Phil Hellmuth likes to surround himself with some of the most well-known personalities from the world of sports and business, and much to the dismay of his detractors, every now and then his successes on the felt burn so bright that the headlines of his story reach people far beyond your average poker fan, and by winning his fifteenth bracelet at the 2018 World Series of Poker he did just that.

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This record-extending fifteenth bracelet was special in many ways because many years ago he had made a promise to Silicon Valley heavyweight Bill Lee. Hellmuth’s good friend had been first in line since he was eying his fourteenth bracelet, but sad circumstances made the ‘Poker Brat’ decide that Lee had to wait for the next one.

“It was a wonderful moment, handing him the bracelet,” Hellmuth said, elated that he was finally able to come through on a promise he made six years ago.

After winning his 13th bracelet in 2012 in the World Series of Poker Europe Main Event, Hellmuth promised his next bracelet to Lee, but dedicated his 14th bracelet to his friend Dave Goldberg after his sudden passing a month prior when the Wisconsin native won the $10,000 Razz Championship in June of 2015. Hellmuth gave the bracelet to Dave’s wife Sheryl and their kids.

“Before the final table back in 2015, I called Bill and said, ‘You’re going to have to wait, I’m going to win this one for Dave’ and now three years later it’s been nice to get it done after many final tables and deep runs.”

Finding Motivation Through Criticism

Even though there are still a few months left in 2018, a year with a bracelet win is a successful year for the man who’s lead those standings for many years now. Having made only one final table this summer gnaws at the champ who’s never truly satisfied. Thankful for the fans and players being critical of his play, to this day, Hellmuth uses it as fuel for his fire, keeping the chips on his shoulder to focus on extending his lead as the all-time bracelet winner and numerous appearances on TV shows and Poker After Dark episodes.

“I think my critics are good for me. When you’re one of the best in the world, and a lot of people in the world think you’re the greatest, and you feel like you are the greatest, well then people are going to try and run you down. Some of the big players think I can’t play Hold’em anymore, even after all the success that I’ve had, and I think it’s good for me because they don’t allow me to relax because I don’t get the credit from my own peers.”

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As part of his process of staying at the top, Hellmuth references to more than 400 hours of conversation about poker strategy with his good friends Mike Matusow and Brandon Cantu.

“When I say that I’m working with those guys people then all of a sudden find a way to criticize them and say that they can’t play either,” Hellmuth sighed, before laughing and adding, “People sometimes ask me why I listen and get worked up about what the 1% says about my play, but that 1% just so happens to be made up out of a lot of the best players in the world.”

And while Hellmuth’s chase for more bracelets and respect will likely never see an ending, he’ll take satisfaction is leading one of the game’s most prestigious leaderboards and the respect of many fans and players.

“It would be nice to get credit from the 1% of the world, but so be it. I get credit from the 99% of the world.”

Want more Phil Hellmuth content? Watch the ‘Poker Brat’ on the Super High Roller Club and the comedic series Poker Nights. Always wondered where Hellmuth’s success originated? Watch Pokerography. New to PokerGO? Subscribe right now to enjoy all this content and more than 100 days of live poker every single year. 

Phil Hellmuth, Mike Matusow, Brandon Cantu, 2018 World Series of Poker, Bill Lee, Dave Goldberg, Sheryl Sandberg