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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

Where Are They Now – Phil Ivey

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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.

One of the first stories I remember reading when I got into poker was about Phil Ivey.  Where I read the story, I don’t remember, but it told about a day in the life of Ivey at the high stakes poker tables.  One day he had lost nearly about $50,000 dollars at a high stakes game and was wondering how he was going to tell his wife, Luciaetta, about that bad news.  Now, Luciaetta had just been introduced to poker, via the online method, and she had been learning to play small stakes.  At the same time Ivey was driving home wondering how he was going to explain his loss, his wife was at home wondering how she was going to explain her loss at the table, which amounted to just over a dollar.  I’m assuming they both forgave each other, because they are still together all these years later.  I’m not sure if Ivey’s wife plays poker anymore, but Ivey has more than made up for his loss at the poker table that day.

Phil Ivey was born February 1, 1976 in Riverside, California.  He was introduced to poker when he was around eight years old, but not in a positive light.  His grandfather thought poker was an “evil” thing and wished to show young Ivey a lesson by cheating him in a poker game while playing for pennies.  Ivey’s grandfather hoped the cheating lesson would stick, hopefully pointing the child to another more “noble” profession.  Instead, Ivey only took the poker part to heart.  Ivey didn’t have too many people to play with for a few years, but when he turned 15 years old he learned of a poker game his friends were putting on, and from that point on he’s been hooked on the game.

Ivey thought it was the greatest thing in the world that you could sit down at a poker table and make a living from it.  When he was 16 or 17 years old, and with his family now living on the east coast, he obtained a fake ID so he could play at Atlantic City casinos.  Fellow players and pit bosses thought Ivey looked young, but with an ID, fake as it was, they couldn’t do much about it.  Ivey would spend so much time at the casino that players would jokingly call him, “No Home Jerome,” as the name on his ID card was Jerome Graham.   Ivey kept a low profile, for obvious reasons, hardly ever speaking to anyone, as to not out himself.  Perhaps this is why he is one of the quietest and unassuming big time players in the game.  Regardless, Ivey worked his way up from the lowest limit cash games to the $20/40 game, which he considered huge at that point in his life, and for most people it still is.
On Ivey’s 21st birthday he walked up to the poker pit boss and said “My name is Phil, today is my 21st birthday.”  The Pit Boss alluded to the fact that he was on to him, but now there was nothing he could do.  Just like that Ivey started his professional “legal” poker career.  Ivey started gaining an interest in tournaments, and started playing some smaller buy-in tournaments, but it wasn’t long before he was making a name for himself in the bigger tournaments. 

In April 2000 he won his first tournament at the first annual Jack Binion World Poker Open, taking down the $500 Limit Hold’em event for $53,297.  However, this was just the start of things to come in the year 2000.

At the 2000 World Series of Poker, Ivey finished in the money of three events, which included two final tables, and just missing the third.  He finished 12th in the $1500 7 Card Stud Event.  After that he finished 5th in the $2000 No Limit Event, on a final table that featured experienced pros Dave Ulliott and David Pham.  But, Ivey’s crowning achievement in the year 2000 was winning his first ever bracelet in the $2500 Pot Limit Omaha event.  If you thought his 5th place table was loaded, take a look at the players Ivey had to outlast to get first in this tournament.  Ulliot, Slim Preston, Phil Hellmuth Jr, and just missing the final in 10th place was Allen Cunningham.  At the time it seemed that Ivey was making a “Rocky” like underdog performance by winning, but today we know that Ivey is a favorite at any table he’s sitting at and at any game he chooses to play.  For the bracelet win Ivey added $195,000 to his poker bankroll, and won a total of $235,000 for his efforts.

Ivey has gone on to win five WSOP bracelets in four different events.  He has two in Pot Limit Omaha (2000, 2005), 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo (2002), S.H.O.E (2002), and 7 Card Stud (2002).  As you can see, his 2002 WSOP is one of historical proportions, and it also happens to coincide with the “Poker Boom” which helps us understand why Ivey is arguably the most recognizable poker players today (sorry, Hellmuth).  Ivey is also one of the most talented all around poker players, as chronicled by his bracelet wins.  With No Limit Hold’em being the most popular form of poker today it’s hard to remember that Ivey hasn’t won a bracelet in No Limit Hold’em, but he has done well in other No Limit Hold’em events.  For example, Ivey has made the final table of 8 World Poker Tour events, including a first place finish in February of 2008 which earned him just under 1.6 million dollars, his biggest tournament cash to date.

Despite his solid efforts at tournament poker, Ivey prefers cash games.  He is a regular at the big game at the Bellagio at Bobby’s Room, which means he is a winner, being stakes can reach as high as $4000/8000.  It was because of his prowess at the cash games he was chosen as one of the few to take on billionaire banker Andy Beal.  In short, Andy Beal played the highest stakes ever recorded against the group, reaching as high $50,000/$100,000 blinds.  Beal had taken a lead, but over a three day period, Ivey saved the group, taking Beal for 16.6 million dollars.  Beal said he would retire from poker, but he has said that before, and rumors are always circulating that he will be back for more.

Early in his career Ivey said he would bet on everything, including most sporting events every day, but he says he has learned to control those urges, limiting his sports betting to games he is attending, but according to reports from WSOP writers , Ivey still has the TV channels tuned to sporting events that he has wagers on—a lot of wagers on.  He is also no stranger to prop bets, mostly on the golf course.  Ivey is one of the better golfing poker players, which is actually a lot better than one would be led to believe.  Last year Ivey placed third in the World Series of Golf, which allowed players to either “raise or fold” before every shot.
Ivey was one of the founding members of Full Tilt Poker, being asked by Chris Ferguson to join the team.  Ivey can be seen playing there quite often at the higher stakes table.

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