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AWESOME EMAIL FROM FAN, Charity events, filming NBC, November Nine, Weddings, 100K VIDEO POKER HIT!

by Phil Hellmuth |  Published: Dec 16, '10

Posted: December 16, 2010 07:04 PM

Derek just won a contest to have a one hour long private poker lesson with me, and he emailed this to me today:


My name is Derek. I'm a 31-year-old casino dealer from Elk Grove, California. Having this opportunity to write to you is one of the greatest blessings of my life. Thank you so much for allowing me to experience a real dream come true.

In my life, there have been only four people I have admired above everyone else, and two of them are poker players: my mother, my father, T.J. Cloutier and you. I grew up being a fan of Jose Canseco and Joe Montana, but I never wanted to be like them. Instead, I've always wanted to be like you and T.J.

I've been playing poker since 1997, and the first time I ever played in a casino was January 2, 2002 at the Bellagio. That's the day I consider my poker career to have begun. Since then, poker exploded into what it is today, and there are so many professionals to aspire to be like; however, you have been the one and only player that I've ever wanted to meet. There are so many reasons why, but I'll mention just a few; I love how you play poker, I love how you put family first, I love how you are faithful to your wife, I love that you wear all black, I love that you are involved with so many charities and I love all that you do for the poker community.

When I found out that you were having a contest to win a free lesson with you, I never thought I would actually win. I hoped it would happen for me, but I figured it was a long shot. I told myself a long time ago that I would make it a goal of mine to meet you one day, and I assumed the only way it was going to happen would be to make enough money playing poker to play in the big tournaments or to save up for one of your WSOP camps.

As far as the lesson, I am beyond grateful for this opportunity. I want to do whatever is convenient for you. I respect your time and I understand you are very busy with a lot of requests. I would love to meet you in person if you had the time. I would drive or fly anywhere to meet you, even if I lived across the country (I'm glad I don't though!).

I'm trying to avoid telling you how much I admire you. Whenever anyone asks me who my favorite player is, I always say it's you, and to be honest, it's usually met with surprise. Most people tell me they like Doyle and Ivey... I don't blame them or anything, but I always point out what makes you so special. The response is usually "I had no idea he was such a good guy away from the table". To give you an idea of how much I care about your successes in life, I'll share one story with you. I was in the grocery store with my wife last year during the WSOP main event and I was reading the live updates. When I found out you had been eliminated (holding aces), I cried. I'll occasionally root for certain people to do well, but I'm not emotionally invested in anyone else but you. What can I say? You're my hero, and maybe I'm too old to have one now, but there will never be anyone I look up to the way I look up to you.

Thank you for inspiring my life.

Derek J. Korge

Derek, thank you for this heartfelt email that you wrote to me, and for all of the positive energy that it contains: basically I wrote this BLOG just because I wanted to post this letter today!  [December 17]  Also know that I called TJ Cloutier to let him know that you mentioned his name in this email.  I figure that it is my duty to pass on positive energy when it hits me!  I know that my BLOG starts a little negative (below), but it gets better quickly!!

I ended my last BLOG in London at the WSOPE (World Series of Poker Europe).  In late October my friend Brandon Cantu told me, "The WSOPE just sucked all of the positive energy out of me."  I can relate!  I love London and the WSOPE, but I didn't like the flow there.  You play an event, then you have two days off, then you play another event, then two more days off.  When I play the WSOP in Vegas, I get to play in an event every single day, and sometimes I play in two events in one day!  In London, we had too much time off; and frankly, it seems like I hit the bars a bit too oftenit is hard to keep up with young next-Gen poker players!

