Phil Ivey Biography – One of the Best Poker Players in the Business

Despite being significantly younger than many of the top poker players in the world, Phil Ivey is talented enough to make any of his competitors nervous. He has won ten World Series of Poker Bracelets, a World Poker Tour title, and 23 million dollars from live tournaments alone over the course of his career. Currently, he’s number one on New Jersey’s All Time Money List and number four on the United States’ All Time Money List for poker players.

The only thing standing in his way of being inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame is their strict age requirement which states that any inductee needs to be forty years of age or older in order to even be considered.With his 40th birthday approaching quickly, we almost guarantee he will be this year’s nominee. Phil Ivey has accomplished so much already, but we know he still has a lot more to offer and we are excited to see how his career advances.

“If you can’t pull a $100 out of your pocket and light it on fire, I don’t think you can play poker for a living.”
~Phil Ivey

Before His Career Really Took Off

Phil Ivey Jr. was brought into this world on February 1st, 1976 to his father, Phil Sr. and his mother, Pamela. Although he was born in Riverside, California, he spent the majority of his young life in the small town of Roselle, New Jersey. It’s no surprise that someone so talented at playing cards learned how to play them at a very early age. His grandpa actually taught him how to play poker when he was only eight years old.

Phil’s grandpa was impressed with how quickly he was able to pick up on the games’ rules, and he was surprised when he started coming up with his own strategies to win. His grandpa was probably one of the first people that recognized his talents and could see that he had the potential to one day play poker professionally.

It would take Phil many hours of hard work and dedication in order to hone his poker skills. When he was about sixteen, he would regularly participate in a weekly poker game that took place at one of his friend’s house. He often won, but not much money was ever at stake. While still in high school, Phil would use a fake id to sneak into the casinos of Atlantic City in hopes of finding more opportunities to win money.

He did win some money here and there, but he wasn’t winning as much or as often as he had hoped.That didn’t keep him from playing though; he actually was nicknamed “No Home Jerome,” during this time because he rarely left the tables and because his fake id stated that his name was Jerome. Phil eventually moved to Atlantic City, so that he would have even more time to invest into playing. Once he turned twenty-one, he could finally enter the poker circuit under his real name.

Professional Poker Career

World Series of Poker Main Event (2009)

Once Phil Ivey no longer had to use someone else’s name to set foot in the casinos, he started entering as many tournaments as he could. The first tournament he ever won was Trop’s Customer Appreciation Invitation Tournament in Atlantic City; he instantly won $1000 and was hooked on tournament play. Just a couple years later, he would enter his first World Series of Poker where he was able to place first at the Pot Limit Omaha event. Not only did he walk away from the competition with $195,000 in his pocket, but he won his first WSOP gold bracelet. Below we have provided a complete list of the WSOP bracelets Phil Ivey has won thus far.

  • Pot Limit Omaha Event: $195,000 (2000)
  • Seven Card Stud Event: $132,000 (2002)
  • Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo Event: $118, 440 (2002)
  • Limit Shoe Event: $107,540 (2002)
  • Pot Limit Omaha Event: $635,603 (2005)
  • No Limit Deuce to Seven Draw Event: $96,367 (2009)
  • Omaha/ Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo Event: $220,538 (2009)
  • O.R.S.E. Event: $329,840 (2010)
  • Mixed Event: $54,252 (2013)
  • Eight Game Mix Event: $167,322 (2014)

Not many people can say they have won ten WSOP gold bracelets, and even fewer people can say that they have won three bracelets in the same year. Phil Ivey’s success at the World Series of Poker is unmatchable, and his talents don’t end there. He has competed in several other major tournaments and has managed to win millions of dollars through them as well.

Let’s start by mentioning his performances at the World Poker Tour. His first time entering that competition, he managed to take 4th place in the No Limit Hold’em main event in Mashantucket. The following year he managed to take 2nd place in a similar event in Tunica. He would continue to play well at various events of the WPT until 2008, when he effectively took home his first World Poker Tour title by winning the No Limit Hold’em Championship event for nearly $1.6 million dollars.

Back to back years in 2014 and 2015, Phil took first place in the Aussie Millions Poker Championship in Melbourne, Australia. The first year he won over $3.5 million dollars and competed against thirty contestants, while the second year he won a little over $1.7 million dollars, as he was only competing against 25 contestants.

Phil has appeared on a couple poker themed television shows including NBC’s Poker After Dark, where he won $120,000 on the show’s Earphones Please Tournament beating other professionals such as Andy Bloch, Tony G, and Phil Hellmuth among others. He also participated in seasons three and six of Game Show Network’s High Stakes Poker.

When Phil’s not playing in tournaments, he can often be found playing for very high stakes at Bobby’s Room at the Bellagio Casino. He often participates in what’s called, “The Big Game,” where high rollers from all of the world come together to compete against some of the best players in the business. Phil has had the opportunity to come in contact with many poker greats including Johnny Chan, Doyle Brunson, and Daniel Negreanu.

