Poker Legends: Phil Ivey
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“If you can’t pull a $100 bill out of your pocket and light it on fire, I don’t think you can play poker for a living.” This quote comes from Phil Ivey, a poker pro who many consider to be one of the greatest legends to ever play the game. With total live earnings over $31 million, 10 WSOP bracelets, and 9th on the all time money list, Ivey also joined the Poker Hall of Fame in 2017 at the age of 40, the first year he was eligible for induction.
Ivey began playing poker when he grandpa taught him at the age of 8, betting pennies on games of five card stud. During his teenage years, he caught the bug, got a fake a ID, and started grinding at the casinos in Atlantic City. Though he busted out and went broke on numerous occasions, even forcing him to occasionally sleep on the beach, he preserved throughout and honed his skills; by the time he was in his early 20’s, he was winning huge tournaments.
Throughout his career, Phil Ivey has won and lost millions of dollars. He’s been a staple member of high-rollers tables throughout the world, from Vegas to Macau. During this time, his defining feature has always been his keen determination and his intense focus. In fact, his focused gaze is so intense and soul-piercing, people now call it “The Ivey Stare.”
The Good and the Bad
As with most gamblers, Ivey has had some high highs and some low lows over the years. To his credit, he’s well-known by Vegas workers as one of their most generous tippers, and, in honor of his grandfather’s memory, he established a charitable organization called The Budding Ivey Foundation, which supports children’s literacy and feed the homeless programs.
On the other side of the coin, Ivey has been embroiled in some high profile scandals throughout the years as well. In a famous lawsuit from the Borgata Atlantic City, the casino accused Ivey of cheating in Baccarat by “edge sorting”, or carefully keeping track of imperfections on card backs to detect imperfections. However, while the details of the settlements aren’t fully known, it seems like Ivey came out ahead.
In his eyes, he was employing a legitimate strategy. He didn’t tell the casino which cards to use, nor did he mark them in any way. Instead, just like any bloodthirsty poker player, he was simply exploiting a weakness that he noticed.
Despite these court cases, Ivey remains one of the world’s top poker players. And, considering he’s still only in his 40’s, we expect that he still has a long career ahead of him.