Tuesday, November 18, 2014

My Fill of Phil

Phil Hellmuth recently appeared as a guest on Rounders co-scriptor Brian Koppelman’s “The Moment” podcast which is part of the Grantland “pop culture” category of content.

I’d heard something about the appearance, but hadn’t got around to listening. Then after all of the ruckus regarding Daniel Colman’s comment in a Two Plus Two thread about the show calling Hellmuth -- or, at least, “people of his attitude and character” -- “a cancer to this world,” I decided to dial it up, perhaps to listen and weigh in here about it.

Hellmuth is no doubt a fascinating character in poker. He’s also one of a very few in the game known to non-players or casual observers of the game and its subculture.

Occasionally I’ll get asked about him by those who’ve seen his antics on television. “Is he really such a jerk?” the question usually goes. I can’t really answer without lots of qualifications. Yes, I’ll say, he’s awful at the tables. But those who know him best insist he’s a “good guy.” And he’s also highly diverting for those of us who report on tourneys, always adding an extra layer of entertainment (for better or worse) to what can sometimes be plodding proceedings.

I don’t go deeper into Hellmuth’s troubling association with UltimateBet or other possible marks against him. Or for him, for that matter.

I’ve written here before about my ambivalence toward the Poker Brat. A couple of years ago there was a lot of talk following his 13th bracelet win (in the WSOP Europe Main Event) that perhaps the WSOP would be signing him up in some capacity to represent the brand and/or the (then still-to-come) online site.

Some seemed weirdly enthusiastic about such a possibility, but I wasn’t. Referring both to his UB/Cereus past and consistently poor behavior at the tables, I concluded “the WSOP could do much, much better than to hire the world’s whiniest winner and poker’s poorest sport” as a representative.

All of which probably explains why I couldn’t even get through the first half-hour of Koppelman’s podcast, during which Hellmuth…

  • shares details regarding his extensive charity work,
  • suggests that he’s earned everything he’s got in poker without being backed,
  • insists “the only place to measure poker greatness is by bracelets won,”
  • brags “I’ve crushed people in the mixed games” and “I’m the biggest winner on Poker Night in America,”
  • notes how everyone respects him and he gets along with everybody,
  • laments how he missed out on a big contract with an online site worth $20 million-ish when Black Friday arrived,
  • drops names (including Tiger Woods and Bill Clinton),
  • reports “I’m under siege for autographs everywhere I go,”
  • and also -- repeatedly -- explains that he’s never cheated on his wife despite having had opportunities to do so.
  • Koppelman does gamely try during that opening blast to dig beneath the surface a little, and perhaps he gets there later on. But I found it too much of a struggle to give another moment to “The Moment,” having heard enough PR from PH to last a while.

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    Blogger GarethChantler said...

    sacrilegious! you dont like listening to the least self aware person imaginable?

    11/18/2014 1:59 PM  
    Blogger Robert Dudek said...

    According to 2p2 Pokercast, Hellmuth stated that he thought Rounders Mike McD was based on him.

    11/22/2014 12:03 PM  
    Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

    That story (of Hellmuth perhaps inspiring the Johnny Chan character in Rounders) was teased at the start of the podcast, but I couldn't make it that far into the show to hear it.

    11/22/2014 2:04 PM  

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