Phil Hellmuth (@phil_hellmuth) has won the World Series of Poker 14 times, is in the WSOP’s Poker Hall of Fame, and is the author of New York Times Best Seller Play Poker Like the Pros and Poker Brat: Phil Hellmuth’s Autobiography.
What We Discuss with Phil Hellmuth:
- The epiphany Phil Hellmuth had in his early twenties that set the course for the rest of his life.
- Nonverbal tells and body language for reading other people at the poker table.
- Why poker is more about playing the people across the table from you rather than the cards in your hands.
- How poker players control their emotions while playing.
- How Phil’s mindsets and key belief systems have helped him excel in the world of poker and beyond.
- And much more…
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Poker Brat Phil Hellmuth has made a pretty good living by reading and manipulating the emotions of others in the high-stakes world of poker, though he has a bit of a reputation as someone who’s not always in control of his own emotions.
In this episode, we talk about the epiphany that made Phil resolve to become the best poker player in the world, what his goals look like today, how his tantrums have gotten him in trouble, why poker is more about playing people than cards, the importance of forgiveness, and lots more. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
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More About This Show
It was at a dive bar in Madison, Wisconsin, that woke Phil Hellmuth up to the fact that he wasn’t living a satisfying life.
“I didn’t have anything else to do, so I drive across town to play poker,” says Phil. “And I’m restless. I tell my friends, ‘Hey, let’s go out and have some fun.’ We drive a half a mile to this local hole-in-the-wall bar. We go in there, we smoke pot, and we’re on our first drink. My friends are playing pool for 10 or 20 dollars a game and I’m getting involved. I’m frustrated with the action and I suddenly felt an awakening.”
He was only 22 or 23 years old, but realized right then and there that he had to do something else — immediately. He called a cab and exited the dark and dingy bar into cleansing bright sunlight; the symbolism of the moment wasn’t lost on him.
He went home and declared that if he was going to make a living playing poker, he was going to dedicate himself to the craft and become the best poker player in the world.
“I immediately wrote down a life goals list,” says Phil. “Win the Main Event of The World Series of Poker. Buy a nice house. Buy a nice car. Meet and marry an amazing woman. I think there were five goals, and one of them was write a New York Times Best Seller.”
A friend told Phil he was a good writer after reading a few of his poker strategies, so in spite of there being “no evidence at the time” that this was the case, he had enough of an ego to give it a shot even though he’d never gotten above a C in an English class.
“I’ve learned that skill too by wading through, literally, a thousand pages of stuff that I’ve written that’s just marked in red!” says Phil. “My skills have improved there, but who cares about that? You hire an editor for that!”
The result was eventually Play Poker Like the Pros — which did, indeed, become a New York Times Best Seller. But that would have to wait until 2003 — and it would be the last thing on the list he would check off.
The Winning Pyramid
In addition to writing down this list of life goals, Phil also compiled what he called The Winning Pyramid.
“On the bottom, let’s make sure we’re not doing drugs,” says Phil. “Let’s make sure we’re not an alcoholic. Let’s make sure we’re not a compulsive gambler. That was kind of my bottom row.
“Maybe the next level of that pyramid is getting the diet right. Start eating healthy food. And then there’s discipline.
“And at the top of it all is money management, because if you don’t have money management and you can’t pay your bills on time, it’s going to be a miserable existence.”
This epiphany happened around 1988. Phil won the Main Event in ’89, and met the woman who would become his wife two weeks after that. By ’90, he was living in penthouse condo on the lake and had a couple of nice cars.
By publishing Play Poker Like the Pros in 2003, he had everything checked off the list.
Everything was falling into place.
Listen to this episode in its entirety to learn more about how Phil worked 340 days a year “playing” poker, the skills he loses first when he decides to cut back, what he does to kick off the rust when he comes back to the game, the problems with the slant system, what it was like growing up with Chris Farley, being in control of emotions and adjusting for bias during the game, the differences between poker on the Internet and poker in the real world, common poker mistakes, the tilt concept, ways Phil reads the opposition and how we can use these methods in our daily lives, and lots more.
THANKS, PHIL HELLMUTH!
If you enjoyed this session with Phil Hellmuth, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at email@example.com.
Resources from This Episode:
- Poker Brat: Phil Hellmuth’s Autobiography by Phil Hellmuth
- Phil Hellmuth’s website
- Phil Hellmuth at Instagram
- Phil Hellmuth at Facebook
- Phil Hellmuth at Twitter
- Six-Minute Networking
- Once in a Lifetime Official Video by The Talking Heads
- Play Poker Like the Pros by Phil Hellmuth
- TJHS 40: Annie Duke | How to Make Decisions Like a Poker Champ
- Top 5 Phil Hellmuth Explosions
- Doyle Brunson’s Super System by Doyle ‘Texas Dolly’ Brunson and Chip Reese
- Phil Hellmuth Presents Read ‘Em and Reap: A Career FBI Agent’s Guide to Decoding Poker Tells by Joe Navarro, Marvin Karlins, and Phil Hellmuth
- Don Rickles — Ultimate Best Jokes Compilation
- #POSITIVITY: You Are Always in the Right Place at the Right Time by Phil Hellmuth
Transcript for Phil Hellmuth - The Winning Strategies of a Certified Poker Brat (Episode 57)
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:00] Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. As always, I'm here with my producer, Jason DeFillippo. Today, we're talking with Phil Hellmuth. He's won the world series of poker 14 times, 14 bracelets, and he's in the Poker Hall of Fame. He has a reputation as a brat who has meltdowns. In fact, his book is called Poker Brat. I know him somewhat differently as a warm and super caring and very sharp guy actually.
[00:00:23] Today, we'll discuss some of the obvious like nonverbal tells and body language to read other people at the poker table. And we'll explore some of the less obvious angles such as why poker is more about playing the people than the cards and how poker players control their emotions while playing, which is a bit ironic from someone famous for their explosive blowups on national television. We'll also uncover some of Phil's mindsets and why he thinks these key belief systems have helped him achieve so much in the world of poker and beyond. All of this and a lot more in this episode with Phil Hellmuth. Worksheets today, man, they're going to be pretty chunky. There's a lot of practicals.
[00:01:00] If you want to grab those and solidify your understandings of everything we talk about here today, go to jordanharbinger.com/podcast, and click the show notes. That's where those worksheets are. And the fee for the show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful, which should be ideally in every episode, and this episode has a lot. The worksheets are how we make sure that. Again, those are in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. All right, here's Phil Hellmuth.
[00:01:26] Let's start off when you were smoking pot, playing pool, and you said, “What the hell am I doing with myself?”
Phil Hellmuth: [00:01:32] In my book Poker Brat, I call that I can see the light chapter. So I remember that day. It was miserable when I woke up. And you know, poker players wake up late. Maybe I was up at 10 a.m., and there was a poker game at 11 a.m. But meager sticks, we're talking two and four dollar limit for any poker players out there. If I get really hot, maybe I could win 300, and I had like 20,000 dollars in the bank. So why you trying to go play poker to pick up 300 dollars, and yet didn't have anything else to do in Madison, Wisconsin. And so I drive across town to play poker, and I'm restless. And I tell my friends, “Hey, let's go out and have some fun.” We drive a half a mile to this local hole in the wall bar. We go in there, we smoked pot and we're on our first drink, and my friends are playing pool for 10 or 20 dollars a game and I'm getting involved and I'm frustrated with the action and I'm just like, I suddenly felt like an awakening.
[00:02:32] It's like many days go by, woe to flowing underground. Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was. It's like the talking heads where you just wake up in this horrible moment and say, “What has going on in my life?” It was like 22 or 23 years old, and I'm like, I got to get out of here. I mean something, something weird is happening. Let me get out of here immediately. I think I called for a taxi and then I opened the side door and boom, and the sun is, it's just like this bright light. Imagine this dingy, poorly lit barn. Boom. This light just hits me. And I'm like, wow, you know, it was just symbolic of something maybe. And I'm like, get out of here. And I went back to my house and I decided, all right, I don't like the path of your life. If you're going to be a professional poker player, then you're going to become one of the best in the world, okay? And you're going to dedicate yourself to this craft of being great at poker. And so I immediately wrote down a life goals list. You know, one goal when the main event of the world series of poker was the number one goal. Buy a nice house, buy a nice car, or probably number two was meet Mary an amazing woman. I think there were five goals and then one of them was right in New York Times bestseller.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:47] Why were you interested in writing book at that point? Who cares about that at that point, right?
Phil Hellmuth: [00:03:51] Weird thing. But I had written a couple of pages of poker strategy and my friend had gotten a hold of it and he's like, “Wow! You're a really good writer.” There was no evidence [indiscernible] [00:03:47], right? I never had to B an English class in my life. But there's a difference between putting content out and putting content out that's technically correct. And so the reason I wasn't, you know, good was probably so I thought, “Wow! Who cares about whether or not you can write well.” And I've learned that skill too by waiting through literally a thousand pages of stuff that I've written that's just marked in red. My skills have improved there, but who cares about that? You hire an editor for them.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:31] Yeah, of course.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:04:32] Then I wrote down this, what I call the winning pyramid. I was like, okay, you have these goals now. All right, let's take a look at your life, okay? And so the pyramid on the bottom, all right, let's make sure we're not doing drugs. So let's make sure we're not an alcoholic. Let's make sure we're not a compulsive gambler. That was kind of my bottom row.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:50] How worried about that were you at that point in your life, were you thinking like, “Hey, but for the grace of God, go I down the path of drugs, alcohol or like losing control of how much I'm gambling?”
Phil Hellmuth: [00:04:59] So easy to do that when you're a professional poker player. No one's looking over you, large amounts of cash is a commodity, and so it's easy to use that cash to do whatever. And luckily, I think had a lot to do with the way I was raised where I just wasn't as interested in that path. In fact, I was repelled by that path. Now maybe the next level up on the pyramid is, “Hey, let's like, I don't know how important it is, but let's get the diet right.” You know, let's start eating healthy food. And at that point, of course, we thought healthy food was probably bread.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:33] Yeah, like, “Hey, there's no fat in here. It's good for me.” Lots of a sugar, carbs.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:05:37] Now, I'm on the opposite kick. But then you know, then you put discipline and at the top of it all is money management because if you don't have money management and you can't pay your bills on time, it's going to be a miserable existence. Said, all right, by the time I'm 45, I want to have enough money where I'd never have to worry about money again. I have the discipline to get there.
