If you took a tally of all the poker professionals currently plying their trade around the
world right now and asked the question “Who is the best all-round poker player?”, Phil Ivey would almost certainly come out with the most votes. He has been prominent in the news recently because of the legal action he has taken against Full Tilt Poker (he is on the team there) and the fallout from Black Friday.
Ivey appears to be a principled operator but he has his detractors also, although why he does is something of a mystery. He is not appearing in this years WSOP as a protest against Full Tilt and the manner in which it has held on to player’s money, depriving quite a number of the funds necessary to compete in Las Vegas.
Back to the beginning then and Phil Ivey was born in California in 1976 but spent most of his life in New Jersey. He is thought to have learned various card playing skills from his grandfather and to a lesser extent his father. It appears that from quite an early age that he wanted to become a professional gambler and his first big win was against his father’s friends when he was sixteen.
Living in New Jersey and with access to a fake I.D, Atlantic City was an obvious destination for Ivey to hone his skills on the poker table. This was not an overwhelmingly successful period but Ivey seems to have treated it as a learning process and as we now know, it worked.
He entered his first WSOP in 2000 and made it onto two final tables, winning a bracelet at Pot Limit Omaha and beating Dave Ulliot, Phil Hellmuth and Amarillo Slim in the process. This was the first of an incredible eight WSOP bracelets and they’re not all for Omaha or Texas Hold’em – Ivey has proved his all round poker skill by winning bracelts at H.O.R.S.E, Seven Card Stud and 2-7 Lowball among others. He has also won WPT titles to go with the WSOP ones.
He finances several charities, mostly to do with under-privileged children and the poor and his this to say of his full time job:
“A lot of people who play professionally don’t enjoy what they’re doing, and you can tell, and it makes a difference. I love poker. I love everything about it. It’s the greatest game in the world. I’m always trying to improve and always thinking about getting better. Some people I play against are just playing because that’s their job, and that’s a big advantage I have over them.”