All In Magazine named Phil Ivey, “Poker Player of the Year”, in 2005 and 2009. What makes Phil Ivey so successful at the tables is that he’s always working on improving his game. This involves constantly setting goals for himself and never being satisfied with doing anything other than his best. One of his more recent goals is to surpass the number of WSOP bracelets Phil Hellmuth has. He’s only four bracelets away from tying him.

He may not have beaten Phil Hellmuth, but he has beaten Andy Beal. For years, a cluster of professional poker players known as “The Corporation,” have teamed together to compete against the mathematical theorist, Andy Beal. By the time Phil Ivey had an opportunity to compete against Andy Beal, “The Corporation” was down $10 million. Luckily, Phil wasn’t there to mess around. After three straight days of playing Texas Hold’em, Andy Beal walked away with over $16 million less than what he started with. His entire team raved at his victory; he truly showed his worth.

Every great player has a signature move or style, and Phil Ivey’s is definitely intimidation. He’s known for staring deeply into his competitor’s eyes, often times scaring them into making the moves he wants them to make. His stare doesn’t work on everyone, but those who have never experienced it firsthand will be caught off guard by the intensity of it.

ARIA Resort & Casino recognized Phil Ivey’s talent by creating an exclusively high limit poker room in his honor. This room, better known as “The Ivey Room,” officially opened in 2010 with a $1 million freeroll where people had the opportunity to win the $250,000 first prize. Anyone who successfully is able to eliminate Phil from the table will also be awarded a $100,000 bonus.

Phil Ivey spoke out about his career as a professional poker player when he published this to his Facebook page,

“For many years, I have been proud to call myself a poker player. This great sport has taken me to places I only imagined going and I have been blessed with much success.”

Complications with Full Tilt Poker

We have all heard about the infamous Black Friday of 2011, where the United States government successfully shut down several online poker sites that had been serving US customers, despite it being against the law; among these sites was Full Tilt Poker. Thousands of customers tried to withdraw their funds from their accounts, only to find that Full Tilt Poker didn’t have the necessary funds to complete their transactions. It became obvious very quickly that Full Tilt Poker had been stealing money from customers, and now everyone’s reputations were at stake.

Phil Ivey released this statement shortly after he discovered the horrible news,

“I am deeply disappointed and embarrassed that Full Tilt players have not been paid money they are owed. I am equally embarrassed that as a result many players cannot compete in tournaments and have suffered economic harm. I am not playing in the World Series of Poker as I do not believe it is fair that I compete when others cannot. I am doing everything I can to seek a solution to the problem as quickly as possible.”

Phil wouldn’t rest until justice was severed for the members of the Full Tilt Poker website, and that’s why he chose to file a lawsuit against the company that once supported him. His lawsuit was one of the main triggers that forced Full Tilt Poker to sell their assets over to PokerStars, who then agreed to pay back a portion of the funds owed to former Full Tilt players.

Relationship Issues

Before Phil started taking poker seriously, he fell in love with a woman named Luciaetta. After dating for several years, the couple would eventually get married and settle down in Las Vegas. Their marriage seemed to be strong, as Phil only ever talked about her positively to the media. However, behind the scenes their marriage was failing and no one could help them. They mutually filed for divorce and by December, 2009, everything was finally settled.

As stated in their divorce contract, Luciaetta would receive $180,000 out of the $920,000 a month paycheck that Phil Ivey received from Full Tilt Poker. When Full Tilt Poker went bankrupt after the events of Black Friday, these paychecks stopped coming in. Luciaetta purposed to have their divorce contract re-evaluated, as she was hoping to get even more money out of Phil. The court chose to not give in to Luciaetta’s demands, as it was revealed that Phil had paid over $170,000 worth of her credit card debts and over $15 million worth of other debts in the original settlement.

When He’s Not Playing Poker

Phil and his mother, Pamela Simmons-Ivey, created a company called, “The Budding Ivey Foundation,” in honor of Phil’s grandfather. Leonardo “Bud” Simmons dedicated his life to standing up for underprivileged children by starting numerous enrichment programs, reading programs, and other programs that give these children the opportunities they need for a brighter future. This foundation is simply a continuation of his grandfather’s work. Phil invests his time and money into making sure his grandfather’s goals are accomplished.

Phil has also poured a lot of his time into the new website he launched called, Ivey League. This site is set up like a college. Players can choose the undergraduate plan at no cost to them, they choose the bachelor’s plan for $9 a month, and they can choose the master’s plan for $75 a month. This website was designed to educate players on the latest poker strategy, while providing other tips that help them think like the pros. The more money they pay monthly, the more resources they will have access to. Among these resources are educational videos, access to real, live coaches, and forums where they can express their opinions on a plethora of different topics.

When Phil Ivey isn’t playing poker, he enjoys going to various sporting events including ones where he can watch his favorite teams play: the Buffalo Bills, the Houston Rockets, and the Los Angeles Lakers. Although he appreciates watching basketball and football, his favorite sport to play would be golf, and he’s actually a very skilled player. He placed third in the inaugural World Series of Golf, which is why some people now call him, “The Tiger Woods of Poker.”