[00:05:56] So huge day in my life was that kind of what I think is, you know, I can see the light day. That was 1988, let's say. And then I met my wife after I won the main event in ‘89. May 18th, I won it. I met her two weeks later, Kathy, because she popped in so quickly. She found my goal list in 1990 and by then I was in a penthouse condominium on the Lake. Check. One of my life goals. I had met and married an amazing woman. We're still together 28 years later. Check. Use list of five goals. I'd won the main event. Check. Of course, I had a couple of really nice car [indiscernible] [00:06:40]. Check. And so, you know, four of my five life goals are done so quickly, and so the New York Times would just sit there and sit there. And I just remember in 2003 when I saw poker coming and I had no thought of writing it. Let's be honest, I wasn't thinking I was going to run in New York Times bestseller, but I thought, let me put a strategy book out there in front of the wave.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:01] the poker wave, like the incoming. This is going to be huge because everyone's talking about it.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:07:06] Yeah. I mean, I thought poker would be away, but I didn't imagine it would be as big as it was, but I knew that we were playing a game that everyone at home could relate to. I knew that we were playing, I mean, bowling was hot at that point. And bowling, it was 25K for first place. What’s [crosstalk] [00:07:21] can do?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:19] In the world, right? The world bowling grand prize was like 25K?
Phil Hellmuth: [00:07:24] Yes. And now are ours is 2 million. And anybody can play and it's bowling, you know, whether you're good at bowling or not poker, you don't know. There's a mystery there. And so I threw this book out, play poker, like the pros in front of the wave. And then a year later, Harper Collins calls me up and I'm like, wow, New York phone call better picked us up on my cell phone. And they're like, “Phil, where are you?” I'm like, “Loews Hotel, Santa Monica.” And we just sent a bottle of Dom Perignon to your room. You're now in New York Times best seller. And I walked around high for two weeks because that's another life. Shoop! Ching! Off the list. So five, you know, the five goals that I wrote are done. Now you add to that list, I added in 1993 after I won three bracelets, I said become the greatest poker player of all time.
[00:08:14] And now by record, technically I am, but you know, there's a couple other people out there and contention that are great. And [indiscernible] [00:08:24] 10 bracelets. So, I feel like he's going to put up at least 20, and I'm at 14. So I have to get to, you know, like kind of a lifetime goal of 24 bracelets for me. I feel like I'm going to get there. I also have nine seconds, a bunch of thirds. I mean it's, you know, I've done pretty well at the series, and that's when I really dedicate myself to poker.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:44] When you say you dedicate yourself to the craft of poker, what's the part that rusts first when you don't play competitively at that level for a while? Like what's the first subset skill, that subset of skills that goes downhill?
Phil Hellmuth: [00:08:57] That's a good question. And by the way, I've cost myself some bracelets by not staying current, so I didn't want to burden myself out. And so you look at maybe ‘04 when I was working for four different companies and I worked 340 days out of the year. I mean, I look back at my schedule every day is marked, and I'm like, “What is this?” I mean, how could you work this hard? And I realized I was getting paid a lot of money. We didn't know how long it was going to last. Same thing, ’05, ‘06. So I was ready with all the responsibility I had all these companies to play less events, and so for sure I stopped playing a lot of high stakes cash games from ‘05 to 2010. I just wasn't getting enough reps in all of the games. Imagine World Championships being about seven different games. Everybody knows about Hold'em them if you know poker, but there's actually six other games. You have Limit Hold'em, for example, you have Pot Limit Hold'em, but you also have Seven Card Stud High, Seven Card Stud Low, Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo Split, Omaha, Omaha High.
[00:10:00] And so you have these games and to be able to master all of them is important. And so I was literally playing these games once a year at the world series of poker, deuce to seven no limit, one of my favorites at the low ball, where there's two betting streets and just so much fun to play. And so to be able to not play enough, to be able to only play these games once, twice, three times a year, and then go into the world series. I hurt myself. So in 2010, I went online and I started playing small stakes tournaments just for five, six days, just seven, eight hours a day.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:37] Just to kick off the rest.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:10:38] That's it. And do exactly what you said, kick off the rust. And so just by playing I'd be like, “Oh, that's right.” You have to do this in that game. “Oh, that's right.” Yeah, because you learn all of those games by playing cash games. I had to play all those cash games, all those games to make a living in the ‘80s and ‘90s, because there weren't enough tournaments. And so I became, you know, world-class proficient in all those games. And so for me, it's a matter of reps. And so I try to go into the series, I tried to go into the series, and spent three days playing a mix of those seven games. But I think this year I'm going to also make sure that I play some of these games online. So when I get to Nevada where online poker is legal, I'll start playing in a bunch of tournaments that involves all of these different games. And that's perfect because now you're practicing for exactly what you're going to need to do at the tables. So to knock the rust off, you have to do that. And I cost myself by not knocking off the rust for five or six years. I had just come in cold. It was a mistake.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:40] Right. You learn the hard way by losing these really pricey hands and then you go, “Oh, okay, I'm better at this now, but it's maybe too late to catch the [indiscernible] [00:11:49].”
Phil Hellmuth: [00:11:50] Exactly. Exactly. And if you come in really on point, really on form, they're assisting, we call the zone. And the zone happens where, I mean imagine just a kind of like a, what would you call this? An up and a go?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:01] A wave.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:12:02] Let’s call it a wave. Yeah, a wave of a graph.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:05] Like a sine wave.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:12:06] Correct. And imagine there's two sine waves. One is for how lucky you are, which is not follow a perfect graph, of course, that might spike up and down dramatically. But then also imagine your skills going up and down like this. Now, the range is a little bit more narrow when you become great at poker, you're never going to be truly bad at the bottom of the wave. But it just happens where, and the nearest thing I can think of is baseball. Where someone's just hitting the cover off the ball, you know, for a month straight, and all of a sudden they have a slump. And so if that sign wave happens to be up when I'm playing during the series, then you know, always we have guys that are winning two bracelets. Every year three guys went two bracelets. How does that happen?
[0 0:12:50] And I think they're at the top of the sign wave. They're playing great and they're also catching some really lucky hands. So admit that part of it too. So then when you do get lucky, can you take advantage of it and win? And so when they're both at peak, luck and skill and you know, not a lot of people can get to this huge high peak of world-class skill you know, that's when you win. And so even those years where I didn't have to knock off, where I didn't knock off the rust, I would still go deep. I mean it's just some years you just see things well.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:24] You'd said in the book that poker is a game about people that just happens to be played with cards. I love that. And I want to get onto that in a bit here because it seems like when you were growing up you had the slant system, which was actually just a total exercise in cognitive bias. Like there's no science behind that at all.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:13:43] Yes, I agree.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:44] Poker itself requires getting rid of that kind of bias as much as humanly possible. So can you tell us about the slant system and then sort of how you ended up growing through that?
Phil Hellmuth: [00:13:53] That's interesting. I almost did include the slant system in the book. I was a little sensitive about this, but I put it out there on a book that I think is going to sell tons of copies. So you take a nine day period. Okay, day one is a day where you ask for something with positive, like positively I want this to happen. And then day two, would be where you asked negatively, I don't want this to happen. Meaning you actually want it to happen. And then day three, you kind of have to do both. So a neutral system. So if you could imagine every three days it cycles.
Jordan Harbinger: [ 00:14:32] So one days, opposite day. One is not opposite day, and one day, you don't know what you're getting.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:14:35] Both. You have to ask for both ways. And so very interesting to come up with this in age. What? Four or five as a kindergartener. And then I started to believe in my mind that it was working, and weird stuff happened. Unexplainable stuff. Like, if I could remember what day it was and, but I would, you know, it's not like I asked for something every day and I remember saying, I don't want this to fall off my dad's car as he's driving because I was mad at him, and it fell off the car. That's just too freaky. That's too freaky. All the weird stuff that happened to me and it just makes no sense. You would say, of course, that just happen, you know, the scientific explanation, there's a million scientific explanations for that. And then I remember in a pageant with, I don't know, 23 kids in my class where you drew to be King. And I asked to be King. I didn't know what day it was. And then I asked negatively to be queen was a second drawing, just figuring I can throw it back. And I was drawn, and so it just, there were just example after example where this would work for me. I even taught Chris Farley the system. He's the only person I taught.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:45] He was one of your early friends.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:15:47] Chris and I were great friends and you know, he lived across town, but we both went to Edgewood High School and his grandmother lived in my neighborhood. So we spent a lot of time, he would just go to his grandmother's and we hung out a lot in kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, and we were verging best friends. He's the only one that I taught the system to. It's a weird thing. First of all, I recognize all of this is weird and I recognize, especially on your podcast, everybody's laughing at me.
[00:16:15] It's okay. I'm going to go through with what, I'm going to continue the story. I think that I remember very clearly thinking I have this power, but I'm going to forget it exists. So I'm just going to lock into something positive the rest of my life. So at a lot of time to think about this and then I'd forget about the system for two months. And I just remember having this strong thing, you better lock in the rest of your life. And that was the day I taught Chris Farley the system. And that day I asked for whatever I asked for all of these things, the rest of my life, involving fame and fortune. And I understood even at a young age finding the right, you know, woman was important, right? And so I asked for all of these things and put it out there in the universe, having completely believed in this system, having believed this was the most powerful day of my young life was to put out my wish list, which I knew was going to happen. And so when you untangle that a little bit, either I was a complete lunatic, which of course—
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:17] I mean you were a kid. So it's hard to be the judge that.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:17:18] Correct. Hard to beat me up too much for that.
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[00:20:08] By the way, I know a lot of people have been asking me about the Six-Minute Networking course that we have. It's a mini course on networking and relationship development. I go through a lot of the little hacks, drills, exercises that I do daily, weekly, just a few minutes a week to reach out to other people, maintain relationships, build relationships with influencers, people that were or will become guests on the show, and how I use systems to create and maintain those relationships as well. And so I put it together in a little mini course called Six-Minute Networking. It's at jordanharbinger.com/course. Jordanharbinger.com/course. This is the stuff I wish I'd known 10, 15 years ago, and I want everyone to have it. So go check out jordanharbinger.com/course, and let me know what you think, and that'll be linked up in the show notes of course as well.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:20:58] Is there some power? I asked you, is there some power in really believing something will happen?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:21:05] There can be, as long as you're willing to take the actions to make that happen, and you're not just trying to imagine a Ferrari into your driveway, you could definitely focus on something and continue going in a certain direction, but it doesn't have to be mysterious. You can just also focus on that thing and have that happen. Drawing the queen out of the head or having something fall off your dad's car. Probably more an exercise in cognitive bias, you know, confirmation bias and things like that. So my question does become, poker requires getting rid of that kind of bias as much as possible. You and I talked earlier via email about Annie Duke who I just spoke with I think like three or four days ago and her book thinking in bets is all just getting rid of bias and making better decisions. So this slant system is kind of like something that Annie Duke would go, “Oh my gosh, get rid of, you know, forget all of this. Get rid of that as much as possible because that's just going to make you make bad decisions.” So when you see bias and things like that, creeping into your decision making process when you're playing poker, how do you get rid of that?
