Phil Hellmuth is no stranger to hubris, but it’s self-awareness of his place in poker history that fuels his drive to add to his legacy. Love him or hate him, he’s a polarizing presence in poker but his results speak for themselves. He’s at the Poker Masters hoping to add another title to his legacy so there’s little argument about who belongs on the Mount Rushmore of poker.
“Right now the wind is at my back, I just finished first and second in a couple of cool tourneys a few weeks ago,” Hellmuth said. “What you hope for is to be at the peak of your powers when you’re ready to play because poker is like a sine wave.”
“As months pass, sometimes you play great and sometimes you’re at the bottom of the curve. I don’t understand it completely – why it works the way that it does,” he continued. “What you hope for is that big events come along at the peak of your powers – I don’t know if I am right now. I feel like I know exactly what to do.”
Hellmuth’s homework on the field is admittedly limited, but he made a career of being self-focused. “The field is tough, I know who some of the great players are, whereas, Negreanu can give you break down on everybody else,” he said. “For me, I try not to worry about everyone else – I worry about me. When I play my best and my reads are on, I’m extraordinarily difficult to deal with and that’s what I’m hoping for.”
Hellmuth admitted in the past he was too focused on dominating the World Series of Poker and not playing other events. “I’m still upset that I didn’t close out the World Poker Tour a couple weeks ago because I still need five of those,” he said. “If you want to be the greatest player of all time you might need 24 bracelets and five WPTs, but stuff like this helps so you just keep plugging along.”
“I probably should have been playing more events outside the WSOP,” he continued. “But my life is so perfect and full of amazing things that I haven’t given myself the proper chance. It’s fun because now I’m giving myself a chance, I gave myself a chance at the Bicycle Club and I’m going to Europe to give myself a chance.”
“When I recorded the audio version of my book I realized all those years that I didn’t win a WSOP event and thought I had a bad year, I won something else,” said Hellmuth. “We traveled more so I would play in 20 or so events outside the WSOP. Just playing the WSOP and four events outside of it, I’m not giving myself a chance to let my greatness shine.”
“So, it feels like I’m more on the poker greatness track, where I may have been a bit off it in ’13 and ’16 because I didn’t play win at the WSOP or play that many other events.”