Phil Hellmuth Just Gave His Most Candid Interview Ever See It Here!
Following his bust-out hand in the PGT Championship on Tuesday, Phil Hellmuth spoke for over four minutes with PokerGO's Natalie Bode in what turned out to be one of his most brutally honest interviews.
The "Poker Brat" exited the PokerGO Studio without a cash in the season-ending $1 million freeroll, which is set to play down to a winner on Wednesday. Bode began the interview with the traditional, "were you pleased with your play today" question. But after the Poker Hall of Famer began to speak candidly about his desire to continue being great, she took the conversation in a different direction.
"I Want to Show People that I'm Still at the Top of the Top"
Hellmuth never shies away from telling anyone who will listen that he's the best poker player in the world. That's a subjective statement, but his resume certainly speaks for itself. With 17 World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelets, he's the only player with more than 10, and he's continued winning at a high-level late into his 50's.
"It kind of did feel good when I looked at the (PokerGO Tour leaderboard), only two people had won four tournaments in the past year, and I won two," Hellmuth said after mentioning that he played far fewer tournaments in 2023 than many high rollers.
Hellmuth continued to explain that he wants his peers and poker fans to realize that he isn't just a has-been the poker world trots out there for sentimental value, but instead is still one of the best in the game.
"I want to show people that I'm still at the top of the top," Hellmuth said. "But you have to prove it too."
The poker legend brought up his lack of reps in high rollers over the past 10 months. He said his last appearance prior to this past week in the PokerGO Studio, which is home to many of the toughest and most prestigious high roller events, was last March.
Does Phil Hellmuth Still Have Something to Prove in Poker?
Bode then encouraged Hellmuth to speak even more candidly on his reputation within the game. She asked: "I'm surprised you feel like you still have something left to prove with all of your achievements. Is it just that you want to continue to show people you've still got it?"
"I think there's a thing where you can be the all-time great within a sport, and maybe there's a lot of people that give me all-time great status in poker. But, who cares? You want to be the greatest today."
Hellmuth made it clear that while he's ecstatic that some consider him the best poker player, or at least best tournament player, of all-time, he wants to be recognized for being great at present time.
"You don't want to be a ceremonial guy, you don't want to be the guy that's like, 'oh, Phil's here to play,'" he said with a laugh.
Many legendary athletes played far too long beyond their prime and did some damage to their legacy. Hellmuth's different in that he's still winning WSOP bracelets. Last summer he won his record-extending 17th gold bracelet. The poker world isn't just trotting him out there for the novelty.
"The last three years, I think my results in the biggest tournaments are #1 or #2," the 59-year-old poker icon claims.
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That self ranking is debatable and there are many players and fans who would disagree. But he understands that there's a running clock on greatness.
"You just never know when your time is over," Hellmuth admitted. "Based on what (Doyle Brunson) and a lot of other great players did, they were all great into their mid-70's. And so that gives me quite a bit of time to achieve my goal of 24 World Series of Poker bracelets."
Brunson, who only played a few tournaments in his late years, passed away last year at age 89. He never stopped playing cards and even competed in some of the highest stakes games at Bellagio in Las Vegas weeks before his passing.
It appears Hellmuth is headed in the same direction as Doyle, playing poker for life. But it isn't just about the money or the hobby aspect for the Poker Brat. He still has something to prove and admits his lifelong insecurities factor into his desire to show the world he's great at poker.
"There's always insecurity, there's insecurity about friendships, there's insecurity about, you know, life in general," a candid Hellmuth said. "I think everybody listening can recognize that and face that. And you would think, 'wow, Phil knows he's great, Phil knows this,' and I'm like, 'yeah, I don't know.'"
"If you walk around saying you're the greatest all the time, then you won't improve, you won't get better and you won't focus." - Phil Hellmuth
Hellmuth admitted he still doubts himself at times and explained that "doubt hits all the greats in sports," even Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan, perhaps the two greatest American athletes ever. In true Hellmuth form, the 1989 world champion made sure to mention that he's "lucky enough to hangout with those guys."
"You look at (Jordan's) Hall of Fame speech and it was all about, 'hey, I got dissed in high school,'" Hellmuth continued. "So, you could see some insecurity there."
Jordan, a six-time NBA champion with the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s, was cut from his high school basketball team during his sophomore year, but did go on to develop quickly and earned a scholarship to play basketball at the University of North Carolina. Hellmuth wasn't exactly a big superstar in high school either, and he hasn't forgotten that.