Phil Hellmuth: [00:22:05] Well, it's interesting. You can get on the wrong track quickly, right? And that's by making, I just even listening to my son last night who hasn't played poker in a long time but came to me after a tournament that him and his girlfriend played and I was very happy. They went and played and you know 20 people at somebody's home. It was like a social poker thing and he came to me and he said, well, I had ace King and I hit a King. And so with four cards on the board, it's about what is the bet sizing? Okay, now let's not to throw the people off at home. Let's not talk about any more specifics. That was kind of a good description for the poker players. The question is this, if he bet in this case a lot of money, yes, he would have won the pot because he didn't, the other fellow hung around and hit his card to beat my son.
[00:22:57] So my son's like, I should have bet more, I should have bet more. No, you lost that hand and now you're writing a story. You're writing a script for it. The cards were coming this way. You already know the cards are coming this way. And so you're writing in the script of I should have bet more because I lost this hand.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:14] Right. Hindsight bias or something like that.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:23:16] Hindsight bias. Exactly. And so then the next time you have that hand, you're like, I need to protect this. And so it happens to people when they're snake bit in poker where they're getting unlucky hand after hand after hand. So you know, I've been very lucky for a few months. Every time I have pocket jacks, I win. Well, pocket jacks don't win that often, okay? In a no limit Hold'em game with eight or nine people. So when people start to get unlucky, when they start to bad for whatever reason, then they start saying, “Oh, I have to bet more to protect my hands. I have to bet more to protect my hands.” Yes, betting more does protect your hands. And if you bet an infinite amount of money relative to the table, each time you have these strong hands, you're going to keep winning those pots until someone actually has you beat. So yes, by increasing your bet size, but that's not the right move, okay? And so people get off track when they're running badly, right? And then when you're running well, you can also get off track. You know, I kept winning. It's strange. I mean, I know how lucky I was. I've won a lot of money in the last year and a half, a lot of money. And so it's been nice for me, right? And so I keep kind of betting people in. So I'm betting smaller amounts with jacks because they keep winning for me, and I want more people in there.
[00:24:38] And then it's possible that if I started losing with them all the time, I would then over bet a little bit. But I think this is what I've studied my entire life, and I'm pretty happy with the adjustments I've made. So I'm not falling into this bias of I’m getting unlucky, I need to protect my hands with big bets. Mistake, you don't want to protect your hands with big bets. You want to bring people into the pot. You want their money in there. Yes, they're going to outdraw you 20, 30 percent of the time on the river, but then you've also made them pay money to try to outdraw you versus, you know, just betting a huge amount of just winning close to 100 percent of those pots, okay? So you can see where there's a bias in there. And you know, by betting too much in order to protect your hands, that happens when people are unlucky for a stretch of time. they'd begin to play poorly.
[00:25:39] And then you have, you know, and then there's the amateur bias. Oh my God, that I see my whole life. And we've had guys imagine this folks at home. We've had guys win poker tournaments coming in as stone cold amateurs overvaluing a whole sheet of hands, okay? And putting in a large amounts of money with all these weekends. And it just so happens for one tournament, they get away with it. They have the queen 10, they have the queen Jack, and they keep putting in way too much money and they keep winning with it. And they end up winning a tournament and $300,000, and they're like, “Oh, pokers easy.” Yeah, I want to play with that guy every day for the next three years because he's going to get punished for that list. And so you can see there's this bias of not understanding the value of hands for amateurs, and how sometimes that leaves to victories. All in all that much luck in poker is great for me, right?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:34] Right.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:26:34] It's great for all the pros.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:36] Because you know, it'll run out and you can capitalize on it.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:26:39] They're going to break our hearts, a couple of times doing what they do. And I'm going to go poke Poker Brat Postal.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:45] Yeah, yeah.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:26:45] Poker Brat Postal on him when you know blah, blah, blah ,blah. And you look at, you know YouTube and you can see me.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:52] Oh, I did. After we had phone calls and after I'd already spoken to you a bunch and I was like, I can't believe this is the same guy.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:26:59] You booked me. And then you saw the Poker Brat YouTube and you're like, “Oh shit! Do I want him on my show?” No.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:08] Now it's happening now. Yeah. Now, what's going to happen? Yeah, exactly. Yeah. You mentioned that you in poker, that it's more about other people's hands than even your own hands. So you don't play the cards, you play the player, and that's kind of what it sounds like you're saying is you let these people's sort of, you actually let the other people's bias creep in. You don't just signal the obvious, “Oh, if I bet heavy, I can protect this hand.” You go, “Well, if I play this way, this person's going to,” it's like chess in a lot of ways. Do you think, okay, if I bet this way they're going to draw in more, I'll draw more money out of each player and you try to call out bluffs and make people mad. I think this, you call it going on tilt and it causes them to make mistakes. Can you explain that a little bit? How has getting other people on tilt more than just being like, “Hey, you're a dumb ass.” And then you get all mad. Like you're very careful with the way that you this.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:27:59] Well, if poker is about people and not the cards, how are you winning doing that? And first off, there's some very elegant theories since 2004 really, since 2003 people have been dissecting how to play poker perfectly on the Internet. And so you have poker on the Internet, you have poker in the real world, they're kind of separate piece. And so these players have come up with these elegant theories on exactly how much to bet, what hands to play and then everybody, and then they kind of like, they run as a pack, and everybody's like, well this is the way to play perfectly. And someone wins a tournament and he posts, I want to turn them and playing this way. And they all feel that this is the right way, okay? And then imagine, you know, imagine I'm holding my hand a foot above, this is the way they play.
[00:28:49] And then all of a sudden I figured out they're playing that way, so I take advantage of it. How? By reading people. I know what they're doing, and so then it's a matter of you're going to play a lot of hands. I'm going to wait until I know your weak, and then I'm going to re-raise you when I'm weak. And that allows me to win. And then two years later, they all lower your hand a foot. They all play like this. And then two years later, they all play like this. And on top of it all, after changing from this is the perfect strategy every two years, they insult me along the way. Phil doesn't understand poker.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:23] Oh yeah, I've heard that.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:29:25] Now that's funny to me. Also bothered me more than it should have for a lot of years, and caused me to be very defensive, which I regret, but it's good television. And so every couple of years I say, “Oh, this is the perfect strategy.” And I look at it, I'm like, “Well, I see flaws,” but I really don't want to teach them the flaws. And so then well, Phil's bad at poker. He doesn't see that we're right, you know?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:51] Yeah.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:29:52] And so time passes, it's really interesting to see this kind of moving target on what perfect poker is, but even if they do discover the perfect way to play Hold'em, which they're a long ways away from, even if they did discover that, they still have to look at me. They still have to put the chips into the pot. They still have to look at their whole cards.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:13] And those are the things that you're looking at to read people, is that what you're talking?
Phil Hellmuth: [00:30:17] Correct. I mean, of course, there's evidence of me making all kinds of great reads and all kinds of laydowns at blue professional poker players minds. “How could Phil fold that? It was the best folder I've ever seen in my life.” Daniel Negreanu, same thing. Kid poker, I give him credit. He's like, you have exactly the six seven of diamonds and the guy is looking at six seven of diamonds and the viewers at home are like, WTF?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:40]How did that happen?
Phil Hellmuth: [00:30:41] What is going on here? Well, Daniel's making a good educated guess based on the board and the bet, and he happens to be perfect. The fact that he threw diamonds out there was random. It could have been six, seven of spades. He had a one and probably three chance of that because you could probably eliminate some other hands based on and so it's pretty cool when you see me telling somebody you have pocket tens. In my mind through my vast experience, I've isolated it down to you know, nines, tens or jacks, and I've taken an educated guess that it's tens. How? By playing thousands of hands against people and knowing how comfortable and how confident they were in their hand.
[00:31:22] It's a lot easier for me to turn pro's hands to know what pro is have especially old school pros, because they would have a certain amount of confidence with the hand with nines, tens or jacks, and they have another amount of confidence when they had Aces or Kings, and any great professional poker player that has great reading abilities can always tell your Doyle talks about this in his book. When your opponent has the best possible hand. And that happens where they have pocket Aces and you're like, “Wow, you have Aces, don't you?” You know? And we know because there's a certain kind of movement that you make, supreme confidence when you have the best possible hand.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:00] Is that different for each person, that movement that they make? Or is it kind of generalized?
Phil Hellmuth: [00:32:04] Generalized, but I mean then you have to start saying, all right, how many actions are actually generalized? And then you start looking back at primates, I can go to a primate cage. And when the monkeys are really happy, they're jumping up and down. We call that happy feet. And when they're really sad, so we as a species share a bunch of characteristics and movements as far as, and so it's a matter of looking for the real subtleties in there. You know, that's important. And so one at the top of my reading abilities, then I'm great, you know, or the greatest. When I'm at the top of my reading abilities, unfortunately they're not always perfect, but man, there's just tournaments that I've won because I just knew what everybody else had. I'll never forget, you know, the 2012 World Series of Poker Europe and that paid a million euros for first. I didn't even look at my whole cards most hands, I just watched what everybody else did, and I must've made 160 moves based on knowing that they didn't have it, okay?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:07] Really?
Phil Hellmuth: [00:33:07] And got away with 158 because they weren't trained to call. So I just adjusted, okay, if I know they're weak, how much can I raise where they're just forced to give up. And so then commentary was just raised a little bit, but I'm like, “No.” If they opened for two X, we'll just say two X, the big blind is X $100 so $200 if they opened for two X, I'll call that to raise seven X. Well, they're not used to people doing that, and they didn't have theories written for how to handle that at the time. So I would just come in and raise seven X, seven X. So I'm just pounding with these huge bets and they're just folding and folding and folding. Why? Because they have nothing and they have no defense and I won that tournament, the best tournament I've ever played in my life.
