While there’s a lot of debate in the poker world about Phil Hellmuth's ranking among the top players, no one argues he isn’t an entertaining player. On or off the felt, Hellmuth is the kind of player that draws attention wherever he goes, not least because he actively seeks it in many cases.
Beyond owning the most World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelets any human has ever won, Hellmuth is mostly known for the theater he brings to the poker rooms he plays in. From the beginning of his career, he’s been known as someone who doesn’t suffer a bad beat well, and his epic blowouts became legendary in the poker world.
Hellmuth’s unique combination of skill, luck, and ego came to a head in the mid-2000s when he started his tradition of bigger and bigger entrances to the WSOP Main Event. In 2005 and 2006, he arrived late for the game at the Rio in a limo, but things ramped up in 2007.
He’d have been forgiven for giving up his entrances after crashing a stock car in the parking lot the day before he was supposed to arrive in it, but he still showed up that year in a racing suit. “I thought I looked really cool when I was in control, and I looked really idiotic when I crashed,” Hellmuth said with a smile while chatting about the experience. “Kinda like when I’m playing poker.”
It was a moment of self-awareness, but from there, it just got weirder. Over the following years, he had turns as a Roman emperor and MMA fighter, among others, to start his Main Event experience, complete with a posse of beautiful women in costume joining him.
The debate about Phil’s play may continue forever, but wherever history lands on his position as a player, it seems clear he will be remembered as perhaps the most entertaining player of his era, and his grand, absurd entrances to the WSOP Main Event are a big part of the reason why. Catch a recap of some of his more absurd entrances in this video from Poker GO.