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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

Where Are They Now – Phil Gordon

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Where are They Now is a series of an in depth look at all poker players - not just the pros - as they travel through one long game. Some of the players profiled are deceased but not forgotten.

When I first got into poker, around the same time everyone else did during the huge “poker boom,” I always seemed to see the same few players on television.  Sometimes these players were actually participating in the game, and usually doing well, or they were offering commentary on a poker show, trying to explain the game to people just getting into it.  One of the guys who always seemed to explain the game in a calm, easy to understand manner was Phil Gordon.  Gordon has continued to be an ambassador to the game, lending his commentary, and in some cases, his money, to make the world of poker a better place.

Phillip Stewart Gordon
was born on July 6, 1970 in the small city of Stone Mountain, Georgia.  As a youngster Gordon was highly interested in computers, and spent a large majority of his time trying to learn everything he could about them.  His interest in poker came from an aunt named Lib who showed him the game.  Gordon saw a lot of similarities in poker and what he was learning by spending time on computers, such as different equations and how they apply to each other in both subjects.  Sadly, Gordon lost his Aunt Lib to cancer, but that prompted him to start the “Bad Beat on Cancer” charity, which was started in 2003.  He is also a board member of the “Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation .”  

However, as a youngster, Gordon would concentrate primarily on his education, and it was something at which he would excel.  At just 15 years old Gordon entered Georgia Tech University, where he had been granted a scholarship after being nominated as a finalist for the National Merit Scholarship, one of the highest awards given in the field of education.  Predictably, Gordon would go on to study, and eventually gain a degree in Computer Science at the age of 21.

As any aspiring computer scientist, Gordon moved to Silicon Valley, in Northern California, in an effort to find a job.  Gordon found a couple jobs at major corporations, including Lockheed and Santa Cruz Operation, but perhaps he was in his own way a start-up, he took interest in a new company called Netsys Technologies.  Gordon became the first employee ever hired by the original founders.  The company, which specialized in developing computer network simulations, grew to over 50 employees, and eventually drew the interest of some of the bigger computer companies.  In 1996, just five years after being founded, it was sold to Cisco Systems for somewhere between 80 and 100 million dollars.  Because Gordon was the first employee, he was giving a large cut of this money, making him a multi-millionaire at the age of 26.

Gordon would spend the next few years traveling the world with a group of friends.  The trip saw the group visiting 50 countries.  When he returned to the states, he and his friends also traveled around American for a year going to every major sporting event.  From the Super Bowl to the Indianapolis 500, the group saw it all.  Good work if you can get it.

During his travels Gordon became interested in poker again, and when he was traveling the world, he thought he would give it a go.  Because he had the bankroll, Gordon could afford to play at the highest levels, even if they just amounted to very expensive lessons.  However, much like school, and his professional career, Gordon seemed to have what it takes right from the start.

In his very first World Series of Poker experience, in 2000, he placed 14th at the $2,500 Limit Omaha Hi/Lo and 26th in the $3,000 Pot Limit Hold’em event.  While that wasn’t huge money, he did break even, which is a lot more than a lot of people can say when they first enter the World Series of Poker.  The following year though, Gordon would more than make up for just breaking even by placing fourth in the Main Event for $399,610.  

There are people in life who seem to have a great combination of luck and skill that allows them to capitalize on being at the right place at the right time.  Gordon was both, bright enough to be working in Silicon Valley, but also lucky enough to be there when huge companies were gobbling up smaller companies like candy, and in turn making many 20-somethings filthy rich.  Gordon also showed enough skill to final table the 2001 Main Event, just in time before the “Poker Boom,” in order to capitalize on it in many ways.

One of the few ways Gordon has capitalized on this exposure was by becoming an author, and penning some of the first books on poker.  “Poker: The Real Deal,” was published in 2004, and was an immediate success, selling over 100,000 copies in its first few months on the shelves.  To this day it continues to be one of the highest selling poker books.  Gordon has also penned the Little Blue, Green, and Red Poker books, which are also very popular.  Gordon’s writing style is an easy-to-read, instructional method that just about anyone can get through.  On top of writing, he also starred in an instructional DVD titled “Final Table with Phil Gordon.”  This DVD won an award for 2005 for being one of the best instructional videos on the market.

Phil Gordon has cherished his role of poker teacher and ambassador, and says he thinks everyone can become a poker champion with the right determination and mindset.  That caused me to wonder if he felt that when he was the color commentator on Bravo’s Celebrity Poker Showdown, where he must have always felt he was telling us what the players were doing wrong.  While the level of play wasn’t top notch on that show, Gordon’s commentary was.  Gordon has also covered multiple WSOP Main Event final tables, and other big events.

Although Gordon’s Tournament resume isn’t as long as some of the other more popular players, it is equally impressive.  Gordon has 16 money finishes in the WSOP.  But he also made a major splash in the World Poker Tour, when it first started, winning the $5,000 WPT Championship Event in 2004 for $360,000.  In November of 2006 Gordon, a pro at Full Tilt Poker, took down the Championship for $600,000, his biggest tournament cash to date.  He earned another six figure payday just a month ago when he won a NBC televised “Poker After Dark,” tournament, outlasting the likes of Todd Brunson and Phil Hellmuth Jr.

As I get to this end of the story, I realize that not much has changed about Phil Gordon since I first became aware of him.  He’s still seems to be on a televised program every night, either winning money or commentating on those winning money.  He’s still placing high in major poker tournaments, and he still continues to offer his expertise to those wanting to learn the game.

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