Phil Ivey, considered by most to be the world’s best poker player, has won eight World Series of Poker bracelets and more than $17 million in live poker earnings throughout his career. He enjoyed another great performance at this year's WSOP, making five final tables.
So what else would he like to accomplish?
“I want to teach the world how to play better poker,” Ivey said in an exclusive interview with ESPN Playbook. “I feel like there’s a big hole in the poker community. I speak with people all the time about poker, and people say they’d love to learn how to play but they don’t know where to start. It’d be nice to teach people how to play the correct way.”
To serve this cause, Ivey created IveyPoker.com, a free website devoted to helping players learn how to play poker from Ivey and some of his talented friends.
Ivey spoke more about his new website, as well as everything else going on in the poker world.
ESPN Playbook: Who’s your pick at Monday’s final table (ESPN2, 8 p.m.)?
Phil Ivey: I’m picking Greg [Merson] to win. I love his demeanor and I think he’ll be calm. He’ll know when to put the pressure on and he’ll know when to back off. I’m expecting him to win -- hopefully.
You played with Jake Balsiger on the first day of the tournament. What did you think of his game?
Jake played great. He’s very patient, but he also had a very good talent at knowing when to bluff and when to take pots down. I thought he was a very patient player. I thought he played great.
When you were at the final table in 2009, what surprised you the most?
I don’t think anybody can be prepared for the energy in that room on that day. It’s a shock. You see all these people are there to watch poker. It was a great experience. But what really surprised me was the energy in that room.
Have you experienced anything that compared?
No I haven’t. I haven’t experienced anything like that in my pro career. It was one of my highlights to make it to that final table.
Having experienced it, what advice would you give to the nine remaining players before they take their seats?
The advice I would give is take their time. Don’t rush anything. Really, the key to playing is to live in the moment and make the best decisions at the time in every single hand. You have to remember there are a lot of hands left to be played. Take your time, grind out your opponents, and of course, make the best decisions possible.
Do you like the delayed final table format?
I’m more of a poker purist. I kind of like to play straight. Anything that interrupts me, I’m not too big a fan of. But I can see why they delay it. I think overall the delay is better for poker, because you know you get a chance to learn about the players and rewatch some of the episodes. I think it is better for poker in general. But for me personally, I’d rather just play straight through. I’ve been playing consistently for two months during the World Series of Poker, and I’d like it to just go straight through. But sometimes you have to make sacrifices for the overall betterment of poker.
What does winning a bracelet mean to you?
I don’t think you can really put a value on it. I love the World Series of Poker. I love the whole setup. I love the whole structure. I’m playing almost every event. I’m trying to win a bracelet in every event. It means a lot to me.
What kind of emotional roller coaster was it for you during your five final table run at the WSOP?
It was exciting to make the final tables, but the end of the day, it’s all about winning. It was very disappointing to make those final tables and not win. It was nice to make the final tables, but I had five opportunities to pick up bracelets and I didn’t get the job done. Hopefully next year I’ll get one.
You're widely considered the No. 1 player in poker. Who would you pick as No. 2?
I would say Patrik Antonius -- definitely Patrik Antonius. He’s one of the best no-limit players in the world. I’ve played a lot of poker with him, and especially if he’s the deep stack, he’s a very tough opponent to play against.
Who’s the one player you would like to beat heads-up for a bracelet?
That’s a very tough question. There are a lot of really good poker players. I would say it’d have to be Patrik. The reason being is that he plays all of the games, and he plays them well. There are a lot of players who just play no-limit hold ‘em or pot-limit Omaha, and they play those games really well. But there are a lot of other games. Deuces 7, stud 8 ... Patrik plays all those games really well. That’s what makes him such a great addition to Team Ivey. He’s had a lot of success in poker, he’s a stand-up guy, and I’m really happy to have him as part of this team.
You’ve been mostly quiet since the Full Tilt Poker scandal came to a head last year. Is there anything you’d like to say to former consumers of Full Tilt or Howard Lederer at this point?
There’s a lot I’d like to say to all of the poker players who were on that site. But unfortunately, given the legal ramifications, I’m still unable to comment on it. However, when the time is right -- and it should be soon -- I look forward to all the questions.
Fair enough. IveyPoker.com launched over the weekend. What’s the website all about?
I was looking at other social poker sites, and when I was looking through them, I saw a really big hole in those sites: People aren’t learning how to play. You see people just going on there and playing, but not really learning how to play the right way. What we’re doing here is teaching people how to become a winning poker player. I think a lot of people really don’t know how to play poker, and I think this is going to be an opportunity to play with the best players in the world.
Specifically, how will people learn how to play?
There’s going to be video instruction with myself and players on Team Ivey, answering questions and teaching people how to play live. That’s the two things right there: People will learn how to play live. You can go on there and download it. It’s free. It’s going to be a place where people can play socially. There’s going to be no charge.
So much of your success comes from reading players at your table. How much of that skill can be taught?
A lot of that comes with experience, but a lot of it can be taught as well. A lot of my feel comes from observing other players, so at IveyPoker.com, I’m going to teach people how to observe other players and do it in the correct way. I’m going to teach them how to make adjustments off the things they observe. I think I can teach some of it, but a lot of it does come with experience, so if people put in their work, they can get there one day.
Greg Merson will be wearing a patch with your logo at the World Series of Poker final table. What’s your relationship with Greg?
Greg is a very successful cash-game player. He’s already won a bracelet. He’s very talented. I’ve played with him in a couple tournaments and I’ve always been impressed with the way he’s played. So I thought he’d be a perfect fit. One thing I really love about Greg is his demeanor. I love the way he handles himself when he wins and when he loses. He doesn’t have much of an ego. I think he’s going to be around poker a long time and be very successful -- that’s why I chose Greg. He saw an opportunity to be associated with the brand, but really it was me that came after him. It wasn’t like he approached me.
What other players will be part of your team?
Patrik, Jennifer Harmon, Greg -- and I’m always looking for new players. I want to be very careful on who I select to be part of this team. Not only do they need to be good players, but they need to be able to teach winning poker. I’m going to be very careful about who I select.