Happy Birthday, Phil, I hope you’re doing well, and I’d like to get you a gift. But first, I’d like to know if it was something I said that ticked you off, or whether you’re just not feeling it lately when it comes to playing poker under the bright lights.
Last summer, I wrote you, but my praise might’ve been a bit much considering you’ve fallen off the face of the earth a.k.a. the live tournament scene since your exit just short of the official final table in the Big One for One Drop.
You came close though to capping off your return to the World Series of Poker with a big win, finishing ninth in the $50,000 Poker Players Championship, the event where you, in 2006, saw one of the few to ever rival you in the mixed games, Chip Reese, win the first edition of this now legendary event.
As the dust settled after the WSOP, I was left wondering what you were up to. I would look at the stars at night and think, “What if Phil is looking at the stars right now as well?” and sometimes, when I’d walk past a poker table and see a player that looks even the slightest bit like you, I’d do a double take hoping it’s you, chewing on an apple or moving your eyes from left to right like only you do, observing and dissecting everyone’s every move.
But no, I haven’t seen you seen since you embarked on that long walk through the back hallways of the Rio. You seemed committed this summer to make some waves at the Rio, even bringing out the sunglasses during the Main Event at the feature table, but why haven’t we seen you since? Do you hate the big blind ante? Do people owe you too much money? Are you heavily disappointed in the lack of social awareness at the poker table? Is this your silent protest against tanking and turtlenecks?
I’m at a loss for words, Phil. We, the poker fans, thought we had you back in our lives. No longer would we have to sit through reruns of Poker After Dark and the World Series of Poker, pretending we didn’t already know you would get rivered by Chris Moneymaker or folded your way into seventh-place back in 2009. We thought we were building towards a better future, a future in which you’re challenging Phil Hellmuth for who gets to 20 bracelets first. But we were wrong.
Now, as you edge closer to your mid-40s, I wonder how you’re celebrating today. Bottle service in Macau? Should I be hitting up XS or Tao in Las Vegas tonight and keep a booth open for you? Do you even party still? I just feel like I don’t know you anymore.
Rumors were swirling this winter about appearances in Las Vegas, but not in any major events. I even heard the insanity that you were sporting a five o’clock shadow on those otherwise smooth cheeks, but I refuse to believe that.
Tonight, in honor of your birthday, I will drink the most expensive glass of wine that I can afford and raise my glass in silence in hopes of your return to the limelight. I’m not asking for much, Phil, I just want you to check-raise some GTO kid during the U.S. Poker Open, which I’m sure is an event you’re considering, or depending on how you’re doing financially, I’m pleased to let you know that the WSOP is putting on more three-figure events than ever before.
I don’t care what it takes to get you back, Phil. My birthday gift to you this year is a buy-in into the Big 50 at the World Series of Poker, and if you take me up on this offer all I ask of you is to come on my podcast for 30 minutes. It might not be the hourly rate you were used to getting back in those Full Tilt Poker days, but it’s the best I can do right now.
Happy Birthday, Phil. Wherever you are in this beautiful world, know that I’m thinking of you, and when the stars shine bright tonight, gaze upon them knowing that I have $500 burning in my pocket to help you back in the saddle and do things the right way in 2019.