered what has become one of the most famous poker quotes ever: “Mr. Moss, I have to let you go.”.
He died on December 16, 1995, but his legend still lives on today.
“I learned how to play from my daddy and been playin’ cards since I was six or seven, just like the rest of these Texas boys. I can remember when I was a kid they’d be shootin’ craps out in the woods. They’d lay a four-by-four piece o’ plywood on the ground and you’d get 50 or 60 cars pulled up in there, people sittin’ round drinkin’ beer and throwin’ dice. At night they’d turn the car lights on and they’d go all weekend.”
“I think Texans just got a lot more guts has a lot to do with it, most other folks just don’t take the heat when you start playin’ real poker. In Texas you grow up playin’ poker, it’s a Texas game.”
Strauss was a true gambler and so his life was a true rollercoaster filled with huge wins and massive losses. He was an ultra-aggressive short-hand specialist. Jack won his first WSOP bracelet in a 1973 Deuce to Seven Draw event and he also made Main Event final tables 3 times: in 1972 he finished fourth, in 1973 he finished third and in 1982 he won it.
That 1982 Main Event win was very special, because at one time Jack pushed all his chips to the pot, got called, and lost the hand. As he was standing up he realized that he has one more chip left under a napkin on the table. It was a $500 chip and he managed not only to come back from this situation but to win the whole tournament.
That’s how we got the expression of “a chip and a chair”.
There’s also a great anecdote about Jack Strauss in a 1983 book “The Biggest Game in Town” wrote by Alfred Alvarez:
“The master of this absolute, all-or-nothing way of life is Jack Straus. In 1970, a terrible run at poker in Las Vegas reduced him to his last $40. Instead of quitting, he took the $40 to the blackjack table and bet it all on a single hand. He won, and continued to bet all the money in front of him until he had turned the $40 into $500. He took the $500 back to the poker game and ran it up to $4,000, returned to the blackjack table and transformed the $4,000 into $10,000. He finally bet the whole sum on the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl and won $20,000. In less than twenty-four hours, he went from near bankruptcy to relative affluence. The story is famous enough to have gone into gambling folklore, but the real point of it is his refusal to compromise. Each time he bet, he bet all the money he had, from the first $40 to the final $10,000.”
Jack Strauss died doing what he loved most, he suffered a fatal heart attack while playing poker at the Bicycle Club in Los Angeles only six years after his ME win, in 1988.
Doyle was born in Longworth, Fisher County, Texas in 1933. He was a natural athlete who went to college on both basketball and track scholarships. The Minneapolis Lakers showed interest in Brunson, but an unfortunate accident ended his hopes of becoming a professional basketball player. He shattered his leg at the gypsum factory where he was working pre-season.
Doyle began playing poker before the injury and after it, he started playing more and his winnings allowed him to pay for the medical expenses. He was a natural at reading people at the table and he got good at playing very fast.
In 1962 he was diagnosed with cancer and given a mere three months left of his life, but the surgeons cut it out and fortunately, Brunson lived. He’s a wise man and you can feel that in what he wrote in the preface of his book Super System 2:
“I’ve made many millions playing poker, and at times early on, lost most of my bankroll betting on sports and golf. But I’ve always done my thing, and I’m a happy man because of it. The pleasures have definitely outweighed the pain. Through it all, I’ve learned that in life, a man’s not beaten even though he’s all-in. You can’t count him out until the fall of the last card. I’ve been tested time and again on many battlefields. I’ve lost a lot of little skirmishes, but I’ve won the big ones. That’s what really counts.”
“You see, I’m a gambler. I’ll always be one. I couldn’t be anything else. So my life will always be filled with wins—and losses. I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s exciting. There’s almost never a dull moment in my life, and I can’t imagine anyone having a better life than the one I have right now. I’ve got just about everything I want.”
Doyle Brunson has been a professional poker player for over 50 years. He is a true legend, one of four people who’s won the Main Event of World Series of Poker twice, which he did in 1976 and 1977. One of two people who have won WSOP events in four consecutive years(!!!). He was also the first person to both the WSOP ME and a World Poker Tour title.
Doyle has won 10 WSOP bracelets. His total live tournament winnings exceed $6,000,000, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. Only Brunson knows how much he’s won in all the huge cash games he’s played during his poker career.
