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!

Please Scroll down for Full Show Notes and Featured Resources!

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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.


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