Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu Final Hand

Dusting off the highlights

You ever think you spotted something special, only to find out you were the last one to the party? That just happened to poker pro Allen “Chainsaw” Kessler this week. On Monday, Kessler posted a poll, asking the poker community who they thought was a better No-Limit Hold’em player: Phil Ivey or Phil Hellmuth. The question was prompted by a clip from a Poker After Dark episode in which the two players argued about Hellmuth’s standing in the current NLH climate. It’s always fun to see Hellmuth and Negreanu, the ultimate “frenemies,” bicker, but here’s the problem: that episode was from May 2022.

I guess “problem” is a bit too strong, as hey, if you want to debate which Phil is better at No-Limit Hold’em, then go for it. There is no statute of limitations on polls. But it is kind of funny that Kessler posted the poll, seemingly thinking the exchange was from a recent episode.

At any rate, with over 6,800 people casting their votes, Phil Ivey is the runaway winner of Kessler’s poll, garnering 88.3% of the tally at the time of writing. It shouldn’t really come as much of a surprise, as there is almost certainly bias against Hellmuth, so those who don’t have an opinion on the players’ skills may just click on Ivey so that Hellmuth loses. Plus, Ivey is widely regarded as the best overall poker player in the world, so why wouldn’t he be better?

Honestly, most of us really have no idea. The only ones who really know which Phil is better at No-Limit Hold’em are those who have played against them and maybe the few who have really studied their televised or streamed play.

Negreanu loves riling up Hellmuth

The segment of the Poker After Dark episode that led to Kessler’s poll started with Hellmuth complaining about not getting respect for all that he accomplished back in the 1980’s and 1990’s, playing tournaments against the best players (we’re not sure what led to this gripe). He said that now people don’t think he’s better than the younger players who “study” (Hellmuth added air quotes, hence the quotation marks) and use GTO strategy, even though he’s done very well.

Negreanu argued that the best tournament players in the world today play in high roller tournaments and that since Hellmuth does not typically play in those events, he can’t be considered the best at the moment. Hellmuth shot back, complaining that people like Negreanu keep shifting the goalposts; first winning the most bracelets wasn’t enough, you had to win tons of money, and now it’s not the money that matters, it’s which tournaments you win it in.

And that’s where Phil Ivey came in. Negreanu had seemingly had enough of Hellmuth’s gripes, retorting, “You want me to tell you I think you’re better than Phil Ivey at something? What? What do I think you’re better than Phil Ivey at?”

“I’m not better at Texas Hold’em than Phil Ivey?” Hellmuth asked.

“No, you’re not better at Texas Hold’em than Phil Ivey,” Negreanu replied, flatly.

Hellmuth asked what Negreanu thought Ivey would say (implying that he would say Hellmuth is better), to which Negreanu mockingly retorted that Ivey would clearly say it’s Hellmuth because Ivey wouldn’t toot his own horn like that and wants action.

“You’re not better than Phil Ivey at like literally fucking anything, except promoting yourself. That’s it. That’s all you’ve got.”

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