I arrived home from London more than a few days early, and my first move was to emcee Tony and Eva Parker's charity poker tournament in San Antonio (no comment on their relationships now) on October 2.  My wife and I enjoyed hanging out at their 50 acre spread, with NBA basketball regulation half court, amazing swimming area, tennis courts, fire pit, volleyball courts, and an amazing circular trophy room!  The charity seemed to make over $300,000.  Then my wife and I flew to Chicago to emcee a C-level Charity poker tournament for "Teaching Tolerance" (special thanks to poker player Faraz Jaka for helping me emcee).  Jim Grey, JB Pritzker and a few others invited us to the Chicago Club the night before where we gave the guys some private lessons.  We stayed in a suite at the Hyatt (Pritzker family owns them!) overlooking the Water Tower, check this high def pic out, you can see Lake Michigan in the backround:   My wife and I then flew to Chappaqua, New York (October 9) for my sister Molly's wedding.  On Friday night they had a "Wedding poker tournament" with 45 players in it, and I managed to win!  Here is a pic of the trophy:   Both of my sons flew in, and all of my family for what turned out to be a beautiful wedding, and a terrific weekend for the Hellmuth family as I invited in a new brother (Patrick Convery).

On October 19th I took my son Nick to a playoff game between Philadelphia and the San Francisco Giants and Matt Cain pitched a great game!

On October 20 I was back in New York againManhattan this time--to host the CHOP (Children's Hospital of Philadelphia) charity event at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel overlooking Central Park.  We raised almost $1 million for charity!  I invited Steve Martin, and Amy Tan (Annie Duke taught Amy and her husband Lou to play no limit Hold'em a few weeks earlier) to play in the event, and they both came and played.  Steve, his wife Ann, my parents and I had dinner at "Bar Masa" before the event.  FYI I love Steve Martin, and Steve loves his poker!  Interestingly, I walked into "Per Se" by accident thinking that it was "Bar Masa" and told them that I needed a table right away.  The first buffer told me, "Sorry sir, we have nothing for months, never mind tonight."  The next buffer knew me and may have seated us, but then Steve walked in.  A few seconds later, we were seated, and then Steve and I both realized that we were in the wrong restaurant!  Wow, I felt kinda stupid!  They had given us the special honor of seating us immediately (I'm sure global ICON Steve Martin had something to do with it!), and we were in the wrong restaurant.  We left because we had limited time (I needed to emcee the event in 55 minutes), but I cannot wait to sit down and have a nice long meal at "Per Se" next trip.  Steve used to play poker regularly in a very famous poker game in Hollywood with Johnny Carson and a bunch of studio headseven A-list actors were turned away from that game!

On October 23 I hit Bill Clinton's "Global Initiative" at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan .  My sister Molly enjoyed chatting with Clintonand he realized that he walks by her house all the time in Chappaqua and she promised to come out and say hi.  Clinton loves games, and he told me that he would try to attend one of my Texas Hold'em charity events in 2011: that would be pretty cool!  One funny thing that happened was when Eric Clapton was performing and he played the song "Cocaine," and Clinton said, "Interesting choice of songs in a Cathedral," Clapton shot back, "It is an anti-drug song," Clinton shot back, "You would have to go a long way to find that out!"  I must say that listening to Clapton that night was the most like a "Religious experience" I have ever felt listening to live music!  Clapton was playing mostly the blues, and he and his band CRUSHED IT!  Backstage before the show I met Bon Jovi, but I don't think he knew who I was.  Too bad, as I am a big fan of his!  At the official "After party" I met the Edge, and we hit it off really well.  Scott Ian from Anthrax once told me that the Edge may be the best guitarist in the world!  The Edge was just wrapping up a seven year long project where he wrote music (like 19 songs) for the new "Spider Man" musical on Broadway.

On October 28 Nick and I hit Game Two of the World Series between the Giants and the Texas Rangers.  Matt Cain pitched another gem!  We had amazing tickets 16 rows behind the dugout for like $2,200.  Funny thing is I spent $3,000 for two floor seats to a regular season Golden State Warriors game.  HmmmWhat is wrong with that picture?  I love the Warriors, but World Series game vs regular season game
On Nov 2 I filmed a "Poker after Dark" at the "Aria Hotel and Casino" with this lineup, PIC:  On November 5, I played a $100,000 buy in "Poker after Dark" cash game with this lineup, PIC:  On Saturday November 6, I did the "Live commentary" for the WSOP "November Nine" final table on ESPN 3 until 3:00 pm, and then I went to Leslie and Brandon Cantu's wedding, here is a picture of the bride and groom right after the ceremony ended:  After the wedding reception ended, I was back in the ESPN 3 booth until they were heads up!  On Sunday night I played in the $200-$400 mixed game in the "Ivey Room" at the "Aria Hotel" and I won $27,000. 

