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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

The Round Table – A Modest Conversation with Phil Hellmuth

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He’s won 11 bracelets, he’s won the Main Event, he’s won over 5 million dollars in tournament cashes… he’s Phil Hellmuth.

KL: You travel the world, staying in suites, eating at the nicest restaurants, drinking Cristal; why do you think you have been able to have such a lavish life?

Phil:
I have always stayed in suites at nice hotels so when I had to pay for them myself ten years ago that’s what I did. I feel like I have been very blessed financially and I would rather stay in first class hotels. All the poker players know that about me, I always stay off site…like in Tunica I haven’t stayed in a hotel room in Tunica since 1997. I always stayed in Memphis at the Peabody, which I mean how could you beat it? It is one of the most famous hotels in the world. The NBA players are always coming through around then. I saw Yao Ming, Scotty Pippen and all these guys coming through, and a lot of the NBA players are my fans now. You are two blocks from Beale Street, there is a move theatre that you can walk across the way to, a big mall a hundred yards away.

I like kind of being in these fun situations. I’m the guy that gets away from poker more than the other guys. I’m the guy that when we are on the east coast I will go to the Van Gogh portrait exhibit. The other guys don’t even leave the hotel. I’m the one that goes to play the congressional golf course in Washington DC when I’m on the east coast because I like to get out there and do some fun things. Whenever we travel to these places we have to benefit by doing things. I like to go out and I like to have fun. What’s the hottest club in Atlantic City, I want to go there I want to get the VIP table. Hottest club in Vegas, I want to go there. Not every night, I’m in Vegas for a month, I go out maybe twice, three times.

KL: Tell us a crazy Phil Hellmuth story.

Phil:
Here’s a crazy story. I have delivered a speech in London on Friday. I spoke at one place, popped on a helicopter and spoke at another place, the second place I speak right before George Bush Sr. so we are in the green room and there’s Bush. We have a beer together. Now I should tell you, I have been vetted by the Secret Service in the hotel we are staying at. We are at this hotel together and there is a door that separates our suites. They had police come through with dogs to check out my room before I even checked in. I would come up the elevator and there would be three secret Service Guys, five police officers down the hall. When I walked out they would say, ‘Phil, how you doing?’ They were my fans! They tell Bush I’m cool and now Bush wants to have a beer with me.

Saturday morning I leave to go to Paris to be told that the next day is the French Open final. I want tickets so we go through Patrick Bruel, who is a huge singer over there, an actor, and he calls me and tells me he has tickets for me. He sends an official French Open car for me, the same one that picks the players up. I get dropped off at the back, I walk up, there is a red carpet and all the celebrities are in one section. I’m not as recognized here as I would be anywhere else in the world. I have a Versace shirt on, a colorful shirt, a little bit over the top. At one point I look over and notice Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston. Vince is like, ‘Philllll!!,’ [Phil laughs] I’m like, ‘Vince, how you doing man,’ and we just start talking. Now Vince knows all this stuff about me, he’s a big fan. I’m a big fan of Vince Vaughn’s. I’m probably a bigger fan of his than he is of mine. Nonetheless he knows I’m from Madison and all this stuff. He asked if I wanted to meet Jennifer, so I go down and meet her, she had seen me on television and knew who I was, whatever. We were just having a great time; we sat and talked for 45 minutes. It’s just freaky; this is the world that I’m in. This was in 2005 and it’s just gotten bigger and bigger and bigger and it’s crazy. You just go wow; everyone seems to be into poker.

KL: Poker fans can be interesting, what is your funniest fan story?

Phil:
Sometimes I’m in a club and girls come up to me and they say, ‘I bet someone I would kiss you.’ It’s a bit awkward; even if the girl is hot, but I say ok, kiss me on the cheek. Or people come up to me all the time and they just say, ‘you are my idol. You are my biggest idol in the world. I want to be like you more than anybody else in the world.’ It’s cool. Oh, and in 2003 a fan came up to me and told me I saved their life. He said he was in a coma about to die and he imagined that he was playing me heads up in poker and he came back. When I was going for my bracelet in 2003 this guy comes and sits behind me and my wife said it was this strange energy hit the room and I won 11 pots in a row. She said she couldn’t explain it but this guy who thinks you saved his life sits down behind you and you win 11 pots in a row. That was kind of strange. Every day someone comes up and says I’m their idol. It feels good.

KL: Who is your ultimate idol?

Phil:
I don’t really have an ultimate idol. I would say one guy that I like a lot is Tom Hanks. I like the way he has managed to get two different Academy Awards in back to back years and the fact that he is still with his wife is pretty cool. It’s pretty rare and I am following in that path, I am still happily married. The temptations are just enormous every day and I’ve made it through the rain and I feel pretty good about it, but it is very difficult. So someone who has made it through celebrity fame and fortune and has managed to stay together is pretty cool.

KL: If you had to use one word to describe your life, what would it be and why that word?

Phil:
Limitless, because there is no limit on what I feel I can accomplish. I feel like I have been blessed on so many levels, bestselling books, award winning DVDs, all the big records I have in poker, perfect health, a great wife and kids, a ton of money and all the endorsement deals, a movie going to be made about my life, being on ESPN every day, talking about doing my own radio show with ESPN. It’s really kind of amazing. The list goes on and on and it’s amazing. I think limitless and I have to maintain my balance because it is important for me to take care of myself and be able to enjoy all of this.

KL: What’s coming up?

Phil:
We are going to have a big stunt before this year’s Main Event. We are already planning. I can’t say much about it, though. My lawyer and I thought up the NASCAR outfit idea from last year and then Ultimate Bet thought of actually getting a NASCAR and things got a little out of control and it was great!

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