Phil Ivey: Best Professional Poker of His Time
Often called "The Tiger Woods of Poker," Phil Ivey has an astonishing poker career under his belt. To date, he has accumulated over $23 million from live tournaments alone. Not only has he won a World Poker Tour title, but he has also won 10 World Series of Poker gold bracelets. It's no surprise that many people consider him to be the best professional poker player of his time. In recognition of his achievements over the years, Ivey recently received one of the most distinguished honors available in poker; he was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame.
To learn everything there is to know about Phil Ivey from his poker accomplishments to his personal life, please continue reading this thorough biography.
Phillip Dennis Ivey Jr. was born in Riverside, California, on February 1st, 1977. When he was just 3 months old, his family moved to Roselle, New Jersey. This small, suburban town is where Ivey would spend the bulk of his childhood.
Ivey's love of poker started early. He has his grandfather to thank for introducing him to the game at the young age of 8. Ivey and his grandfather would spend countless hours playing 5-card stud together, sometimes putting a few pennies up for stake on the games. Ivey mastered the game quickly and soon was developing his own winning strategies for it. His grandfather saw his natural talent for the game and was the first to point out his potential to go pro.
As Ivey grew older, his love of poker never subsided. He longed to play poker at the casinos of Atlantic City, but he would not legally be able to until he turned 21. So, what did he do? He created a fake ID, of course. He would be known for years as Jerome Graham. He moved to Atlantic City and regularly put in 15+ hours a day fine-tuning his skills and trying out various strategies. He quickly earned the nickname "No Home Jerome" because he rarely stepped foot outside of the casinos.
Once Ivey was of legal playing age, Barry Greenstein and Daniel Negreanu, amazing professional poker players in their own right, took Ivey under their wings. They gave him tips on how to improve his gaming style. Before their advice, Ivey had been playing too loose and would often get his money in bad situations. He was grateful for the opportunity to work with these players, and he took everything they said very seriously.
Accomplishments in Poker
If you didn't know who Phil Ivey was before 2000, you did after he won his first WSOP bracelet against the legendary Amarillo Slim. That win brought him in nearly $200,000. More importantly than the money, though, it brought Ivey the confidence he needed to pursue poker as a career.
Ivey's newly-acquired fans were excited to see what he would do at the following World Series of Poker in 2001. While he performed well, he wasn't able to win a WSOP that year. Many wondered if that would be the end of his career. It wasn't! Ivey blew people away in 2002, winning an unprecedented 3 WSOP gold bracelets.
Since then, Ivey has added 6 more WSOP gold bracelets to his collection for a grand total of 10 bracelets. Check out the table below for more details on each of his wins.
|2000||$2,500 Pot Limit Omaha||$195,000|
|2002||$2,500 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo||$118,440|
|2002||$1,500 7 Card Stud||$132,000|
|2005||$5,000 Pot Limit Omaha||$635,603|
|2009||$2,500 No-Limit 2-7 Draw Lowball||$96,367|
|2009||$2,500 Omaha Hi/Lo / 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo||$220,538|
|2013||A$2,200 Mixed Event||$51,840|
|2014||$1,500 Eight Game Mix||$166,986|
Phil Ivey's poker accomplishments aren't limited to the World Series of Poker. In 2005, he walked away 1 million dollars richer after winning the Monte Carlo Millions tournament. This was the first poker tournament ever held at the gorgeous Casino de Monte-Carlo, and Ivey was more than happy to be a part of it.
Ivey believes the World Poker Tour is worth traveling for. He has been participating in the WPT almost as long as he has been participating in the WSOP. He has found great success there. One of his most noteworthy accomplishments was taking first place in the no-limit hold'em championship in 2008. He took down Phil Hellmuth and other great pokers players, walking away with over $1.5 million in the process and his first ever World Poker Tour title.
In 2012, he traveled down under to participate in the Aussie Millions. He played in a number of events there but was most successful during the no-limit hold'em $250,000 challenge. In that game, he found himself head-to-head against Patrik Antonius, an excellent poker player he would eventually become good friends with. That victory brought him in a cool $2 million. Two years later, he returned to Australia to compete in the same event. He managed to land himself another first-place finish, this time cashing out with over $3.5 million.