On Monday night November 8, I was back in the ESPN 3 booth doing the heads up commentary; here is a picture of the pile of cash:   Then, exhausted, I hopped into the $300-$600 mixed game and was up $15,000, but I knew that I was tired and that I shouldn't be playing; and here is why: I did not leave, instead I stayed until I was like $33,000 loser in the game!  At that point I usually put my tail between my legs and fly home (while still realizing how blessed I am), but I decided to make a stand: I wasn't leaving after a big loss this time.  No, I was going to stick around and turn it around!  I slept a double shift, and came back and won $42,000 in the game.  Then I slept again and won another $53,000 in the game!

After another 10 hour sleep session; on Saturday night I strolled through the "Aria Casino" slowly, ordered coffee, walked slowly to the high stakes video poker machines and called "Crazy Mike" to come and join me.  "Crazy Mike" and I both play "Jacks or Better" 5 lines and the casino edge is like .3%, but we both get comps, money back, and other benefitslike great seats for the Pacquiao fight in the VIP lounge that very night.  I told Mike, "Let's save 10%, that way we will root for each other." He said, "Cool."  Then after a few pulls I said, "Let's save 20% on any royals we make."  He agreed (royal flushes pay $20,000).  Then, twenty minutes later I said, "One of these days I will have a royal flush dealt to me on this five way machine."  Two minutes later, "BOOOOOMMMMM" PIC:  I was dealt this royal flush for $100,000!  Nice week, I won 30k, 40k, 50k, and now 100k!!  I walked away from the machine without playing even one more spin.  I mean, how could I ever one up this on a machine?!?  I paid "Crazy Mike" $20,000, and we went to watch the fight.  By the next day I was back playing high limit video poker, and I proceeded to make two more royals, for another $40,000!

I flew home that Monday and hung around the house for 14 days with my family over Thanksgiving, but I was "Jonesing" for action!   Family time is number one, but when you win big at everything during a trip, you want to get back in action as soon as possible!  Next BLOG I'll talk about sitting with Warriors Owners, San Jose Sharks Owners, Doyle's WPT at the Bellagio and much more!

Fresh off of the press: Champion of the Year
Champion of the Year - 2010, updated 12/10
Rank Name Score # of finishes

1 Michael Mizrachi 880 4
2 Frank Kassela 840 3
3 David Baker 730 4
4 John Juanda 680 4
4 John Racener 680 2
 Vladimir Schmelev 660 4
 Men Nguyen 640 2
 Jonathan Duhamel 600 1
 Matt Keikoan 560 2
 Shawn Buchanan 560 2
 Jeffrey Papola 520 3
 James Dempsey 520 2
 Miguel Proulx 520 2
 Richard Ashby 520 2
 Daniel Alaei 520 2
 Eugene Katchalov 500 3
 Phil Ivey 500 2
 Moritz Kranich 500 1
 Carlos Mortensen   480 2
 Erik Seidel  460 2
 Justin Smith 450 2
 Jason Somerville 440 2
 Allen Kessler 440 2
 Scotty Nguyen  420 3
 Vanessa Rousso 400 2
 Andras Koroknai   400 1
 Annie Duke   400 1
 Ayaz Mahmood 400 1
 David Williams 400 1
 Hoyt Corkins   400 1
 Mclean Karr   400 1
 Sam Farha 400 1
 Valdemar Kwaysser 400 1
 Ian Gordon 400 1
 Daniel Kelly 400 1
 Randal Flowers 400 1
 Jeff Forrest 400 1
 Antonio Esfandiari 400 1

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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