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Rock Star, Tattoo, and Bad Beat

'No Justice'

by Phil Hellmuth |  Published: Jun 11, 2008


Phil Hellmuth note: About 18 months ago, Sully Erna, the charismatic lead singer of the rock group Godsmack, took a bad beat so upsetting to him that he went out and got a huge tattoo on his back that read, "No Justice." Erna tells his story here.

I had been at Bellagio playing in a tournament with David Plastik and Gavin Smith, but I was knocked out by midday, so I decided to play in a cash game. I sat in on a $5-$10 no-limit hold'em game to kill time. I was in seat No. 1 and bought in for $500. Four hours later, I was sitting on about $3,000. In the big blind, I peered down at pocket aces. Two people limped into the pot for $10, seat No. 10 raised it to $90 to go, I smooth-called, and both limpers went away. The flop came down A A Q. I checked, seat No. 10 bet $220, and I smooth-called again. The turn card was the 10, I checked, praying that he had spades, and he bet $500. I raised it to $1,100 to go, and he pushed all in! He had me covered, so I called for all of my remaining chips. I proudly flipped over my quad aces, and he showed me pocket kings with the K. I was thinking, "Yummy!" And as if we were in a movie, the river card was peeled off and the J hit the felt, as if it were in slow motion. Boom! A royal flush for seat No. 10, and a big pile of chips was pushed his way. I stood up from the table and said, "There's no justice in poker." I then called my friend Nina, who hooked me up with her tattoo artist. I headed down to his shop, where he tattooed four aces going up in flames on my back, with a banner below it that read, "No Justice."

So, why do I still love this game? Why wouldn't I? I have a great life that enables me to stay home and watch my 6-year-old daughter grow up. I can create my own schedule with my music, which leaves me plenty of time to get with the boys and play poker. And the more I play, the more I learn. I am very grateful to Annie Duke, David Plastik, Phil Laak, Antonio Esfandiari, and Phil Hellmuth for believing in me enough to pass on their wisdom and points of view. [Phil Hellmuth note: Erna was one of the celebrities on the Best Damn Poker Show on FSN, where Annie Duke and I worked with him for a few days to improve his game.] The bottom line is that the people who play this game enough all understand how brutal and unforgiving it can be. But we also know that great feeling of the rush you get when you're running hot! And that's why we keep coming back. To me, no-limit hold'em is more like a sport than it is gambling. I've never been the type of gambler who will toss quarters for $100 a flip, or dump thousands on rolling dice. Poker is a mind game, and there is a lot of strategy to it. Granted, the cards will fall where they may, and at the end of the day, you have to be lucky in order to win a poker tournament. But getting to a final table and giving yourself the opportunity to capture a title, or even just making the money consistently, is where practiced strategy and study come into play. There's a reason why you see the same faces over and over again making final tables. Luck? Maybe, but I think not. To get there, you have to know the game of no-limit hold'em, and you have to study your opponents' play. And that simply takes hours and hours of practice. So, to all of you grumpy, complaining poker players who are always whining and saying, "This game sucks. Why do I even play?" I say, swallow your ego a little bit, do your homework, and maybe look at your game with a more critical eye. Maybe you'll find things that you can tweak, just like the rest of us. Whenever I sit at a table, I think, "What a cool life I have. I have a beautiful daughter who loves me; I sing with one of the biggest rock bands in America; and I play poker in my free time and actually get paid for it!" Poker doesn't suck, it is a great game!

Currently, I am working on my solo album, which I hope to release by February 2009. Godsmack is now on break, but we will try to write sometime in 2009 … maybe! In the meantime, I am doing solo appearances in casinos around the country -- just me, an acoustic guitar, and a piano ­-- singing my songs and talking to people about my life: the good times and the bad times, and why music is powerful. We're calling the up-close and intimate shows "An Evening With Sully." For more info, check out And by the way, I still love this game!

[Phil Hellmuth note: Filming for our reality show -- Best Damn Poker Show -- ended in early December on a Friday, and on Tuesday night, Erna finished second in a $5,000 buy-in tournament at Bellagio and won $307,000! Then, he came directly to my Christmas party -- at my infinity-pool suite at the Palms Hotel -- and sang with the group Pearl.]