[00:33:54] And then when we made it down to the final four players, I looked down at pocket nines, okay? In what we call the big blind on someone raised with tens on the button, and something went off in my head. Avoid this. The standard play, especially with me raising and raising and raising and raising of course, was to re-raise him with nines. I'm sitting on like 7 million in chips. He has 1.5 million. Of course, you get in with nines, except there was an alarm bell going off in my head. I'm Global Television by the way, live on Global Television. The alarm bells going off in my head. So I just called and it came King 10 on the flop, seven, and I let out for a little bit and he raised me and I folded. I didn't find out too a couple of hours later that you know, one of the pros in the booth was going crazy.
[00:34:45] How to in Phil know he had tens when he had nines. That pro was also Antonio Esfandiari, The Magician, was going crazy during the whole telecast. “How can Phil keep calling raises with 10 do soft suit and all these hands?” Because I knew what everybody else had. And so to be at that level, that's a place almost no one gets. And if I were at that level all the time, I wouldn't have 14 World Championships and nine seconds and whatever and all these other tournaments, I'd have 28 by now. And so that's the optimal way to play poker. Now most people don't have that, most of us do not have that reading ability, maybe 3 percent can read at that level. Maybe 1 percent of humanity can read people at that level, okay? And so that's why we have all these elegant mathematical theories designed.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:35:34] Right.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:35:35] And so sometimes the young kids, you know, who are really, really math sharp. When I say I read them as being weak or strong, it's like I'm talking in another language.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:35:45] Sure you are.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:35:46] And so I thought, wow, to them it's black magic, but I didn't like the term black magic. It's too many negative connotations. So I invented the term white magic, you know, and say I have white magic. So rather than just say I read somebody well, I'd say, well, that's white magic. And then that term went global right away.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:36:05] It sounds almost a little bit racist somehow.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:36:07 ]It does, but once you have the accident, that's why I liked it. It does. And that's why I get the explanation out there. I just didn't want to call it black magic.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:36:14] Yeah. African-American magic please.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:36:16] Stop. Stop. No one's ever accused me of being racist.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:36:21] Okay. So how much of the reading is conscious when you know, when you're looking at someone Nigo, are you going, shoulders slumped a little bit more than usual? Or are you just like, you know that guy, I'm feeling like he's weak right now? I mean how much of it is in your head and it's really concrete.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:36:37] Good question. And then when you do have all the right signals, are they the signals that they're strong or weak? I haven't been playing enough no limit. Where I'm paying attention to reads. Several times in the last few months I knew something was wrong and I re-raised the person. Yes, something was wrong. They had kings. That was the one time I shouldn't have re-raised them. So that can happen too. So then you have to get the signals in tune. People act differently when they're super strong and they act differently when they're super weak. And you have to be cognizant of which is which.
[00:37:09] And your question to me is do I look for specific things? You know we had a New York Times best seller called Read ‘Em and Reap, which has some great stuff in there for people that don't have great reading abilities. But for me, I trust my reads. I've been watching a person play for an hour, you know, and I've seen a strong hand, I've seen a weekend. I know the difference. I watch whether where they look with their eyes. And here's the thing, I like to play quickly in poker. So fold, fold, fold, fold. When I finally stop and study someone, they're just super nervous. They're like, “Oh my God, Phil Hellmuth, you staring me down. And so immediately after me folding, folding, folding, it feels like the whole room changes. Of course, not the whole room, but just that table I'm at, and all of a sudden everybody's just stops in their tracks.
[00:37:59] Phil is studying me and the other players notice it too. And then all of a sudden that person's nervous. They're easier to read. So if I studied somebody every single hand, it wouldn't be as effective. And so people give things away. Can I tell you specifically what? You have to read Read ‘Em and Reap to find out that stuff. And a lot of people's reads have improved by Joe Navarro’s book. But to me it's the whole package. How did they put their chips in? Did they splash him in? Say a guy raised seven times in a row when he always splashed his chips in, kind of him up and threw him in, and this time he slides him forward. All right, what is that? He's doing something different. And so I have to like interpret all of these signals, call it 10 different signals. But generally I just trust myself, deepen my gut. He's weak, filled you better re-raise him. He's strong Phil, you better fold and get out of his way. And for me, I have to trust my gut, but that is a very scientific process in some ways, because I don't want to get caught up in the wrong signals. So it's kind of a weird thing. And of course, people recognize all over the globe, we have these reading abilities.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:17] So it's not necessarily this specific thing that that person's doing. It's specific to the person. So if I'm always throwing my chips in like this, when I have a strong hand, then you know, if I slide them in, maybe I don't have a strong hand and you kind of want to test that. But maybe the guy next to me always slides him in and now he's throwing his chips in. So is it different from person to person or versus the specific moves, and it sounds like it is right.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:39:44] I'll come back to the primate thing where a lot of us act exactly the same, but of course, yes, there's subtle differences because there's a million ways to put your chips in. So yes, you're correct there. I guess I look for something maybe a little deeper than that, but it all kind of presents a picture.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:01] So it's a full picture. It's not just the chips, it's the way I'm looking at my cards. Maybe in my posture, how much I'm talking, [indiscernible] [00:40:08] my chips in.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:40:09] Talking is a big thing. Talking is a big thing. When you know, usually I kind of foster this, all right, I'm known as the Poker Brat, but I really believe that 99 percent of the people love to play with me at the same table, want to play with me at the same table and paid a lot of money to even show up and play with people. And the young pros love it when I'm at their table, especially when I berate them.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:30] Yeah.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:40:30] They love it. They text that I've joined the club, Phil berated me. Thank God. Badge of honor that I berated them. It's weird. And I like that when I'm being absurd and ba, ba, bag, barking and being the Poker Brat, and I see five of the kids with their kind of like imagine that their hands are in front of their mouth's like I'm showing you. But the public's going to have to imagine the, so people listening, and half of them, they're all laughing.
[00:40:56] I like that because I recognize how absurd I am in the moment and I also, it's nice that they can recognize, okay, that's just Phil losing it. We can laugh at them, you know? And then there's always one or two people that I affect too much by going off a little bit. And then I have to apologize to those people and be kind of conscious of, “Wow, he disguise suddenly hates me.” And to be fair, if a random person's at my table and I start going off on them, they're going to hate me. But if you've seen it a hundred times on television, then a lot less so.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:33] It's kind of like being in the com, you go to a comedy club and comedians like what the hell? Look at this guy over here.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:41:40] Don Rickles. I've been watching Don Rickles the last couple of nights and he just insults people. But it's a badge of honor to have him insult you.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:46] It’s part of the show.
Phil Hellmuth: [ 00:41:47] Yeah, you want Don Rickles to go off on you. Sinatra loves it. Ronald Reagan loved it. All these, all these legends that he went off on, you know, a Phyllis Diller that I was watching in the last couple days. They love it and he's so clever and fun. And you know that he doesn't hate you. He's just—
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:03] Although to be fair, you kind of look like you hate the guy in the moment. You look like on some of the YouTube stuff that I watched earlier this morning, I was like, “Oh my gosh, it's true.”
Phil Hellmuth: [00:42:11] There's that intensity that comes across to the person I'm talking to. We're like, “Oh my God, Phil hates me.” And what that is, is me playing 24 hours in a tournament, three, eight hour days of perfect poker and having that person go so far off script that I'm supposed to bust them, and yet they hit their three on the river. You know what I mean?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:34] Yeah.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:42:34] And I just see the absurdity of me playing perfect and some random guy playing like a complete, you know, jerk off who should have been broke 10 hours ago or 20 hours ago, and then beating me and then I go off, right? But that the volume, the intensity of me going off is all about me playing 24 hours and just feeling the situation's absurd. But unfortunately, the person that I'm saying it to is like, “Wow, Phil, it's just, there's so much energy, so much negativity coming from him.” And so you're right, it does look that way. But there's been so much of that, and I keep getting better and better at that. The one thing that the cameras never show is almost within one or two hands. I say, “Oh my God, I'm so sorry,” to that person. But they're not going to show the apology.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:22] Oh, they doesn't show it,
Phil Hellmuth: [00:43:23] ESPN doesn’t care about that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:23] That’s funny.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:43:24] That's Phil being, you know, an asshole. That's Phil being the Poker Brat. That's Phil being Phil. They don't show me saying, “Oh my God, I'm so sorry I lost it.” Well, that person who's feeling alienated in the moment is immediately from the number one player in the world, immediately is like, “Oh, they immediately accept the apology,” and remember they're also stacking my chips. So I mean, I have apologized a thousand times, only one time or 2,000 times, the only one time did a guy not shake my hand.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:54] Really?
Phil Hellmuth: [00:43:55] And because you know, they just like, “Oh, that's just Phil being Phil.” And then I can smile and laugh and joke, and I can say I'm just so sorry. I'm just like, that's just the Poker Brat and I might saying, I'm a little bit sick in those moments. I'm like McEnroe screaming like, you know what I mean?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:11] Yeah.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:44:11] Now, great television by the way. But, of course, why would they ever show the apology one hand later and us making up and me saying, “Hey, you know, I'm going to buy you a dump bottle of Dom Pérignon because I was such a jerk,” which I've done a hundred times, right? And I'll have that guy sent a bottle of Dom, you know, maybe even in some cases have a drink with them.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:32] That's funny because I would imagine when I looked at some of those meltdowns on YouTube, I was like, what does he say? What do you think when you ever see those? Do you ever watch replays and you're like, “Oh man, that's not, I do not look good right there.”