Poker Hall of Fame
The Poker Hall of Fame was established in 1979. Each year, the current members and an 18-person blue ribbon panel meet to develop a list of 10 finalists. In 2017, word got out that Phil Ivey had made the cut. Freshly turned 40, this was the first year Ivey was eligible for membership.
Chances of getting inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in your first year of being featured on the finalists' list are slim to none. This is Ivey we are talking about, though. He always prevails, even when the odds are stacked against him. He was proud when it was announced that he, alongside David Ulliott, would be the winners that year.
This is an excerpt from the statement he released to the media to show his appreciation. "It's an honor to be inducted alongside legends like Chip Reese and Doyle Brunson. I love the game of poker and the game has done a lot for me. I am one of the lucky people who has been able to make a living playing a game which was always my passion. Thank you to my family, my friends, and all the poker fans across the world that supported me on this journey."
Phil Ivey on Television
On January 1st, 2007, the first episode of Poker After Dark aired on NBC. Each week featured a different set of professional poker players who would compete for the $120,000 winner-takes-all prize pool. Ivey participated in week 4 of that first season, competing against Sam Farha, Tony G, Mike Matusow, Phil Hellmuth, and Andy Bloch. Despite the tough competition, Ivey managed to come in 1st place that year.
Ivey participated in 5 of the show's 7 seasons. He loved the relaxed atmosphere and friendly competition encouraged by the show's producers. This show helped Ivey get global recognition because it was not limited to viewers from the United States; it also aired in Canada, Russia, and almost all of Europe.
In 2015, Chrysler created a 60-second commercial that featured a myriad of hard-working Americans who were responsible for their own success. This was to promote their latest Chrysler 300. Ivey felt privileged to be among the select few who were chosen to make an appearance on it.
Later that same year, Chrysler made another commercial to promote that same vehicle, this time featuring Phil Ivey exclusively. The voice on the commercial said, "There's nothing wrong with being flashy, so long as you've done the work to back it up." It features Ivey walking through a casino and then driving away in a gray Chrysler 300. This marks one of the first times a professional poker player received mainstream recognition.
The Ivey Room
Aria Resort and Casino contacted Ivey and asked if he would be willing to lend his name to their one-table high-limit room. Ivey was flattered and quickly accepted their offer, saying this in an interview with the press, "I am honored that Bill and the entire team at ARIA have decided to place my name on their one-table high-limit room. ARIA has established itself as a leader in the gaming industry and I look forward to playing at ARIA's Poker Room."
What does "The Ivey Room" look like? Once you enter through the two huge, sound-proof glass doors, you will see one large table in the center of the room. It is surrounded by several comfortable chairs. There is modern artwork on the walls, along with several flat-screen televisions. Each player has access to a butler who will serve them food from any restaurant on the property. This room is comparable to "Bobby's Room" at the Bellagio.
How Phil Gives Back
"My grandfather set the bar on personal achievements, charitable work, and community service. Filling his shoes will be hard work, but I'm always up to a challenge and I'm committed to continue his legacy." ~Phil Ivey
Ivey teamed up with his mom to create "The Budding Ivey Foundation" to honor Ivey's grandfather, who had a passion for helping children. Thanks to Ivey's generous contributions, this organization is able to sponsor enrichment programs to prevent underprivileged children from falling behind in school. They pay for reading specialists to come in and work one-on-one with struggling students. They also provide a variety of reading materials to the school so that they can update their library. This organization's goal is to give students the tools they need to be successful, no matter what obstacles may stand in their way.
The Budding Ivey Foundation gives out 2 full-ride scholarships per year to students that are in need of financial assistance for college. They look for students who want to pursue careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Ivey likes to be involved in the selection process for these scholarships. He wants to make sure the candidates he selects are going to work hard to achieve their goals.
Ivey has personally donated thousands of dollars to Empowered 2 Excel. They are a non-profit Christian academy in Las Vegas that hopes to promote academic excellence and encourage character development through positive reinforcement. Their goal is to provide a safe and creative learning environment for their students. Ivey's donation helped the school grant several full-ride scholarships to students who otherwise would not be able to attend.
