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Podcast: Phil Hellmuth Turned Down Poker Challenge From Michael Jordan

Hellmuth Regrets Not Finding The Money To Play NBA Legend


No stranger to name-dropping, Phil Hellmuth recently made note of an offer he got to play poker with Michael Jordan, and his regrets at turning down the offer.

Appearing on the NESN Chicken Dinner Podcast, the 17-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner described meeting the six-time NBA champion and five-time league MVP several times. One of those interactions included a poker challenge – which Hellmuth had to decline.

Poker Brat Turns Down Air Jordan

Jordan has a long-standing reputation as a gambler, and with a net worth estimated at $2 billion, the bets can get big. The DraftKings investor has been known for huge wagers on everything from the golf course to the casino. When he played in the NBA, his teammates on the Chicago Bulls said he would go so far as to bet on which of their suitcases would come out of baggage claim first, not realizing he had bribed the handler to put his bags at the front of the line.

According to Hellmuth, Jordan enjoys many poker games, including no-limit badugi. He said that the offer to play some poker came after hanging out with the NBA legend several times.

Podcast host Sam Panayotovich and Hellmuth discussed some of the parameters involving playing against Jordan, who is apparently known for putting in long sessions at the table. Hellmuth ultimately had to turn down the invitation.

“He challenged me once and I didn’t have a lot of money in town,” Hellmuth said. “I was stupid. I should have just called my friends and said, ‘Hey, (send me some money).’ And (Jordan) would have wanted to play until seven in the morning."

Jordan’s love for long sessions has been confirmed by Charles Barkley, who regularly played in a game that included Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Magic Johnson. Barkley added that Jordan would frequently try to “buy” the pots he played in, knowing he had more money than his opponents to work with.

“He’ll grind you down,” Hellmuth acknowledged. “But I’m not some 23-year-old playing his first session with MJ. I [would] be like, ‘I’m leaving.’ I [would have given] him an hour’s notice, which is reasonable.”

A longtime Jordan fan, Hellmuth said the basketball player once got out of his limousine to say hello to the poker player. The two have interacted a few more times over the years, which includes the time he witnessed Jordan win a charity poker tournament in Minnesota.

2022 WSOP Player of the Year Josh Arieh has experience gambling with Jordan on both the golf course and in poker, and said on Card Player’s Poker Stories podcast that “it was a horrible experience” because of Jordan’s relentless trash talk.

Fellow six-time WSOP bracelet winner Layne Flack also shared a story on the podcast, explaining that he was once recruited by the Chicago mafia to play in Jordan’s home game. Flack was uninvited, however, after he was outed as a pro on Late Night with David Letterman.

Cash Conversations

Along with that story, the Poker Brat spoke about appearing on PokerGO’s No Gamble, No Future cash game, NFTs, selling stock, and working as an advisor with varying companies. Hellmuth also disclosed the financial swings he has encountered, including a recent $180,000 losing session, and how he and his wife handle those kinds of losses.

“Cash becomes kind of a commodity for us in poker,” he said. “We joke about that because I just don’t sweat little stuff ever. My wife’s like, ‘We had to pay this bill.’ I told her early in our marriage, I don’t want to hear about anything less than $10,000 because I want to keep focused on the big money. And she’s kind of become aligned with that. We’ve been together now for 33 years and I refuse to have her bring me the small money stuff.”

The discussion included whether it was easy to be married to Hellmuth.

“It’s not the financial swings because money’s a great friend of mine and I have faith that I’ll always have money,” he said. “She has been stressed about money in a reasonable normal human being way. But me, I’m like ‘Whatever, by the time I’m 76 we’re going to have a billion dollars. It’s coming.’”

*Photo credit – PokerGO