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Phil Ivey — A Hard Man to Bet Against

Sixth and Seventh WSOP Bracelets Lead Summer Story Lines

by Kristy Arnett |  Published: Oct 01, 2009

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Phil Ivey

The World Series of Poker has always generated poker’s most compelling headlines, and this year is no different. The 2009 WSOP has already featured online poker legend Brock Parker winning back-to-back bracelets, Roland De Wolfe completing poker’s second Triple Crown, and Jeffrey Lisandro winning his second bracelet of this Series, and third in three years.

But the summer’s biggest headline belongs to Phil Ivey, the man considered by his peers to be one of the best, if not the best, all-around poker players today. The “pros’ pro” captured two more WSOP bracelets, adding to his already robust collection.

This is the 10th straight year that at least one player has won multiple bracelets. And who is the last player to win three bracelets in a single World Series? That would be Ivey, in 2002, who has a propensity for winning bracelets in bunches. In all, Ivey owns seven bracelets, in a variety of games — but none in hold’em.

“I don’t play a lot of no-limit hold’em tournaments [at the WSOP, because they are harder to win,” Ivey said. “There are thousands and thousands of players, so if there is a no-limit hold’em tournament going with a thousand players and a seven-card stud tournament with 250 or 300 players, I’ll play that.”

Ivey previously told Card Player that he doesn’t play tournaments for prestige or for the money. The competition and desire to win are what motivates the high-stakes millionaire.

“Once I am in a tournament, I just want to win it,” he said. “I think that is what is most important, doing the best that I can every time that I play. There have been a lot of tournaments in which I have not done the best that I could, and I have been trying to change that. And as you can see, my results have been getting better.”

Ivey’s first bracelet this year came in the $2,500 no-limit deuce-to-seven draw lowball event. That tournament attracted 147 of the game’s most talented players. According to four-time bracelet winner Daniel Negreanu, when play was three-handed, Ivey was by far the least experienced player remaining.

“His two opponents play that game regularly in L.A., and Ivey plays it only occasionally in the big mixed games. Both players are better than Ivey at the game, but Ivey is just a better poker player — period,” Negreanu wrote in his blog.

Ivey received just over $96,000 for that win. A week and a half later, he was back at another final table, this time in the $2,500 Omaha eight-or-better/seven-card stud eight-or-better event. He came to the final table seventh in chips, but eventually outlasted the rest of the field — including Carlos Mortensen, Dutch Boyd, and Jon Turner — to win another bracelet and nearly $221,000.

Because Ivey is a gambler at heart and has accomplished nearly everything there is to accomplish in poker, he’s been known to up the ante with enormous side bets. He made waves last year during the WSOP when word spread of the millions of dollars that he had riding on winning a bracelet. Unable to capture gold in 2008, Ivey remained undaunted and again booked big bets on bagging a bracelet this year, offering an unheard of 2.5-to-1 odds. Despite coming up short last year, he’s more than made up for it this year with his two wins.

“I think I’ve been a lot luckier this year, for one, and two, I’m playing a little better than I was last year. I’ve been on the right end of a lot of situations that have come up in the tournaments, and I think I’ve prepared better. I’m getting a lot of sleep. I’m not playing as much in the side games. I think that’s it [the difference].”

With seven bracelets, Ivey is now tied for sixth place on the all-time bracelet list with Billy Baxter. In addition to his success at the WSOP, he has made eight final-table appearances on the World Poker Tour, with one win, and has accumulated nearly $9 million in lifetime tournament winnings. As far as the WSOP is concerned, when asked which is more important, the bets or the title, Ivey said, “Well, the bets are the most important thing. I mean, obviously, I’m betting a lot of money, but to be able to win has its place in history. That’s important to me, too. I’m looking forward to winning some more.”

With such a successful Series this year already, and his incredible track record, it’s hard to imagine that anyone would want to bet against him, but Ivey thinks otherwise.

“Of course, why wouldn’t they? I mean, I’m giving them the best of the price,” he laughed. “No one is more than a 3-to-1 favorite to win a bracelet — that’s what they say, anyway — and I’m taking 2.5-to-1, so I don’t see why people wouldn’t bet.” Spade Suit

Seven and Counting
Phil Ivey is on track to shatter World Series records. Only 33 years old, he already has captured seven bracelets. His play-to-win approach to tournament poker, by which he tries to quickly accumulate chips in order to withstand, as he says, “the chop-out period” early in an event, has enabled him to win an astounding 20 percent (seven of 34) of the WSOP events in which he’s cashed.

Here is a look at all of Ivey’s gold.

Year Event First Prize
2000 $2,500 pot-limit Omaha $195,000
2002 $2,500 seven-card stud eight-or-better $118,440
2002 $2,000 S.H.O.E. $107,540
2002 $1,500 seven-card stud $132,000
2005 $5,000 pot-limit Omaha $635,603
2009 $2,500 no-limit deuce-to-seven draw lowball $96,367
2009 $2,500 Omaha eight-or-better/seven-card stud
eight-or-better $220,538

Double World Series of Poker Gold
The World Series of Poker has awarded a player(s) multiple bracelets in 10 consecutive years now. Here is a look at the players who have been able to wear a gold bracelet on each wrist in one year over the last decade.

2000 Chris Ferguson
2001 Nani Dollison, Scotty Nguyen
2002 Phil Ivey, Layne Flack
2003 Chris Ferguson, Men Nguyen, Phil Hellmuth, Layne Flack,
John Juanda, Johnny Chan
2004 Scott Fischman, Ted Forrest
2005 Mark Seif
2006 Jeff Madsen, Bill Chen
2007 Tom Schneider
2008 John Phan, Jesper Hougaard
2009 (thus far) Phil Ivey, Brock Parker, Jeffrey Lisandro