This is what Johnny Chan says about Doyle in Super System 2:
I was once asked which nine opponents I’d least like to play against at one table. Now, there’s a tough question. But one player I could name without hesitation is Doyle “Texas Dolly” Brunson. Doyle isn’t someone you want to play against, but he is someone you definitely want to learn from.
Texas Dolly really changed the poker world in 1978, when he published his book Super System, a great book on Texas Hold’em and other poker games. This is an awesome book on poker and many of the aspects he talks about still apply 100% today so I recommend you read it.
He also published Super System 2 in 2004, which includes new games, new strategies, and insight not only from him but also from some of the greatest players including Chip Reese, David Sklansky, Mike Caro, Bobby Baldwin, and Joey Hawthorne. A MUST READ!
He’s also written several other books including Poker Wisdom of a Champion (2003), Online Poker: Your Guide to Playing Online Poker Safely & Winning Money (2005), My 50 Most Memorable Hands (2007), and The Godfather of Poker: The Doyle Brunson Story (2009), but I haven’t read those so I don’t know if they’re good.
T.J. was born in Albany, California in 1939. As a kid, he was really into sports which resulted in entering the University of California at Berkeley on a baseball and football athletic scholarship. As a sophomore, he played in the Rose Bowl in 1959 but had to drop out when his mother became ill to help his father pay some of the medical bills.
Then the army snapped him since he was no longer a draft-deferred student. After the army, he played for Toronto Argonauta and Montreal Alouettes in the Canadian Football League for 5 years until his knees gave out and he had to look for another job.
Cloutier gained his first experience playing poker when he was a caddy in a golf club in San Francisco. He and other caddies would play poker after work and one day somebody passed around some discounts on a buy-in in Artichoke Joe’s cardroom. For 15$ he received a $20 buy-in for the lowball game and that’s how his poker career begun at the age of 17.
He played during college and he played when he was in the army. While he was playing in the Canadian Football League, yea, you guessed it, he played poker on the side as well. After his injury, he started a food company with his father and brother-in-law, but it was not successful, unfortunately, they merged with A&A Foods, who stole from them.
After that T.J wound up as a night manager for Wonder Bread in San Francisco, it was about at that time when he realized he was making more money out of playing poker than his job so he decided to move to poker full time.
Cloutier was the first man to earn $1 million at the WSOP without winning the Main Event. He is also the only person in history to have won events in three types of Omaha played at the World Series of Poker — Pot Limit High, Limit High, and Limit 8-or-Better High-low split. T.J. has won a total of 6 bracelets of which 4 came from Omaha, 1 from Hold’em, and 1 from Seven Card Razz. His total live tournament winnings exceed $10 million.
What is even more astonishing is the fact that he finished in the top 5 in the Main Event four times: in 1985 he lost only to Bill Smith and in 2000 he lost to Chris Ferguson, in 1998 he finished third and in 1988 he placed fifth.
T.J. co-authored with Tom McEvoy four books on poker:
- Championship Tournament Practice Hands
- Championship Holdem
- Championship Omaha
- Championship No-Limit and Pot Limit Hold’em.
In 2006 he also wrote his own book called “How To Win The Championship: Hold’em Strategies For The Final Table”.
I only read the “Championship No-Limit and Pot Limit Hold’em” and can definitely recommend it, but I surely need to get my hands on the Championship Omaha, because T.J. is an awesome Omaha player and I bet that book is a great read.
Cloutier is also a gambler and that’s what he says about his gambling in the Championship No-Limit & Pot-Limit Hold’em:
“I’ve had a lot of holes that I’m trying to patch up. I love craps and over the years, I’ve lost a lot of money at i. I used to love to run to the crap table all the time and, of course, that hurts your side play because it’s so much faster than the poker. But now if I play craps, I never go to the table with more than $400, no ATM card, nothing like that. I’ve made several scores of over $50,000 off of $500, but if I go to the table with $20,000 I don’t win a single bet! So now, playing craps is once-in-a-while thing for me.”
Dan was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1945. He is a former champion backgammon player(he won the 1981 World Cup of backgammon in Washington D.C.) and U.S. chess master (he won the 1971 Massachusetts State Chess Championship).