Phil Hellmuth: [00:44:42] Oh my God. Well, even worse than me going off. I understand that, when I'm going off that I can't control it. And I'm embarrassed by that. But even worse is when I get defensive for me, you know, because here I have all the records and poker, and then I let some professional poker player needle me. And what I found out was the producers of these shows, every single time they're told to go after Phil. “Go after Phil, it's going to be great television.” And so I didn't even understand this. I'd come in expecting not to have people go after me and they're going after me, and now I'm all defensive and whatever. So maybe 2012, I said, “Okay, I'm going to switch this. If this person goes after me, I'm going to destroy them.” In other words, I'm great at this. I'm great at, you know, I mean, do you want to play with me?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:30] Verbal sparring.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:45:31] Verbal sparring. I am going to take you down so quickly. It's crazy. And if I know I'm playing on a televised, it went with Antonio or Daniel. I'm just ready. Because I know they're going to come after me and I'm just like, “All right, bring it.” And I'll immediately start with Antonio, like, you're boring, you keep using the same stuff. Can you grow up a little bit and use new stuff? And I'm smacking them down a little bit, you know? So I've started to become a little bit more the aggressor in those situations where I'm filming with friends.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:00] Yeah. Yeah. Antonio, can you tell us--
Phil Hellmuth: [00:46:03] Antonio, The Magician, it was fun together.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:06] This episode is sponsored in part by SmartMouth. Bad breath, nasty, embarrassing, disgusting, et cetera. A lot of negative adjectives along with this. I love this stuff. SmartMouth, they bring it with me whenever I go to conferences, events, things like that, because it will prevent the return of nasty stank breath for a full 12 hours. It comes in a two chamber bottle or these little travel packs, and instead of a minty cover up, it destroys bacteria's ability in your mouth to form sulfur gas, which is the stinky bad breath part of it or part of it anyway, unless you've got all kinds of old food in there, in which case you've got other issues. But if you want to solve a real problem, you need real science, not just that minty coverup. You don't want to be that guy or gal with that breadth and now you never will. You can find SmartMouth at Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, Target, Amazon or wherever you shop. I miss this stuff when I run out. You can also go to smartmouth.com to get an in depth analysis of how it's able to work, how it does its thing. Oh, and you can go to smartmouth.com/jordan for two and a half bucks off of that mouthwash. Smartmouth.com/jordan.
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[00:48:27] I couldn't believe how many good designs we got for this. I'll admit though, a few years ago I tried this and I was like, “Ah, I don't know what I want,” and I just posted a crappy brief and I got some, well I got what I deserved from a crappy brief. Jen did this, 600 designs, couldn't decide which one was the most amazing because they were all good and so I'm very happy with this. Pleasantly surprised. I will say from crowdsource design, there's legit designers on there. Designcrowd.com/Jordan.
[00:48:55] I know you pride yourself on your ability to read people. How did you discover you had this and how can people at home start to work on this particular skillset, whether it's in poker or just in their life in general? Do you have any tips for people who are like, “Oh, I want to learn to read other people?”
Phil Hellmuth: [00:49:09] Okay. I would caution this with the “Be careful,” because it's pretty powerful to be able to do this. And I really think that the world should own the skill, but when you're going to confront your primary relationship partner, okay. And you already know that if their eyes dilate or what's the other direction?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:31] Contract.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:49:32] Yeah. Contract. If you already know that one means they're lying, and you go when you say I, you know, and you put a drink in them and you say, I need to ask you a very serious question. And you look them in the eyes. Have you ever cheated on me? You know, and the eyes go the wrong direction. That's going to destroy a few relationships. And so, you know, and so be careful with the skill, but it's super effective. Joe Navarro will tell you, it's 99 percent the eyes. The eyes do not lie. And I would just say this, read the book to discover whether it's a contraction to the expansion. That's a lie.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:11] It can also mean, how dare you ask me this? I'm so angry. My pupils are contracting, so it's not a lie.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:50:17] Oh, you're trying to give them an out.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:18] It’s I'm going to cut your, you know what off.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:50:21] No, no, because when you put somebody down and say, I'm going to ask you a serious question, they can't be mad at you for asking the serious question, right? I mean, come on. It's a matter of setting it up for like—
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:30] Feel like they could be pretty mad about that particular question. Read the book and make sure you get all the whole context. We'll link to the book in the show notes because I don't want people to be like, “Hey, I didn't bother reading that book, but I did divorce my wife.” Maybe read the book first. Yeah. Joe Navarro is a friend of the show. He's got great body language books, former FBI, everything. He's just, he's got it all together. I want to go back to something I read in Poker Brat as well about learning from your mistakes because I want to know how you balance between learning from your mistakes, you know, catching yourself, playing emotionally, playing on tilt as you call it, I love that term, versus beating yourself up. You said first of all, in the book, there's a lot of hands that you seem to remember exactly what happened when it happened and I thought, is this guy looking at tape? And now from knowing you for the little time that I have, I've realized it's all up here.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:51:23] I remembered every hand I played maybe for the first 15 years I played poker. Crazy amounts. Not necessarily faces.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:29] Yeah.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:51:29] But a hands.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:31] Hands, an unreal memory. Have you always had a memory like that?
Phil Hellmuth: [00:51:35] Yes, yes. For hands and specific. Yeah, it's been pretty cool. I mean, I'm not saying that I would remember a hand 10 years later, a small one, but any decent sized pot that I played, I just remembered. Now I don't do, you know, since 2001, I still remember a huge number of hands. But I think a lot of that stuff was easier to write about because locked into your mind or all the hands that you played.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:57] Yeah. So how do you balance learning from your mistakes versus beating yourself up and losing sleep over a hand that you did wrong? You know, it's one thing to go, all right when I see this, I got to remember to do ABC versus like tossing and turning for three straight weeks going, I should've freaking folded. I knew it. I can't believe I didn't call that guy. Like how do you balance those two things? Because you do both of those things.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:52:19] Nobody's lost more sleep in poker than me. No one's beaten themselves up. Now, I've gotten better as I get older. So I might beat up my opponent being the Poker Brat, but I also beat up myself even worse. And so, but it never led to destructive behaviors, thank God. Because people that beat themselves up can get to destructive behaviors. “Oh, I played horrible. I need to start drinking. Oh, I.” So if I have that happen to me where I feel like, “Oh, I played horrible, I need to drink.” I’m like, “Well, not today,” because you feel horrible and you feel you need to drink. You're not going to have a drink today. Tomorrow you can have a couple, you know. So anytime I ever felt like I needed to drink, I will never do that. Learning from your mistakes is something where it helps to have a few different people you're studying poker with. Number one.
[00:53:09] But basically I was self-taught. For a number of years, it was just me. And I would sleep poker at night, you know. What did I do right here? What did I do wrong here? Do I have a bias towards this specific and that? Sure, I would fall into those biases, in the ‘80s, you know, and even sometimes in the ‘90s, and so you have to take a play and not necessarily put it in a vacuum, put it in context of everything that's happening. Was this the right play for me to make it the right time? And did I risk too much, too many of my chips? Should I have, you know, the number of times I've had chipped bleeds and blown them for no reason. Throughout my whole career is staggering, and I'd just be so mad at myself. What were you thinking?
[00:54:00] I finished a second in bicycle club, WPT, in August. It was huge for me. September probably. And then I went back to L.A., and I finished 14th, but I made some mistakes. I was sitting on 700,000 a chips with 20 players left. I never finish. I really finished seventh to 30th in a tournament. Usually if I'm there, I make it to the final six, and I look back and I made mistakes and I was pretty upset. I mean drove me to fly to Florida to play a tournament, you know, just to like, all right, you know, and now you know, in a couple of days I'm flying to Bellagio to play in another tournament. That's easier in Vegas. I think it's a matter of looking back and saying, what mistakes did I make on this hand and how can I avoid this in the future?
[00:54:46] And for a while I got so far over on one side I was tilted by bias towards one side, but I still think it's probably correct to be there. I never wanted to go broke on one hand. So I would avoid these huge, huge, huge hands. When I had aces or kings, I would avoid going broke. It probably costs me more money, but it kept bleeding two deep runs, deep runs, deep runs, because I would always wait for a better situation. And so then you have to balance that. Is that a mistake or not? These days I probably would want to play the big pot with those super strong hands were I was trying to avoid them a little bit more. We always have a tournament the next day.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:31] So how do you reel yourself back in when you find yourself going down that path of, “Oh, man, I should've done this. I'm losing some sleep. I’m punishing myself.” Do you have a technique where you go, “Look, enough is enough, that hand is over,” or there's always another chance to win? What are you telling yourself to get back on track?
Phil Hellmuth: [00:55:46] Well, I think the worst was, I think it was a 2001 World Series of Poker. I want to get that year. It's not important, but I remember finishing, I think fifth in the main event. That one hurt, that one hurt. And so I felt like crap for a long time afterwards. And then we took a vacation. We went and we rented boats and Northern, Northern California. Lake Shasta.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:56:14] Oh! We've done that. Yeah.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:56:15] Did you do that?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:56:15] Yeah, it's awesome.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:56:16] It's fun.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:56:17] That little houseboat thing. Yeah.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:56:18] Yup. Had a houseboat, and I insisted on beating myself up every day, you know, kind of punishing myself intentionally. And I was like, why should I be miserable? Yeah, you messed up. And so then you kind of like, all right, this is too much. You know, if you're going to beat yourself up, and every time you start to feel good, you think back to, I blew it and I finished fifth. You're with your wife and kids, man. You know, come on you, let's just, when you're with them, let's just kind of put this away.
[00:56:52] So I kind of like whenever I was with my wife and kids, I'd tried to move on quickly. And then as time passes, you realize that you just can't spend a lot of time beating yourself up. And if you have to intentionally beat yourself up and it's not just a natural, normal consequence, let's not do that anymore. I will feel pretty staggered even after a second place finish. I think I had three seconds in 2011, and just was like, went straight to the bar, didn't drink excessive amounts, three or four I'm sure. But when you start at 2 a.m. But I'm with my best friends at that point too, with my wife, with people that can support me. And so the kind of the cycle of making mistakes and getting them over there and getting over them decreases quite a bit.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:37] How can you tell if you're playing poorly or if you're just getting unlucky and more importantly, how can you tell in the moment whether you're getting unlucky or playing poorly? So that you know when to walk away from the table? Because if it's luck, it's just math stick around. Things will change. You keep playing right, you keep reading people right versus if you're playing poorly, maybe it's time to go.
Phil Hellmuth: [00:57:55] Such a fine line. Such a fine line. I remember playing in a few years back in the One Drop. Last year, the 100K One Drop, I finished 10th, but it was a few years before that and I was playing as fast as I've ever played, just raising and re-raising, and to look like I was going completely crazy, just getting every chip in all the time. It looked like I was a complete maniac and could have busted myself. And in a One Drop before that where we had 3 million in chips. It was impossible to blow a million in chips. I mean you would have to try or have some real unlucky stuff happened. I managed to blow 1.3 million in chips playing like every hand, playing like a complete crazy man and having to grind you on my left re-raising every hand and beating me a lot of pots.
