What can be better than listening to Phil Hellmuth talk about himself? Specifically, talk about how great he is and how it happened. I know, I know… sounds like a waste of time and loads of hot air. However in this instance, Hellmuth goes a little deeper into revealing the backstory behind his success pyramids.
The Poker Brat made a rare-non poker appearance on the Tim Ferriss Podcast. You might know Tim Ferriss as a life hacker, or entrepreneur, or author. He wrote several books including The 4-Hour Work Week, a book that drastically changed my life. In many ways, Ferriss heavily influenced me as a creative person and freelance writer. Ferriss encouraged mini-retirements and to enjoy the now instead of waiting until the end of my life when I might actually get there, or will have the proper health to enjoy the retired life. Ferriss' tip on email reconciliation preserved my sanity and helped me get into a specific routine where I devoted only two set periods a day to read/answer emails. His advice made me more productive and more importantly, it made me much happier that I regained control over my life that seemed to be completely out of control during the apex of the online poker boom.
Ferriss likes to interview world-class athletes and pick their brains. He had Phil Hellmuth on to discuss goals and making money, especially during down times.
Okay, let's get some of the more outrageous bits out of the way. Hellmuth mentioned he was so awesome in life that he helped someone come out of a coma! He said he's self-aware that he can inspire "millions of people" who watch him.
Also this was a gem… "I trust my instincts. When I'm on... I look great. When I'm off, the kids say 'Phil sucks at poker.' It's because they see my worst moments."
Hellmuth admitted he waited until he made over $1 million in net worth before he accepted a staking deal from Ted Forrest.
"You are going to have to play perfect and get lucky to beat me," Hellmuth told Johnny F'in Chan at the start of their heads-up duel at the 1989 Main Event.
Phil Hellmuth on money management
If you have guy who manages money better, he will have a much more comfortable life. It's going to look boring. Outsiders will say it looks too conservative.
After his WSOP Main Event win in 1989 when he became the youngest-ever champion, Hellmuth bought a condo, set aside money for taxes, and bought a car. But he admitted he lost the rest of his WSOP score, or $300K. Hellmuth suggested that's the moment he became more focused during the down times.
"When you're young in poker, you're usually reckless. I had been taking way too many chances."
"Money management is more important than playing poker," stressed Hellmuth. "Today I have a system where I will only risk $10,000 a day when I'm playing. For me it was a big step when I implemented five years ago. I can't always tell if I'm playing poorly, or if I'm getting unlucky. There's always mystery behind how you're playing."
On his resurgence a few years ago, Hellmuth explained, "I was very defensive until 2011-12. I have all the records? Why am I so defensive? That ties in with... 'I want to be great' and I want everyone to think I'm great at games, at poker. I think that drives people away."
Hellmuth also explained his “come to Jesus moment” when he was slumming it in a $2/$4 LHE in Madison, Wisconsin.
“I was 21... maybe 22... and I had one of these weird touch points when something amazing happens to me. Weird, right?”
Hellmuth got stoned and went to a bar to play pool with a couple of friends. He realized he was wasting his life and walked out of the bar. “I opened this door... and BOOM... the sun is out and it's bouncing off the snow and it was a metaphor. I opened the door and I saw all the light. I had been in some dingy bar and I saw the light.”
That's when Hellmuth called a taxi to go home, where he wrote up a bunch of life goals and two pyramids of success.
"If I'm going to be a poker player, I'm going to be the best. I'm going to win the WSOP. I'm going to marry a beautiful woman. I'm going to buy a beautiful car. I'm going to write a NY Times Best Selling Book."
Sounds like he wanted to wake up in a Talking Heads song. Cue "Once in a Lifetime."
Hellmuth cut out the weed smoking and focused on his career. “Within 2 years, I knocked off 5 boxes on the list,” he bragged.
"Then I hit the best selling book goal. I wrote 1,500 words a day for 2 months. On ESPN, guy holds up my book and says I cashed for $17,000. BOOM. My book hits the best seller list. I walked around high for weeks. It was one of the last goals on my list."
Listen to the podcast here.