He first played the WSOP Main Event in 1987 and he made the final table and finished in sixth place. In 1995 he managed to win the World Series of Poker ME for $1 million. He’s also final tabled the Main Event in 2003(he finished 3rd for $650,000) and in 2004(he placed fourth for $1,5 million).
Harrington is one of the five people who have the World Series of Poker Main Event and a World Poker Tour title. His live tournament winnings exceed $6,5 million.
Dan Harrington is not a professional poker player, though. He only plays poker part-time. Since his ME win in 1995 he’s been a successful businessman. He owns a company that operates in the real estate market and the stock market.
He has written probably the most popular books on Hold’em:
- Harrington on Hold’em: Volume I: Strategic Play (2004)
- Harrington on Hold’em: Volume II: The Endgame (2005)
- Harrington on Hold’em: Volume III: The Workbook (2006)
- Harrington on Cash Games, Volume I: How to Play No-Limit Hold ’em Cash Games (2008)
- Harrington on Cash Games, Volume II: How to Play No-Limit Hold ’em Cash Games (2008)
- Harrington on Online Cash Games; 6-Max No-Limit Hold ’em (2010)
- Harrington on Modern Tournament Poker (2014)
I’ve read all of them besides the two newest, which I have to admit, I certainly gotta read. He’s a great author and these books have awesome value. You can learn so much from them. He writes in a great analytical way that gives you an insight into how you should be thinking about poker.
Dan is a very conservative tight player and that’s the style you’ll learn from his books. It’s awesome for beginners and as you can see by his example it’s all you need in order to win at hold’em.
David Edward Reese was born in Centerville, Ohio in 1951. During his early years in elementary school, he suffered from rheumatic fever so he stayed at home a lot. His mother taught him how to play board games and card games. Chip often said that “he was a product of that time”. At the age of six, he was playing poker with older kids for baseball cards.
David continued to play on through his high school and college years. He graduated from Dartmouth in 1974 with a degree in economics. He was a member of Beta Theta Pi Fraternity there and they later named their card room, the “David E. Reese Memorial Card Room”.
He decided to go to Stanford Law School but before the start of the academic term, he visited Las Vegas and won a Seven Card Stud tournament there, which provided him with a nice starting bankroll of $60,000. At that point, Chip Reese began his professional poker career.
There’s a fun anecdote about David, that around the time he started playing in Vegas there was one night when he saw a big game of hi-low split $400/$800 stakes and some big names playing it there. He watched them for a while and thought they played terribly, so he decided to call his playing partner at that time, Dan Robison, and convinced him that they should invest $15,000 of their bankroll in that game, even though it was a lot of money to them then. Reese got into that game and in a few days, their bankroll skyrocketed to $400,000.
For the next three decades, Reese played in the highest cash games in the world with some of the toughest players. He wasn’t just a Texas Hold’em player, though, he played it all and he was so good at Seven Card Stud, Doyle Brunson chose him to write about that game in his Super System. That’s what Doyle wrote about Chip in that book:
“In addition to being a fundamentally sound player, he has the best natural instincs about what to do in difficult situations of any card player I’ve ever sat at a table with.
Although he’s a super all-around card player, at his specialty – Seven-Card Stud, Chip appears to be on a different plateau from everyone else. And… by everyone else, I mean the best Seven-Stud players in the world. Without a doubt… Chip’s the best Seven-Card Stud player I’ve ever played with”.
David also played poker tournaments and he’s won 3 WSOP bracelets. His tournament winnings exceeded $3,5 million. He also enjoyed sports betting and made good money on it.
Reese died in 2007, at his Las Vegas home by the age of only 56. Some sources state that Chip died in his sleep from the effects of pneumonia, while others state it was a heart attack. The poker world mourned the loss of a true legend. Doyle Brunson said after David’s death that:
“He’s certainly the best poker player that ever lived.”
Stuart Errol “Stu” Ungar was born in Manhattan, New York in 1953. He was exposed to gambling at a young age since his father was a loan shark, who ran a bar called Foxes Corner, which was also a gambling place.
The Kid, as people called him, was smart, and that allowed him to skip the seventh grade, but he finished his education in tenth grade by dropping out. He was involved in the New York gambling scene a lot playing gin and he was regarded as one of the best gin players in New York.