[00:58:53] And I said all right, I'm going to get him because we have a thousand big blinds. It's as deep as you've ever had. You had to play horrible. Well, fast forward, I kept playing fast. I'm like, you know what? I'm going to stick with it. I finally beat Daniel a huge pot and because I'd been playing like such a crazy man, I was dealt Aces, and another guy was dealt Kings and he put in like a thousand big blinds because I looked like I was crazy. And so I went from really the guy who had blown all of his chips and it was like last place in 50 to boom, 6 million in chips. And massive chip leader in the tournament. And so there's that fine line of playing fast. If you're going to come and playing that fast and you're not super deep, you're going to bust yourself.
[00:59:34] So then the corollary, the other side of that is in October, I was over in Czech Republic and I played the first 13 hands in a row, and it looked like I was just a crazy man, completely out of control, not folding a hand. And finally, I made a straight, and the other guy made a full house. But if he doesn't get lucky and make us full house, I'm going to be way up in chips. So it looks like, I mean, anybody that would say Phil played 13 hands in a row, he's legendary for his patients. So that's a very fine line when you start to go crazy, you know what I mean? Because no one knows what to do with Phil crazy, and Phil crazy wins a lot of tournaments.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:19] In Poker Brat, you said if you want to be successful, you need a healthy sense of entitlement. So what is that? Why is that important?
Phil Hellmuth: [01:00:26] Oh, first of all, entitlement in today's day and age has become a bad word.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:30] Yeah, it’s not a good word anymore. I don't know if it ever was, but it certainly isn't now.
Phil Hellmuth: [01:00:34] I think the reason it's a bad word is people associate entitlement with having too much entitlement. But entitlements, just a harmless word. Do you have a healthy sense of entitlement or not? And for those people that do not have a healthy sense of entitlement, it's going to hamstring them. It hurts them in my opinion, okay? [indiscernible] [01:00:56] science to back this up, but I watched it over and over again. People with the low sense of entitlement, when at the table when looking at doing great things, winning world championships, winning millions of dollars completely fell apart.
[01:01:11] Now, and later I'd be like, “Why did this happen?” And I'd find out, oh, that guy. Well, he's a drug addict. He's an alcoholic. He abuses his kids. He abused his wife, all of the stuff. And so with the low sense of entitlement, there's a low sense of worthiness. Now, to come back to the other side of that, we all know people that have too much entitlement that are super successful, you know what I mean? And they're like, “Wow, that guy doesn't deserve this or doesn't deserve that.” But who am I talking to in my book Positivity. And in my book Poker Brat, I'm talking to the American public. I'm talking to the global public. And I think that there are ways to increase your entitlement, and therefore, increase your sense of worthiness. And so I think, you know, I remember for me it hit home when I was about to become the greatest poker player of all time by bracelets.
[01:02:12] And I hesitated just for a little while there, asking myself, do you deserve this? Are you worthy of this? And I thought, “Wow! This hesitation is what other people face in life when something great might happen to them.” Now, in some cases, and in cases of running companies, they may be on a path. And even if they want to sabotage themselves, they're not going to because they have a buffer, a board and that's just going to propel them on. But in cases where you can control your own destiny, you better work on your entitlement if you want to do great things in life. Simple. So for me, I said, all right, why not me? And why not me is a question, which I associate with entitlement. Why not me? So I thought, okay, I'm someone who's never cheated on his wife.
[01:03:03]Now that's important to me. Everyone else has their own code. So I'm not preaching. Another guy might have another code, maybe as an open relationship. Maybe it's in his religion to be able to do it. Maybe it's society norms to have four or five women. I'm talking about me. So all right, what are my reasons? My code is not cheat on my wife, never done that. My code is be completely honest, you know, be perfect ethically and morally. So far above that even when there's questions in the poker world, you might actually pay someone 2,000 dollars even though you know they're screwing you because you want to be on the right side of entitlement. People don't do that. I do that. Yeah, you think you deserve 2,000 dollars even though we spelled the rules out five times? You think you deserve a 2,000 dollars back? It's wrong, but here's your 2,000, but guess what? I never have to hear from that person again, right?
[01:03:57] I've paid people just so I don't have to hear from him again. And so that's way above and beyond, you know? And so I believe in that. All right, so perfect ethics, morals. Okay, then I inspire people. People watch me on television, and yes, they see poker bet, but they also see me do things that they can't do. When I watched Michael Jordan playing basketball, no one else could do what he did. When I watched Tiger Woods in his prime, or he seems to be coming back doing like hitting the ball to two feet out of the rough from 250 yards. No one can do that. And so it's inspirational to watch a human being at the very top. So added to my list, I inspire people. I'm a really good father. I'm a really good husband. I'm really good son. I give money to my brothers and sisters. I helped them all pay for college and law school, okay? We give money to charity. These days I've raised $52 million doing charity events, and so I have all of these things that says, “Why not me?” So by increasing my sense of entitlement, I increase my sense of worthiness, by increasing my sense of worthiness, I was able to not stop and not hesitate, but just go ahead and win.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:12] The advice point or the action set would be do things that help other people or add some sort of other value. Therefore, in a way you're coming in with a clean receipt, you've paid all your debts, whether or not you agree to them or not. Other people view it that way. You feel like you've got your morals or super squeaky clean.
Phil Hellmuth: [01:05:29] Correct.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:30] Then you can sit in that tournament and go, “I deserve this. I've been good and everything else.”
Phil Hellmuth: [01:05:35] Why not me? Why not me? And so I don't hesitate. I just go for the, I just go right for the win, every time. I don't have to deal with the messiness of not having the proper entitlement. And this is something I talk about in my book Positivity, which I see that there's maybe not enough science for us to talk.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:52] Right? Yeah. I gave you a little crap about that on the phone, which you have a really good memory. I thought maybe you would have forgotten about that. I did read Positivity too. I've read Poker Brat. By the way, if you're going to read both of those, set the whole weekend aside, because the total, I think it's like 16 hours of reading.
Phil Hellmuth: [01:06:09] Well, Positivity takes one hour.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:10] Right, and Poker Brat takes 15 hours.
Phil Hellmuth: [01:06:12] 14 hours. 15.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:15] You need a lunch break in the middle.
Phil Hellmuth: [01:06:16] So yeah, it is my theory that you know, and then you can square your entitlement too. Let's just say that you do see something that you've done poorly in the past or bad in the past. Then you have to forgive yourself for that, or maybe do something to correct that, right? To make up for that. So you can just by honoring your code, increase your entitlement. You can go back and 5look at things you're not proud of and say, “Okay, why did that happen?” And forgive yourself from that. Don't let something that you did bad in the past hold you back from going full speed ahead in the future. Which brings me to another thing which I'll just bring up, not even being questioned. And that's hate hurts you.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:57] Yeah.
Phil Hellmuth: [01:06:58] Which I talk about in Poker Brat, and I talk about in Positivity, getting rid of hate in your life. And to me, I invented this three step process for getting rid of, “Hey, I didn't see anything at Google that I looked for it for a year. I didn't see anybody else doing this.” So I said, “Well, I love this three step process. I'll just put it out into the world and see what happens.” Because too many people dislike or hate someone, and to the public listening to this at home, I would ask you take 10 seconds and think of the person that you hate the most. I'm going to give them five more seconds. Think of that person. If you don't hate him, think of the person you disliked the most. Okay, I've got to tell you, everyone listening, that person's not thinking about you. Probably doesn't think about you much at all. You're wasting energy giving this person hate, okay?
[01:07:51] And so hate hurts you while Buddhism talks about that. So I invented this three step process for getting rid of hate. To me, you think about why that person did what they did to you. Is there a reason you can imagine that they did that? Did it benefit them? Was there a logical reason why that happened? Now, for a lot of people, the person they hate most, there's no logic there. They have good reasons to hate it. That's a bad person probably that you hate. Okay, fine. So if you can't find any relief by thinking about why they did what they did, then ask yourself, is there anything good about that person? Are they a good wife? A good husband? A good father? Do they donate make money to charity? Is there anything good that I can latch onto to assign to this person?
[01:08:39] So that's kind of the first step. Asking yourself why they did it and is there anything good about this person. Second step is to ask, is there anything good in this person? Can you usually find something good in the person? The third step, go to your bed during the middle of the day or even at night, but make sure you're not going to be disturbed. Tell your wife, “Honey, I just need a half an hour.” Just can you just let me have a half an hour or do it in the middle of the day when nobody's around and just start meditating. And what you need to do is just, meditation's not hard. Just close your eyes. Don't think of it as meditation. Close your eyes and think about the person you hate the most and that person will pop right into your mind. Now start sending love to that person. Whatever that means to you. Start sending actual love to that person.
[01:09:51] It's amazing how that gets rid of your hate. It's amazing how that one step just alleviate so much of it. It's just gone so quickly, and usually while I'm doing that, I'll send person, I'll send energy to the person that I disliked the second most or third most, and then I can't help. I'm like, well, if I'm doing this, let me send love to all the people that actually love. It's amazing how powerful that process is of forcing all that's in your mind. All the stuff we don't understand and do understand about the power of the mind and sending love to someone you hate.
[01:10:05] A very famous player, still $28,000 from me. Annie Duke called me on the phone and said, Phil, $28,000 has disappeared from this account. And I said, “Oh, don't worry about it. My friend, our friend is playing that account,” and she said, “No, you don't understand. This money was transferred in a one-on-one match.” This guy took the 28,000 bought in an online site against another opponent, turned out to be his brother and lost $28,000 to them in three hands. It's impossible. I'm telling you, it's impossible to lose more than 7,000 in three hands. It was a limit game and the limits were so small, but they just raised each other back and forth an infinite amount of times. Why? Because they didn't want to pay the 3 dollars per rake per hand to steal the 28,000.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:10:56] So you caught it really fast.
Phil Hellmuth: [01:10:58] This guy could have played a hundred hands against his brother, paid 300 in rakes still 28,000 and gotten away with it. So now I'm like, “What in the hell is going on here?” And I'm just like, and I'm super pissed off. But I had been studying Buddhism and forgiveness, and so I was just steam for an hour. I called two of my friends up and I said, “This guy did this,” and they said, “Fry them,” released the stuff to the world. You have them right here. All you have to do is release it to the world.
Jordan Harbinger: [001:11:29] Dead to rights, you'll never work in this town again.
Phil Hellmuth: [01:11:31] Yes, dead to rights. And I thought, what good does frying them do me?
Jordan Harbinger: [01:11:36] Just feels good for a short period of time.
