A hardcore, old-school gambler and a philanthropist at the same time, Phil Ivey is recognized as the best all-around player in the world.
At 39, he has ten World Series of Poker bracelets, but he aims for 30. He has been playing cards since the age of eight, and after obtaining a fake ID, he virtually lived at the Atlantic City poker tables before his 21st birthday. His poker face hardly tells anything, you wouldn’t even read from it that he has more money than Dagobert McDuck. He has made more than 23 million USD in live tournaments so far, which is the second best achievement ever.
However, as his main thing is cash game, and as he also has several major business interests, it is hard to estimate Phil Ivey’s net worth or the amount of money he actually won by playing cards. Living in Las Vegas, he is a keen gambler, betting on practically anything, from sport games to prop bets and coin tosses. And he also gives back by donating money to charities.
No Home Jerome
He was born as Phillip Dennis Ivey Jr. in Riverside, California, on February 1, 1976. However, as the Ivey family moved to the East Coast when he was three months old, the young Phil was brought up in New Jersey. His grandfather taught him how to play Five-Card Stud when he was eight, and he got addicted to poker for life. He spent his afternoons obsessively studying his grandfather’s play, and he told his family soon that he wanted to become a famous poker player.
His family together with his grandfather tried to persuade him to choose some more conventional path, however when young Phil was 16, he was already spending his spare time playing illegal cash games, usually winning. He soon purchased a fake ID with the name “Jerome Graham” and he got into the close-by Atlantic City poker rooms. In his first few years he did not make too much money, yet he spent all his time at the tables studying the game fanatically.
He seemed to be living in the casinos and from the regulars and the staff he got the nickname “No Home Jerome”. He wasn’t very successful though, he usually lost against smart opponents, and financial problems arrived soon. He struggled to pay his bills and many times he didn’t have a place to stay. Nevertheless he got grip of the world of professional gambling and the countless hours spent at the tables started to reward him.
The Tiger Woods of Poker
He got better and better and at 21, when he was able to get rid of his alias, he was already recognized as an astonishing poker player in Atlantic City. In 2000 he entered the World Series of Poker for the first time and he instantly won a bracelet. In 2002 he managed to win three bracelets in twelve months, which is a feature achieved by only two big poker personalities before him, Phil Hellmuth Jr. and Ted Forrest.
After that historical year he was referred as the Tiger Woods of Poker and considered as one of the best all-around players ever. Since then he made it to the final table in WSP 31 times, winning 10 bracelets to date. He also reached the final table seven times on the World Poker Tour before winning his first title in 2008.
Though he was successful at live tournaments, finishing in paying positions at major events more than seventy times during his career, he also remained a regular of the Big Game – cash games played at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas – for long. A remarkable chapter in his career is his battle against Texas billionaire and math genius Andy Beal.
The best all-around player on the planet
Between 2001 and 2006 Beal played many battles against “The Corporation”, a group of professional poker players, draining 11 million USD from the popular gamblers eventually. However, in the final showdown Ivey won back all the 11 million and also made a profit of more than 5 million USD for himself. Beal left Vegas instantly and swore not to play poker again.
Ivey was into online poker as well before Full Tilt Poker was closed down for US players in 2011. He established a sponsoring relationship with Full Tilt Poker, reportedly having a large stake in the company. He is one of the most successful players in the history of online poker solely based on earnings.
Ivey donates money regularly to charities including a 50,000 USD check for the Empowered 2 Excel, a Las Vegas charity for underprivileged children in 2008. He also follows a code of ethics, typical of old-school gamblers. He got married in 2002, divorcing from his wife, Luciaetta seven years later.
Though he is recognized as one of the best poker players ever based on his achievements, he is considered as the most dangerous opponent on the planet because of his aggressive and fearless playing style that also makes him able to adapt to any situation. He blended different styles perfectly to become the ultimate hybrid player, and arguably the best of his generation.