Around the age of 18, he met Victor Roman, who was considered one of the best card players of his time and who was also a member of organized crime. They developed a very close relationship and Roman became Stu’s mentor and protector.
He was winning a lot in gin tournaments, but he’d lose all that money and more on gambling on local race tracks, so eventually, he had to leave New York due to gambling debts. Stu moved to Miami, Florida, and then to Las Vegas, Nevada.
He was still playing gin at that time and he beat a gin professional Harry “Yonkie” Stein, who was thought to be the best player at the time 86-0 in a high stakes game. Nobody wanted to play him after that. Ungar even offered handicaps to generate some action, but his reputation was so overwhelming even casinos asked him not to play in their gin tournaments, because players complained they would not play if Stu was playing.
That forced Stuey to try his skills at Poker and especially Texas Hold’em. In 1980 he played his first WSOP Main Event and he won it defeating none other than Doyle Brunson, becoming the youngest champion in history. He defended his title in 1981 successfully, which places him in the prestigious club of back-to-back ME winners together with Johnny Moss, Doyle Brunson, and Johnny Chan.
Ungar married Madeline Wheeler in 1982 and the couple had a daughter, Stefanie, that same year. Their marriage didn’t last long and after 4 years they got divorced. Stu had a drug problem, he was using cocaine so much that he was found unconscious on the floor from an overdose in his hotel room on the third day of 1990 WSOP ME.
He had such a chip lead that he still finished 9th, even though he didn’t return to play and was only slowly blinded out. Unfortunately, most of the money he won playing poker he lost betting on sports or horses. He was a true gambler.
In 1997 Stu Ungar was in a really bad place. He was deeply in debt and the years of his drug addiction had taken its toll. He was desperately looking for money to play in the Main Event of World Series of Poker and he received it from his old friend Billy Baxter only moments before the tournament started.
The Comeback Kid, as the media called him afterward, went on to win the ME for the third time and dedicated his win to his daughter. He and Billy split the $1 million dollar prize evenly.
Stu, unfortunately, spent that money in a couple of months, mainly on betting and drugs. He tried giving up on his addiction several times, but he was not successful. It eventually got so bad, he was smoking crack and none of his friends would give him money anymore until he cleaned himself up.
Stu Ungar was found dead in 1998 in a motel room. The medical examiner concluded that the cause of death was a heart condition brought on by his years of drug abuse.
He won an unbelievable amount of money playing poker but died completely broke.
There are many interesting anecdotes about Stuey, but what’s really worth mentioning is the fact that he was a very generous man when he had money. He would always help out a friend. He would take cabs everywhere and leave large tips to the drivers. He would invite his friends to a meal in a restaurant and pay for everyone plus leave a big tip.
Stu Ungar was certainly one of the best players of all time. He won 10 out of a total of 30 major no limit Texas Hold’em events he entered in his life. That’s just mindblowing!
There’s a movie that tells his story called High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story,
and there’s a biography One of a Kind: The Rise and Fall of Stuey ‘the Kid’ Ungar, the World’s Greatest Poker Player.
I haven’t yet read the book or seen the movie, but I surely will one day. It’s definitely worth it because Stuey’s story is extremely interesting.
When Barry was a child, he played all kinds of board games and card games with his family. His father taught him how to play five-card draw poker at the age of four. When Greenstein was twelve, he played his first organized poker game and he won. He played poker throughout high school and usually won as well.
This is what Barry says about his poker career in his book Ace On The River:
I have been a very successful poker player, but it has not been easy. I have been broke at times, either because of bad spending habits or just because of the natural ups and downs of the game. Poker playing is not a career that offers a smooth ride to the top. Many poker players are regularly broke, enjoying only brief spells in which they have money and no outstanding debts. A very small percentage of players make a net profit”
By the time he was 18 and a sophomore in college, he had built up a bankroll of about $1500. He went to college and got a degree in computer science, then he studied mathematics for 10 years in graduate school. Barry was playing poker all that time, he would find a game almost every night.
As he continued to win, he started playing higher stakes:
“I had started playing poker for quarters at age twelve. In high school I played for dollars, and in college I often won hundreds of dollars. By the time I graduated from college, I could win $1000 on a good night. When I was in graduate school, I could win a few thousand dollars in a session.”
