It’s hard to know what to make of Phil Hellmuth’s behavior these days. The respect he gets throughout the poker world is undisputed: With a record 11 WSOP bracelets under his belt, he’s a Poker Hall of Fame member who, while maybe not exactly a household name (yet), is certainly more famous than the typical professional poker player.
When he won his first WSOP Main Event, he was the youngest player to do so; he also holds the record for the most WSOP final tables. He’s made well-received how-to videos for aspiring poker players, and he’s a constant presence on TV, with his many appearances at the table and behind the mic (he’s hosted the Bravo network’s Celebrity Poker Showdown).
And then there’s the other side — the “Poker Brat”, an affectionate name given to Hellmuth for his bold and temperamental attitude. That’s because Phil Hellmuth speaks his mind, loudly and regularly. He taunts opponents boldly when he’s winning; and he can react badly when beaten. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s poker, after all, a sport that was built on personality and irreverence.
But sometimes this tendency to make headlines with words instead of poker playing seem calculated, so many PR stunts to get his name in the headlines. It probably isn’t; it’s probably just Phil being Phil. Still, it’s hard to know for sure.
Take his latest news-making row for example: He’s recently spoken out rather harshly against casino giant Harrah’s — and the WSOP brand, which it owns, and with which Hellmuth has so much history — for its plan to enter the online casino market, which is currently in the planning stages.
“There’s a huge battle brewing,” Hellmuth said regarding Harrah’s’ plans. Since Harrah’s owns the WSOP brand, Hellmuth is hinting that the other major online poker sites (including UltimateBet, which he represents) could team up and form a new, alternative tournament series as a way of boycotting Harrah’s and its plan to dominate the online poker space.
Could that even work? Could anything supercede the WSOP and its gigantic popularity at this stage? Does Hellmuth really believe such a thing is even possible, or is he just itching for a new round of media exposure? Whether or not the first part is true, the second part has already been accomplished. Well played, Phil.