Ivey has also agreed to donate 1% of his winnings from any tournament event he participates in, including the WSOP, to support Bad Beat on Cancer. This charity provides free cancer screening centers to cities all over the world. They also carry out intense cancer prevention research. Other players who agreed to donate 1% of their winnings include Andy Bloch, Annie Duke, and John Juanda.
Rumors of Cheating Scandals
All poker players remember the dreaded day in poker history known as Black Friday. That is the day the United States Department of Justice released the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, making it illegal to play poker or any other form of gambling over the internet. Players quickly fled to their online accounts and attempted to withdraw their money. Those with accounts at Full Tilt Poker ran into issues, though.
It became obvious quickly that Full Tilt Poker had spent their players' funds and had no intention of paying them back. Phil Ivey, who at the time was fully sponsored by Full Tilt Poker, was extremely embarrassed. Rumors started spreading that he and the other members of Full Tilt's Pro Poker team knew about the mishandled funds but chose to keep quiet about it. Ivey denied these claims, and a thorough investigation found him innocent.
Although Ivey wasn't personally responsible for the loss of players' funds, he was mad he didn't see it coming. He chose to sit out the 2011 World Series of Poker to show his remorse for the players who were now suffering financially. He also filed a lawsuit against Tiltware, the software and marketing company for Full Tilt Poker, in hopes of getting some of the missing funds back into the hands of the players.
In 2012, Ivey and his friend Cheung Yin Sun tried to cash out from the Crockfords Club in Mayfair, having won $7.7 million by playing a version of baccarat known as Punto Banco. Crockfords refused to pay the duo their winnings, though, claiming they had cheated because they used a technique called edge sorting. Edge sorting involves exploiting the defects in a card to help distinguish the face value of that card. Naturally, Ivey brought in his lawyer and tried to fight their claims. The case went all the way to the UK Supreme Court, and after 5 years, the courts finally made a decision. Ivey was found guilty.
Ivey spoke out about the judge's decision, saying, "It is very frustrating that the UK judges have no experience or understanding of casinos or the ongoing battle between casinos and professional gamblers attempting to level the playing field."
When Ivey was still in high school, he started dating a girl named Luciaetta. Right from the start, they were inseparable. Anytime Ivey wasn't playing poker, he was spending time with her. Young and in love, Ivey and Luciaetta decided to tie the knot. A few years into their marriage, they both decided they wanted different things in life; Ivey is living proof that marrying your high school sweetheart rarely works outs.
The divorce was rough. Luciaetta and her lawyer worked hard to make sure she could get as much money out of the lawsuit as possible. She ended up receiving $180,000 a month in alimony and approximately $2.2 million worth of jewelry and designer purses. Since the divorce, Ivey has been hesitant to pursue another relationship. He has had a few flings over the years, but nothing serious.
Ivey is a huge sports fan. His favorite teams are the Buffalo Bills, the Houston Rockets, and the Los Angeles Lakers. Sometimes he will actually travel and make an appearance at those sporting events, but more often than not, he will watch them from the comfort of his own home.
When he's not watching sports, he is playing them. He is an excellent golf player. He actually took third place in the first-ever World Series of Golf tournament. He is often found playing golf with other poker pros like Howard Lederer and Daniel Negreanu.
What Is Ivey Doing Now?
Back in 2014, Ivey launched "Ivey League," which is a poker training site designed to help people who want to hone their poker skills. He created 3 programs to choose from: undergraduate, bachelors, and masters. The undergraduate plan involves 10 video training sessions and access to the site's poker forum; this plan is absolutely free. The bachelors plan costs $9 a month, and the masters plan costs $75 a month. These plans contain more advanced training sessions and expert advice from a wide range of professional poker players. Ivey still oversees this site, making sure it always offers the most recent poker advice available.
Ivey's latest adventure involves him starting to work for Virtue Poker, a cryptocurrency-based online poker company. What will he be doing for this new start-up? His official title is strategic advisor. In this role, he will be asked to assist with product development and brand awareness. He is hoping to be able to use his widespread contacts in the poker world to develop relationships for the company. Ivey is excited to work alongside Brian Rast and Dan Coleman, two other big-name poker players who joined this company shortly before he did. This job is a good transition for Ivey, as his days of spending endless hours at the poker table are starting to come to an end.