When Greenstein was 26 years old, he decided to stop playing poker for a while and go back to working on his Ph.D. thesis. He had accumulated over $100,000 bankroll at that time.
In 1984 he moved to California with his wife, Donna, and he took a job at a start-up software company which later became known as Symantec. He did that, because he wanted to adopt his stepchildren and his lawyer said that he wouldn’t have much of a chance if his occupation was listed as a professional gambler. That job didn’t pay as well as poker, and the couple actually almost run out of money, but they turned it around:
“We had trouble supporting our lifestyle and family with my paychec, but I was a key employee at Symantec and felt obligated to stay. At one time, Donna and I could come up with only $40. Donna went to a $20 buy-in game and built it up to about $300. Then I took it to the $200 buy-in game, and within a month I had a $3000 win and used it to enter the biggest game.
By that time, I had been playing in the second-biggest game for almost a year. When I graduated to the biggest game, they never knew what hit them. Two of the self-proclaimed best players were broke within a year”
Barry finally stopped working at Symantec in 1990. He was playing poker full time, but he was also gambling a lot on sports, blackjack, and chinese poker.
Despite consistently beating the game, my spending habits still caused the money to disappear. I rarely left myself enough money to lose three times in a row. I wasn’t broke – I had plenty of assets – but I was cash-poor, and I would have to liquidate something if I experienced a losing streak.
I once lost $500,000 in a single month [on sports betting]. Meanwhile, Ted Forrest and I played Chinese poker after the stud games. Over a period of a month and a half, I had lost $1.5 million.
I didn’t have the money. I had recently suffered substantial losses in the stock market. I owed the bookie and I wrote markers at the casinos to maximum credit limit”.
Greenstein quickly learned his lessons with gambling and focused more on playing poker. The year 2003 was a turning point for him as he beat the high stakes game of $4000-$8000$ badly and won several million dollars.
Barry is also a well-known philanthropist and his charitable interests earned him the nickname “Robin Hood of Poker”. That same year 2003 he won $770,000 in a seven-card stud tournament and he decided to donate $440,000 to 440 coordinators of Children, Incorporated. That’s what the Robin Hood of Poker says about his charitable work:
The overwhelming response I have recieved about my charitable work has, of course, been very positive. When I walk through a card room, many people shake my hand and compliment me. I can invariably get reservation at hotels, restaurants, and entertainment events even when they are supposedly sold out. I can’t deny that the attention I get is very gratifying, but I try to keep it in perspective. I don’t pretend to be Mother Theresa.
All the quotes come from Barry’s book Ace on the River. It’s a great book and I really recommend you read it.
Greenstein’s got 3 WSOP bracelets and his tournament winnings exceed $7,5 million. This is what Barry says about his poker statistics:
I have played poker for a living since 1968. When I played no-limit, I won more than 75% of my sessions. When I played limit, I won around 58% of my sessions. Until 1997, I averaged less than one losing month per year. In 1997, I started playing in a high-stakes game that is played a couple of times per week. I averaged four losing months per year for the first six years of the game, and I have won only about 50% of the sessions.
I have spent extravangatly and made lal the mistakes that are mentioned in this book except for using alcohol and drugs. I have often been in a position where I would be broke or at least short of cash if I have one bad month. Currently, I am in very good financial shape, but there are no guarantees I will stay this way since I am always involved in many personal and philantrhopic projects”
Men “The Master” Nguyen was born in 1954 in Phan Thiet, Vietnam. By the age of 24, he escaped from the communist regime in Vietnam and sailed to Malaysia. He received political asylum from the United States and moved to Los Angeles, California. 8 years later in 1986, he became an American citizen.
When he first started playing poker, he wasn’t doing very well. In fact, he was losing hundreds of dollars every weekend, which earned him the nickname “Money Machine”. It didn’t take him long, though, to master the game and he won his first tournament in 1987.
Men has been very successful ever since. He has won 7 WSOP bracelets and his tournament winnings exceed $10,5 million.
Nguyen is well known for being one of the very best teachers in poker history. It’s his students who gave him the nickname “The Master”.
The Master is also a philanthropist. He has supported various charities in his home country. In 1996 WSOP ME he finished 4th and he used the winnings to build a kindergarten in Vietnam.
