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The rebirth of Phil Hellmuth: PEMM

by Phil Hellmuth |  Published: Feb 16, '10

Posted: February 16, 2010 12:09 PM

2009 was my worst year ever in poker.  I did tons of stuff wrong and I actually lost money for the year.  Some people say that the reason that I did poorly was because the players in the fields vastly improved the way that they play poker, and that I am now outside of the top ten in the poker world.  I say the reason that I did poorly in 2009 was because of the fact that I have to deal with so much stuff; both inside, and outside of the poker world: and that eventually caused me to lose my way.  PEMM (P positive, E Exercise, M Moment, M Meditation) was one of the reasons that I climbed to the top of the poker world, especially in the game with the most skill, Texas Hold'em.  For a long time PEMM has been outside of my immediate purview.

First, I seemed to lose some of my P (Positive outlook).  In 2008 and 2009 there was the UB scandal, and even though I knew that I had zero involvement in the scandal (UB's COO Paul Leggett did the investigation himself, and then a few months later he signed me to a multi-year deal), the whole thing just bummed me out and weighed me down.  Then there was the sudden rise of my celebrity to a ridiculous scale.  Starting in 2007 fans began coming up to me many times a day to tell me powerful things, "You are my idol," or "You are the best poker player in the world," or "I aspire to be you," or "I love the way you play," or "I am a huge fan, I watch you play every single day."  This is good positive energy, but it is not natural for someone to get that much highly emotional praise every day.  I understand why most big stars act crazy, or start to act in weird abnormal ways.  By February of 2008 I couldn't deal with all of the adulation and I was having some "panic attacks."  In one weekend where I hit the wall, my wife and sons and I hit a hotel in Monterrey, and everyone I came into contact with seemed to know me, stare at me, come up to me, and they all called me by my first name.  I would be out for a walk at midnight with my son, and people would spill out into the streets and shout my name.  I would never wish that anyone ever felt whatever it was that I felt at that low point.  My stomach was in knots, my stomach was in constant pain (but not sharp pain), I was feeling under siege from the world, I wasn't sleeping well, every time someone started at me or came up to me it felt horrible (I still managed to smile and thank them for the praise), and I was short tempered with my beloved wife and sons.  Fortunately for me, my wife and I have the resources to go somewhere to get it sorted out, and on Monday (a day later) we were on a private jet to the world's leading health spa: "Canyon Ranch."

At "Canyon Ranch" I had every health test that they offered, and I eventually gave up 17 small vials of blood for the process!  I am a very lucky guy, and my health scores were absolutely perfect across the board, except that I needed to give up sugar (I love "Twizzlers" and other candy!).  So my problem was in the realm of the mental, not the physical.  After a few days down ay "Canyon Ranch" I was still pretty miserable, but I was working hard to understand my problem; and I was eating super healthy, and working out every day.  On the fourth day there I had some contact with the spiritual leader of CR; Jonathan Ellerby (he has some great books out).  Ellerby helped me out tremendously, and one exercise that he taught me the following.  When walking through an airport, do not notice the people stopping in their tracks when they notice you, rather imagine a red line leading to the plane you are going to get onto.  This worked well for me.  Ellerby and I also talked about the difference in living your life, and living your "Persona."  I have the "Poker Brat Persona," but it does not accurately define me.  In fact, Phil Hellmuth is a very different animal then the "Poker Brat" is.  Within the poker world I am well liked by almost every insider.  They know me to be honorable, honest, with high ethics and morals, compassionate, a fun guy, someone that takes time to raise millions for charity, and someone that has never cheated on his wife, ever (been together 20 years).  Oh, and they also know me to act like John McEnroe act the poker table!  They laugh at how Phil Hellmuth can transition to the "Poker Brat!"  The insiders know that within my "Poker Brat" rants there is no bite, just way too much bark!  Ellerby helped me see that I was living my persona rather than living my life.  All of the great compliments that people give me are not meant for Phil Hellmuth the person.  They are meant for "Poker Brat" the poker champion.  When I understood this, and saw it clearly, I began to feel much better!  From then on each day brought some more healing.  When we left a week later, I was still only 50%, but it felt great!  A few weeks later I was fully recovered and I clearly understood that I would suffocate if I lived my life as the "Poker Brat."  Dealing with celebrity is not easy, and there is no manual.  Today it is worse than ever as I am mobbed here in Vegas every day, but I am taking it 200% better than I used to.  My current strategy is to understand that I do inspire millions of people, and that I need to continue to win to inspire people.  I like to think that I can shed my "Poker Brat" behavior in 2010 (like I did yesterday in Heat Two of the "Premiere League") and inspire even more people.  I like to imagine that many millions of people will be inspired by me winning with class, positive energy, and a game that is played truly in the moment.

After hiring Sam Chauhan as my "Mindset Coach" the P (Positive energy) is beginning to get ramped way up!  However, I still was having a tough time in my first match on Saturday in the "Premiere League" (my first major tournament since November).  I felt a ton of pressure, and it was a horrible feeling to have.  And then I let my ego get involved and I tilted off some chips.  My wife suggested that I "Stay in the moment" because she felt like I would only feel pressure if I was thinking about the past or the future.  In my second match, I was able to stay in the moment, and shed myself of the negative energy that I sometimes throw out there as the "Poker Brat."  On paper the result was the same as the first match, I finished sixth out of eight, but there was world of difference in the way I played!  I was positive, calm, cool, collected, and I felt zero pressure.  In fact, even though we lost no one in the first four levels and the pressure was clearly mounting for everyone else, I was actually having fun!!  When I lost another coin flip (my A-6 vs Daniels K-Q), I could have gone negative and complained about how many coin flips I have lost in the past on "Premiere League," but instead I shook my opponent's hands, and I left the set feeling positive.  No small feat for someone that has acted like a "Poker Brat" for so many decades. I am in bad shape right now points-wise in the "Premiere League" after two of my four matches, but I am on the right poker path now, finally, after a year or two of getting in my own way!!  I play my third match tomorrow (you can follow with "Live" hole cardspretty cool--at, and a first would put in great shape, and even a second or third gives me a fighting chance going into my fourth and final match.

I am on the right path now.  I am playing in the moment, without pressure, and making sure to get enough sleep.  I am all PEMM baby, Positive, Exercising, Meditating, and in the Moment!

Learn more about Phil at and visit his web store at

Learn more about Phil by going to his website, and visit his Web store at

Any views or opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ownership or management of
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