Phil Hellmuth: [01:11:38] Ah sure, sure. I might feel good. So I molded over for an hour and a half. I called my friends and I said, “Burry, this.” I called Annie Duke and I said, “Burry this.” I don't want to destroy this guy's reputation. Besides half the money was his anyway. Can you imagine stealing 14,000 of your own money? Half the money was his, so he only took 14K, and I'm going to make him pay me back. And meanwhile I'd called the guy up and he's crying and tears because his reputation's just gone. If I just press a button, and this was a Monday, and so an hour and a half passes, I told my wife, I'm pissed off. And I said, “Honey, you know what? We're looking at this wrong. How about if we just recognize what we have in life?” All these world championships, money to live comfortably, money coming in all the time. We have each other for what? 15 years now, whatever it was. We have great kids. Everybody's healthy. You know, I've become world famous. Let's just go celebrate our lives. And we went to a local restaurant and bought a bottle of Château d'Yquem, and it was the most expensive. It was my favorite at the time. Paid 500 dollars for the bottle. 400 is the most we could spend. We spend as much as we could on a beautiful meal. Just the two of us. We drank that bottle. I drank probably most of the bottle. I'm not a big drinker, and that was a Monday. Now fast forward Thursday, I flew to the East coast where this guy was. We're playing in a big tournament of Fox Woods.
[01:13:11] I remember he had stolen 28,000 from me, but I had already forgiven him, and I want to be able to walk down the hallway of life and never have to turn left or right. I don't want to be the one turning left or right. If somebody else wants to turn left or right, that's okay, but I don't want them to turn left or right. I want to be able to walk down the hallway of life and never have to duck anybody. And sure enough, I'm walking down this massive hallway at Fox Woods, and there's the guy and I went right to him and he was just like, I had already told him I was going to bury it and he shook my hand and went immediately to his knees crying, but it didn't feel great to shake his hand. Yes, I'd used my own exercises, but it was so fresh. It didn't feel great, but I did shake his hand. Then I entered the 10,000 dollar bind tournament, and I will guarantee you if I release this on the Internet, I would've just taken big thing. Imagine big like, like all this mud next to me and I would've just thrown it.
[01:14:15] I don't live in a glass house. I live in a solid house. He couldn't throw anything back at me, but why do I want to be throwing mud? Every single high limit player in that room would have come up to me and said, is it true? Did he do this? And I would have had to say yes. I would have had hundreds of conversations from the whole room about how this guy stole 28,000 dollar from me instead, not a peep was mentioned. I had my headphones on. I'm playing poker, I'm in the game man. And I don't know, maybe we had 700 people on it and we get down to the final three. And for me it was a, you know, a dream come through to win a WPT. Unfortunately, I finished third. But when I saw that I cashed for exactly $280,000 so I just couldn't help but just laugh out loud. Oh my God, I would not have made a penny if I were fighting with this guy the whole time, instead I won 10 times exactly. And you might say it's a coincidence.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:15:10] It might even be 20 times considering 14 of it was his in the first place.
Phil Hellmuth: [01:15:13] Correct. Correct. But well, there's no scientific explanation for this. And I'm sure that we can remote it out and deduce it out.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:15:21] Well it’s a good anecdote. You won 10 to 20 times as much.
Phil Hellmuth: [01:15:24] But we'll go with the antidote.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:15:25] Let's go with anecdote.
Phil Hellmuth: [01:15:27] And I was so happy and I'm like, all right, this forgiveness stuff, which I use anyway, now it's on for life, you know, because wow, I can't explain this. It's like somebody somewhere. It's like the universe is telling me, you know, are the powers that be, or whatever you want to call it is somebody somewhere is telling me that this is good. Maybe I'm telling myself.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:15:50] Maybe.
Phil Hellmuth: [0 1:15:50]Maybe I knew it was 280,000 maybe I tried to finish third, whatever. I don't think so.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:15:56] I doubt you tried to finish third instead of first or second.
Phil Hellmuth: [01:15:59] I did not try that. I'm in fact, I had the other guy all in and if he doesn't outdraw me on the last card, I would have been a heads up and maybe won it.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:16:07] Story of your life.
Phil Hellmuth: [01:16:08] So very frustrating with the result, but wow to see it was exactly 280,000 dollars, and so that's powerful.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:16:16] Because you go in with a clean receipt, you don't feel like you have to worry about it. You've processed and done with it.
Phil Hellmuth: [01:16:22] Done.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:16:23] You're done with it.
Phil Hellmuth: [01:16:23] Done, done, done. Now the what the amazing thing is about this is, is this guy is a famous player, right? He defends me. And so my wife about five years later, maybe about 2010, she said, this is your biggest defender in the world. He paid me back the 14,000, we're a lot more friendly. We had a meal together in 2010, right? And I feel like I have 100 percent forgiven him or at least 99.9. I don't think about it. All I think when I think about him is this guy that's defending me. I think it's 100 percent forgiveness. And every time I'm at the table with them, which isn't that often, he's defended. If anybody says anything negative, boom, he defends me. When I'm not around, he defends me, always saying great things. I saved his life a little bit, after he did wrong. And so what have I had by just forgiving someone? I got paid back in full. I want 280,000 dollars, and he is gone forth as a Phil Apostle. Apostle is a bad word.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:17:24] Evangelist maybe?
Phil Hellmuth: [01:17:25] Yes, yes, yes. Evangelist. He's evangelizing. What a great guy, and he has a big voice. That's nice.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:17:32]] It's good to go with the clean receipt, man. I agree with you there. You also talk about balancing negativity. When there's not enough, you need a little fire, but when there's too much, you play even worse. So how do you moderate that? Forgiveness is definitely one of those things that would help with that, right? Instead of whining about this guy, even though you had great reason to, you let it go. That moderates the negativity, but it's not completely gone. What else? What else can you do? Let's say there's nobody to forgive, and you're just in a shitty mood. What do you do to mitigate that?
Phil Hellmuth: [01:18:01] It's a good question. And some of my worst moods are after I bust out of a tournament. So I bust out of a tournament and you know, I start walking down the hallway. I'm trying to get out of there and, or maybe I've already walked a casino over and someone sees me. They don't know I've had a bad day. They're just know they're a huge fan of mine, right? And I'm not saying that, you know, I'm an A list star, but I'm saying my fans are very, very, very powerfully behind me. It's crazy. And so I'll see someone and they're just lit up. I can see their face. They're lit up to see me feel. “Phil, can I have a picture?” And I'm in the worst mood. Well, I learned a long time ago. You smile and you take the picture, right? I smile and I take the picture. There's always a little residual. I'm not expecting it. And I smile and I shake their hand and I say, good luck and maybe give them a word of encouragement or whatever, but I kind of move on fairly quickly.
[01:18:54] And then I'm 50 yards away and they're screaming. That made my year unbelievable ,and they're just screaming. That was Phil Hellmuth, blah, blah, blah, blah. Maybe I've taken four or five pictures with their group, and it's like, “Oh my God, really?” I mean, all I feel like is a poker player that just busted out of a tournament. I don't feel special. I mean on a daily basis, I don't walk around feeling special, and if you do then it's bad for your ego. But then I'm suddenly reminded, “Wow, I just gave that person some inspiration” and so I'm just all of a sudden, rather than, you know, 100 percent down now, 60 percent down, or 50 percent down and then someone, I'll run into someone else, and they want a picture and an autograph or whatever. And so I get to my room, I'm not nearly as bad a shape.
[01:18:54] And so that's dealing with some negativity post or being in a bad mood. Dealing with negativity in the moment at the table, you know, getting unlucky in a pot or miss playing a pot. If I misplay a hand, I'll beat myself up a little bit. Like what was I thinking? How could I do that? And then sometimes there is too much negativity when I'm at the table. And then I try to break out of that. I've discovered a long time ago when everybody at the tables in a good mood, I do better. So I try to like, I try to break out of that fairly quickly and realize, “Wow, do you realize what you've done in poker?” You know what I mean?
Jordan Harbinger: [01:20:18] So you zoom out a little bit and you go, all right, this one negative event or set of negative events. If you zoom out far enough, you see all of the good and all the positivity and it's sort of washes it out.
Phil Hellmuth: [01:20:28] And then there's a times where I'm just in cordially negative. That happened last year, twice, and the press was there, both deep runs, one in Limit Hold 'Em tournament where someone put it horrendous they called all this money trying to hit exactly acquaint and hit it, and I just went crazy. I wouldn't let it go and that costs me, because I think if I would've let it go and change and my parents were there too, they were on the other side of the room and my wife and I blah, blah, blah, blah, all negativity. Blah, blah, blah, blah, way too much negativity, and I got stuck in that moment. And I think maybe I finished 14th in a tournament where I should have finished higher. It's something that, you know, once a year probably it's hard to break out of that, you know.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:21:13] How have your skills helped you away from the table? Maybe in doing some other thing, like you're in a business deal and you're like, you know, I'm just not getting, I'm feeling something about this guy because something I learned in poker is telling me that this guy is maybe bluffing. Maybe they don't have financing and there’s more to us.
Phil Hellmuth: [01:21:27] Yeah, you're done onto something there. And I remember meeting Nick Stein with the famous CIA agent and after the meeting he's like, “I was so nervous about meeting you.”
And I'm like, “Do you want me to break it down for you?”
Jordan Harbinger: [01:21:39] That's funny.
Phil Hellmuth: [01:21:40] He's like, yes. I said, you exaggerated here, here, here, and here. I felt like this was kind of a quasi-lie, but I thought you were honest here, here, here, here and here, and I don't blame you for the exaggerations and he just started laughing, you know? And so yeah, you noticed, I mean, stuff like that translates in general. People don't try to lie to me in general. Shysters don't even want to approach.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:22:05] They're easier marks I think.
Phil Hellmuth: [01:22:06] Right. And they have to get through my age anyway. But yeah, it's helped me a lot understanding people's intent.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:22:12] I can imagine. It probably happens all the time. And then people realize crap, he's looking at other people for living, and other people are trying to hide their emotions during poker. So somebody who's coming up to you and trying to tell you a bunch of crap better, have their spiel down pretty tight. So what do you look for when you think somebody's exaggerating? Because you mentioned before during poker you're looking at their baseline, the way that they're playing. What in a negotiation are you looking for? When you met with Nick Stein, how did you spot that he was exaggerating in those particular places?
