"No Home Jerome"
At the age of 16 he already played backroom matches for money and when he became 18, Jerome Graham, a colleague of his from the telemarketing company he worked for, sold him his ID for $ 50 so Phil could gamble in Atlantic City. There, he spent all of his spare time in casinos, which earned him the nickname “No Home Jerome”. All beginnings, however, are difficult and his first years on the green felt were very tough: he lost an awful lot of money and the rent was often late, forcing him to do without hot water and electricity.
Phil fell in love with Luciaetta, a co-worker at his telemarketing company and very soon the couple got married. Phil, still under age, continued playing poker using an alias. When he finally turned 21, he announced his real name to the casino staff, who had known him as “Jerome” for the past three years. In the years that followed he made significant progress and honed his poker skills to perfection.
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First Gold Bracelet at 23
In 2000, at the age of 23, he participated in the World Series of Poker (WSOP) for the first time. He beat Phil Hellmuth, Amarillo Slim and Markus Golser in the pot-limit Omaha finals and won his first Golden Bracelet. After this breakthrough, it seemed that nothing could stop him: in 2002, Phil won three more WSOP titles. In limit Seven-Card Stud he beat Toto Leonidas and Peter Moore, in limit Seven-Card Stud Hi Lo he outplayed Sirous Baghchehsaraie and Robert Turner; in limit HOSE he beat Diego Cordovez and Vince Burgio. One Bellagio tournament victory, a victory at the World Poker Open and two Commerce tournament victories followed. He also sat at several final tables at the World Poker Tour (WPT).
2005 was an equally successful year for Phil. He won his fifth WSOP Bracelet in the $ 5.000 pot-limit Omaha tournament, sat at two final tables at the World Poker Tour and finished second in the WSOP Circuit Finals. He also won one million dollars for his victory in the “Monte Carlo Millions” and – only 24 hours later – cashed up another $ 600.000 for winning the “FullTiltPoker Invitational Live from Monte Carlo” tournament.
In 2006 Phil Ivey was announced player of the year by Bluff Magazine, All In Magazine and the UK Gaming Awards. That same year – together with many other poker stars like Doyle Brunson, Chip Reese, Todd Brunson, Jennifer Harman, Howard Lederer, Barry Greenstein, Gus Hansen and Johnny Chan) – he founded the “Corporation”. This club’s aim was to pool money in order to challenge the successful banker, millionaire and high rolling poker player Andy Beal. The “Corporation” pooled 10 million dollars and competed in heads-up matches against mathematical genius Beal at the Wynn (Las Vegas). After two weeks of poker, Phil and his club members had lost everything. After a one week break, however, Phil Ivey and Andy Beal played non-stop for three days and Phil won back all of the 10 million dollars the “Corporation” had lost, plus another 6.5 million. Facing this tremendous defeat and the loss of 16.5 million dollars, Andy Beal vowed never to play poker again.
The legendary match with Beal captivated the world of poker: big bets were placed and all kinds of speculations made. The media desperately tried to get some information about the game. The “Corporation”, however, created an atmosphere of mystery around the match and tried to keep secret what was actually happening at the table – It was a private match after all. Had they really wanted to keep the match secret, though, they probably would have played at a private home instead of using a private room in a Las Vegas casino. As it seems, the enormous public interest in the game was not entirely unintended.
The game of “Andy Beal vs. The Corporation” went down in poker history for involving some of the highest stakes ever recorded. The American author Michael Craig even made it the subject of his book “The Professor, the Banker and the Suicide King. Inside the Richest Poker Game of All Time”. The title refers to Beal as well as two members of the Corporation. “The Professor” is mathematical poker mind Howard Lederer, “The Banker” is Andy Beal and “the Suicide King” is the eccentric and extremely reckless Ted Forrest. “Suicide King” also refers to the King of Hearts because on this card, the king seems to sink his sword into his head.
The "Tiger Woods of Poker"
It is not without reason that Phil Ivey is called the “Tiger Woods of Poker”, but many people even find this title does not fully do him justice. They argue he should rather be considered a class of his own, the “Phil Ivey of Poker”. His aggressive style, his impenetrable poker face and his great ability to assess his opponents make him a dangerous opponent. While playing, he is extremely focussed and concentrated, paying attention to every least detail and absorbing every bit of information other players reveal.
When he loses, Phil tries not to let it affect him and continues as though nothing distressing had happened. To an outsider, he is obviously a brilliant player and one of the best of the best. But Phil Ivey himself does not seem to know how good he really is. He often comments on sensational, near perfect games saying he still needs to work a lot on himself and improve his skills. Phil is extremely ambitious, always striving for perfection, trying to achieve more and improve beyond perfection. When asked how many Golden Bracelets he intended to win before the end of his career, his answer was “I want to win 30”, as if it was the easiest thing in the world.
“The Professor” Howard Lederer is convinced that Phil will be considered the best player in poker history before the end of his career; Barry Greenstein speaks of him as an “unmatched talent”.
Despite his fame, Phil Ivey has remained down to earth: while other players spend more time promoting their image than playing at the tables, Phil does not care much about publicity. He is just a regular guy who enjoys what he is doing. He never expected to become this famous and is still surprised sometimes about being recognised by people on the street.
Away from the poker tables
Phil Ivey and his wife live in Las Vegas, Nevada. When away from the poker tables, Phil passes a lot of his time on the golf course. He regularly plays with superstars like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. Phil enjoys playing golf for big money and there are even rumours about an upcoming five million Dollar match against Tiger Woods!
Phil likes video games, basketball and going to the movies. According to his MySpace profile, he is a fan of the Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Lakers, but when asked in an interview, he said his favourite team always is the one his money is on. Phil enjoys travelling with his wife and classy cars: his collection includes a Mercedes McLaren, a Phantom Rolls Royce and a Mercedes SUV. He also tries to keep in good shape to counteract the negative effects that sitting at poker tables for most of his time have on his body. Signing up to tournaments lasting as much as 50 hours, taking care of one’s physical fitness seems to be a wise decision!
His wife and high school love Luciaetta means a lot to him. He once explained in an interview:
"She helps me out with everything I can't do, which is everything. I can't do anything because I'm playing poker all the time. She takes care of me, and is definitely a help when I lose. Without Luciaetta, I wouldn't be nearly this successful."
Phil supports charity projects like Tiger Woods’ “Tiger Jam Foundation” and other projects in Africa.
Phil Ivey already is a legend beyond compare with fans all over the world who display their admiration for the poker genius with creative slogans, blogs and videos on the internet. Here are some examples:
Why you’ll never be as good as Phil Ivey…
- Phil Ivey plays Russian roulette with a full revolver and still wins!
- The reason Mona Lisa has that smile is Phil Ivey
- Casinos pay Phil Ivey not to take their money.
- When Phil Ivey sits down at the table, players fold at other tables
- Phil has stolen so much money from people he is being investigated by the FBI
- Phil Ivey plays and wins at Solitaire with only 18 cards.
- Phil is so good at maths he’s counted to infinity more than once
- Phil Ivey doesn’t use a watch. He decides what time it is.
These pieces of wisdom say it all..