Men is a practicing Buddhist and you can feel his cheerful and humble attitude even from looking at his picture above from 2006 WSOP.
At the age of 21, Chan dropped out of the University of Houston, where he was majoring in hotel and restaurant management, and moved to Las Vegas to become a professional gambler.
Johnny has won 10(!) WSOP bracelets and his tournament winnings exceed $7 million. He is one of the very few who have won back-to-back World Series of Poker Main Events. He did that in 1987 and 1988.
Chan collaborated with Mark Karowe to release Play Poker Like Johnny Chan and he also wrote Million Dollar Hold’em: Winning Big in Limit Cash Games. I haven’t read either of these books yet.
Johnny also portrayed himself in a great film Rounders. You can watch that scene here:
Erik Seidel was born in 1959 in New York City, New York. While he was in college he took up backgammon and soon became so good at it, he eventually dropped out to pursue a professional career. He took part in backgammon tournaments for about 8 years, then he moved to poker.
He was able to hone his poker skills watching and playing with great players like Stu Ungar or Dan Harrington in New York’s famous Mayfair Club. Seidel also worked a normal job as a stockbroker but after the market crash in 1987, he lost that job and focused solely on poker.
In his first major tournament, the Main Event of WSOP in 1988 he finished second. Altogether he’s won 8 bracelets, 1 World Poker Tour title, and 1 European Poker Title.
Erik’s total tournament winnings exceed $30 million(!!!). He is considered to be one of the best tournament players in the world and he regularly plays the high roller and super high roller tournaments.
Thuận B. “Scotty” Nguyễn was born in 1962 in Nha Trang, Vietnam. Because of the conflict in Vietnam, his mother decided to send him out of the country to Taiwan. When he was 14 years old he found a sponsor in Orange County, California, and moved to the United States.
Scotty attended dealer school at the age of 21 and worked at Harrah’s poker room after that. He used the money he earned from dealing on playing poker, but he was losing at the beginning. His luck changed in 1985 when he gambled his $7000 bankroll up to a million.
He started playing poker full time, living at the Caesars Palace, but his fast transition into having a lot of money made his bad habits of drug use and alcohol turn into addictions and after a long losing streak, he ended up going broke.
In 1997 he won a WSOP bracelet and over $150,000, but they money didn’t stick for long this time either, before the next year’s WSOP he was already broke and couldn’t come up with enough money to play in the Main Event.
Fortunately, Mike Matusow saw potential in Nguyen and bankrolled 1/3 of his buy-in so he could play and Scotty went on to win the tournament and the $1 million prize.
Scotty Nguyen’s total tournament earnings are close to $12 million. He has won 5 WSOP bracelets and 1 WPT Title.
You can find the video of his final hand of the ME WSOP win in 1998 with his famous quote “You call and it’s gonna be all over, baby!” on YouTube.
His father, Phil Hellmuth, Sr., was a dean at the University of Wisconsin, and his mother Lynn was a sculptor. Phil Jr. began playing cards with his family at a young age. He later said his most spirited games were against his grandmother and he dedicated his book “Play Poker Like the Pro’s”.
Hellmuth attended the University of Wisconsin for three years, but after winning good money in local poker games he dropped out. He traveled to Las Vegas 10 times before winning at the tables and he returned each time to build a bankroll.
When he finally won, though, he won big, in 1989, a 24-year-old Phil became the youngest person ever to win the WSOP Main Event and he defeated none other than the two time defending champion Johnny Chan. Hellmuth pocketed $755,000 for that victory.
Four years later Poker Brat, as he is known in the poker community, broke another record. He won 3(!!!) bracelets in one WSOP.
As of 2016 Phill Hellmuth holds the highest amount of WSOP bracelets in history at 14(!!!).
Twelve of his bracelets came from Texas Hold’em events, 2 from Seven-Card Razz.
Hellmuth also holds the world record for both most cash finishes at the WSOP (117) and most WSOP final tables (54). His live tournament winnings are close to $21 million.
He has authored several books including Play Poker like the Pros, Bad Beats and Lucky Draws, The Greatest Poker Hands ever Played, Phil Hellmuth’s Texas Hold ‘Em and Poker Brat.
Poker Brat is also known for his explosions at the tables when he is tilting and you can find many such videos on YouTube.