Phil Hellmuth: [01:22:43] It's just a natural instinct, right? I mean people, especially when you can look someone in the eye when they're sitting across the table from you, it's one thing, sometimes poker there at an angle, you know, from you. That happens all the time because poker tables are round. When you're sitting across the table from me looking me in the eye, I think that I pick up a lot of stuff and it's just a natural normal. I don't even know how I do it. I just know that, you know, that's not right when you say it. And then I, and then I have to go to deductive reasoning. Why isn't it right? I mean usually, it comes down to just two or three meta points, and it's pretty easy to isolate which one it is. So someone tells you, my company is, you know, we have an offer for 640 million from somebody else and they're looking me in the eyes, and I'm like, that's not true.
[01:23:31] So what does it mean? Well, they may it, it's true. They do have an offer from another company, but maybe it's 500 million. Okay, so that's one possible conclusion. Or they don't even have an offer from another company, which is another possible conclusion. And so, you know, then you have to figure out, all you can do is give the pure information to the CEO and say, “I think this is the case. But he definitely was not truthful there.”
Jordan Harbinger: [01:23:55] And you're thinking insert maybe in percentages just like you would at a poker table, like a 70 percent?
Phil Hellmuth: [01:24:00] Nope, not even percentages, just like, all right, they're lying. Why are they lying?
Jordan Harbinger: [01:24:04] Really? So you're pretty binary.
Phil Hellmuth: [01:24:05] They're exaggerating. Why are they exaggerating? Yes.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:24:08] Huh. Okay. Interesting. But you don't know how you do that. It's just been practice.
Phil Hellmuth: [01:24:12] Yeah. Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:24:13] Huh. When did you discover that you were able to do that?
Phil Hellmuth: [01:24:16] Early on, early on in poker, I've always been able to, and then you know, and then the second skill is influencing other people to do what you want them to do. Manipulation's a strong word, but maybe that would be accurate too. And that's like for example, when I throw my chips in and I get caught in a bluff and I flipped the hand up, I have to memorize exactly what my eyes look like exactly. Even more important is how did I put the chips in when I was bluffing, did I move left, did I moved right? What did I say? Did I put the glasses on? And the next time when you have that super strong hand, you try to replicate exactly that, inducing your opponent into doing something. And so that's an interesting one that I'm pretty good at as well.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:25:05] That's pretty fascinating. So you have to, you have to micro manage or monitor your own behavior and go, all right, I actually have a really weak hand. How exactly am I looking at my cards? How exactly am I moving around? Am I talking? Am I not talking? Am I throwing my chips in or am I sliding them in?
Phil Hellmuth: [01:25:20] Correct, and sometimes in retrospect, sometimes you have to look back and say, I got caught. What did I do? It's fresh in your mind. That's a great opportunity, getting caught bluffing because now you know they're going to call you more often.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:25:32] Right.
Phil Hellmuth: [01:25:33] So then, all right, how can I mimic exactly what I did when I was bluffing? But this time I have it.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:25:40] Right. this time you're not bluffing. Oh, interesting. You've got to do that in a real time too, which is a crazy challenge, I would imagine so.
Phil Hellmuth: [01:25:48] Well, not that hard because you know, it 30 seconds will pass before the cards are dealt, and by then you've already kind of isolated what it was and then you might not pick up that strong hand for another five hands or maybe another hour. But you have to be ready.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:26:03] The professional patients, comes into play here. One of the things that I read in Poker Brat, that actually surprised me as well was you said that “Money management was actually more important than poker skill in your life.” That was kind of surprising because I also read that you were, you were spending at some point like 65,000 dollars a month and you had to trim it down to 45. And I thought, one, what are you buying? And two, you must have a lot of Amex points.
Phil Hellmuth: [01:26:28] Well, it's interesting, you know, I would in the past I've been able to hang out with some amazing people and one guy was telling me that he was spending a million a month, and I'm like, how is that possible?
Jordan Harbinger: [01:26:39] My God.
Phil Hellmuth: [01:26:40] You know, it very famous, one of these very famous guys that sells a lot of products on television, and a million a month. And I thought, “Wow! That's impossible.” And my friends are spending a couple hundred thousand a month right now and it's pretty easy. Private jets and you know, mortgage payments when you buy a 30 dollars million house, all of this kind of stuff. It was hard for me to believe myself that it was 65,000, but we did it. We looked at it. We did have two kids in college at that point. But that only explains part of it.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:27:10] Right, yeah.
Phil Hellmuth: [01:27:11] I was starting businesses. You know, I was paying a, I think I was paying my guy 10,000 dollars a month to kind of manage and it just starts to go. It's really not a big, it's the funny thing is the people that are wealthy that are listening to this are saying, “Wow, he only spent 65.” But the most people at home were like, “What? He spent 65, it's impossible.”
Jordan Harbinger: [01:27:29] It's like well above the average annual.
Phil Hellmuth: [01:27:32] So we tracked it down. My friends, some of my friends that aren't wealthy that didn't believe it, you know, or like, “Well, what exactly?” And we looked at it and it just, it made sense. And so we had to cut down. It was important. But when it comes to money management versus poker skills, imagine a diagram, okay? And say that your poker skills are 100, but just to say that for whatever reason, your money management skills are 20.
[01:28:02] So that guy with a 100 poker skills wins. Tournaments, wins millions of dollars, but then stays up all night. And when he's having that really bad day loses 2 million dollars and you know what? People are going to loan him whatever he wants. And that's poker right there. That's why, that's why I've been so introspective. One bad day could wipe me out, because they'll loan you whatever you want, they know what you're worth. And one bad day, one bad decision where you play 48 hours straight can what can wipe you out. You lose everything. And so that guy with a 100 poker skills, when he loses everything, and now he's a million in debt, he's going to climb out of debt, but how's he going to pay his rent now? He owes 1 million dollar. He lost all of his cash, right? And presumably maybe saved 20,000 dollars, maybe he spends 10K a month. That's two months runway, right?
[01:28:56] And so he has to get back and work hard and stress the bills and stress his wife or his partner saying, “Wow, where's our bill money?” That's a big thing. Now look at a guy with poker skills of 70, but money management of a hundred. This guy never loses too much money on any given day. So his worst days are going to be whatever. I mean I have this rule in Vegas where it was 10,000 dollars a day. It's been amazing for me because I can win a couple of hundred thousand but if I lose 10 I'm done. I forced myself to quit. Do you have those great money management skills? And you have like 1 million dollars, and you're still paying 10,000 a month, same as the other guy. You never sweat it. You have like 800,000 sitting in your box and your bank, maybe people owe you a couple, 100,000 dollars maybe a couple 100,00 dollars’ worth on your house, and maybe a few investments and you're just never sweating. 10K, 10K, 10K, that's a smooth life. So that's why I claim money management skills are more important. Poker skills because we're talking about life.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:30:06] So let's wrap with this. Tell us about the sign that you had on the mirror in the bathroom growing up and how that affected you?
Phil Hellmuth: [01:30:12] Big time. I have this new article, MilliOnAir Magazine or whatever, where we just asked 20 questions, and it's called positivity. I'm doing it. I'm going to ask Jack Dorsey and Sheryl Sandberg. So the sign basically said, “You are what you think. You become what you think. What you think becomes reality.” I'm going to repeat that. “You are what you think. You become what you think. What you think becomes reality.” And my mom had this sign hanging on our bathroom mirror, but understand, five kids and my parents, that's seven showers a day.
[01:30:50] We all were on the same floor. There's only one shower in the house. So all of us, you know, going through their brushing teeth, and all the like steam that comes out from showers and a year later, two years later, it'd be so dingy, she'd replace it. And I really think that was a powerful sign for me and my brothers and sisters. My brother has a law firm. He has 57 attorneys working for him, Hellmuth and Johnson. My sister, Carrie, has been a world-class cyclist, and was asked to join the first team USA, except she broke her a, had a serious leg break and went a different direction. She also has a law degree and she just got a PhD in Italy for economics. My sister, Molly, was welded a top 100 scientists in the world. She was the keynote speaker at a conference at Al Gore showed up to, you know, Molly Hellmuth. And my sister and special Olympics and as one a bunch of gold medals there.
[01:31:49] I believe that sign had a profound impact on our family. to believe that what you thought was going to become reality then why you think big? Why wouldn't you think I can do this? I can do this, I can do this. And once you start doing it, once, these thoughts do become reality, you're like, “Oh, I like this game.” Everybody shaped my life, I'm going to shape it even bigger and even better. And then you find yourself going for crazy things like becoming the best poker player of all time, writing New York Times Best Sellers, you know. Writing more New York Times Best Sellers, and you know now I'm to the point where I'm convinced that Positivity, that book, I'm convinced I'm going to help millions of people think bigger and do more with their lives.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:32:38] This has been great. I've really appreciate your time and you've been very open about a lot of things, which I think is really admirable and a lot of fun. So thanks so much Phil.
Phil Hellmuth: [01:32:46] Appreciate it. We're shaking hands.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:32:47] Yes. we are.
Phil Hellmuth: [01:32:48] Folks at home.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:32:49] For those at home. We're shaking hands. Yeah. That's great. Thank you.
[01:32:53] All right, I told you there was a ton of practicals in this. Jason, what'd you think of this man? This is a lot, a doozy long episode.
Jason DeFillippo: [01:32:59] I really enjoyed it. I really, really enjoyed it. This is one of the ones where I wish I could've been there with you in person because A, Phil's house sounds awesome, and it comes off much nicer than you'd think he would be, and much more considerate than you think he would be. The fact that they never show him apologizing to the people he berates on TV, you know, just to add to the drama kind of, you know, they kind of bugged me a bit because I'm like, “Oh, they're just putting this bully persona up there.” and he turns up he's pretty nice guy.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:33:28] Yeah, absolutely. Definitely. Really warm, really generous with his time. Great big thank you to Phil. His book by the way, it's called Poker Brat. We'll link that up in the show notes. If you enjoyed this one, don't forget to thank Phil on Twitter. That will be linked up. All his social media will be found at jordanharbinger.com/podcast, along with those worksheets. So if you want to apply everything you heard from Phil, make sure you grab those also in the show notes. Tweet at me your number one takeaway from Phil. I'm @jordanharbinger, both on Twitter and Instagram.
[01:33:57] This episode was produced and edited by Jason DeFillippo. Show notes by Robert Fogarty. Booking back office and last minute miracles by Jen Harbinger. And I'm your host, Jordan Harbinger. Don't forget to pay that fee and share the show with those you love and even those you don't. Lots more like this in the pipeline. We're excited to bring it to you. And in the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
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