Poker News Daily: You’re the main face of Ultimate Bet. What makes the online poker site so attractive?
Hellmuth: We have the best software out there. I know we’ve had some issues with bad people involved. That hurt us a lot, but I am proud of the fact that the site stepped up and held an investigation. The reason that I’ve been involved is that we have the best software. We have some amazing jackpots going on. It was one of the premier sites in poker and still continues to be. We’ve been passed by some of the other brands, but it’s not over yet.
PND: What is it about the Ultimate Bet Aruba Poker Classic that brings people back year after year?
Hellmuth: Aruba is amazing. The Natalie Holloway scandal happened down there. I kept thinking that it’s sad what happened. However, Aruba is mostly a crime-free place. No one has had any issues down there. It’s so beautiful. I look forward to it every year. The pace of life is so much slower. I always bring my wife down there, so it’s pretty romantic. Each year, I have a party on my roof, which is probably the best party I’ve been to in my entire life. I had the penthouse and the roof on top of it is as big as the hotel suite. We had a rock band playing. We drank way too many bottles of Dom Perignon. We went through a ton of vodka as well. I don’t mind buying a lot of liquor for a party like that in Aruba, but I don’t want to have a hangover myself.
What a place to have a poker tournament! It’s the one place that you hear everyone on tour talk about as being their favorite tournament. When you get eliminated, you just walk down to the beach. The hotel has a great spa and a place to work out. They have some nightlife too. Poker players like me are serious about winning the tournament, but when you’re out of it, you get to chill for a while. In tournaments on the East Coast, if you get eliminated, you’re looking for the next flight home.
PND: Which of your World Series of Poker bracelets is your most memorable and why?
Hellmuth: I won the Main Event the second time that I played in it (in 1989) and beat Johnny Chan heads up. That was pretty amazing. I think of when I won three bracelets in 1993. Winning in 1997 was memorable because I hadn’t won in a while. Winning number 10 was pretty spectacular. I had a second place finish and everyone said that I was done. Everyone said that there was no way I was going to come back. Ten days later, I won. Number eleven was won on June 11th. It was promised to my sister, who was born on 11/11/1971. I’m not saying I believe in destiny, but it just seemed like when I made that final table, I was going to win. There were all of the elevens and it seemed like the smoothest final table. Call it destiny. Call it seasoned control. That was pretty amazing.
PND: You’re on many Milwaukee’s Best Light beer cans as part of the company’s sponsorship with the World Series of Poker. Describe what it’s like being involved with this promotion.
Hellmuth: I’ve been known to say that it’s the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me. They put my picture – a big picture – on 12 million beer cans. Right now, it’s my screen saver. I have a picture of me on a beer can with the line, “I can dodge bullets, baby.” I could imagine winning billions of dollars. I could imagine winning more WSOP bracelets than anyone in history. I could imagine some really cool things happening. I could imagine writing a best-seller. One of the things that I wrote on my goal sheet in 1988 was to write a best-selling book and I did that with “Play Poker Like the Pros,” which is on the New York Times best seller list. I could imagine leading a national alcohol campaign, but to actually have my picture on the cans exceeded expectations.
PND: What advice do you have for new players getting into poker?
Hellmuth: It’s a lot different these days. When I got into the game, I had to play in small-stakes games in Madison, Wisconsin. We could play four days per week, but we couldn’t play more often than that because there weren’t games. I was able to do other things instead. I played basketball. I worked on my golf game (not that it shows). I was able to go to University of Wisconsin football and basketball games. I was able to watch sporting events on television. I thought about poker constantly. I talked about it way too much. Even when I was married at age 25, I still talked about poker way too much with my friends, but I couldn’t play very often.
Today, kids have the internet. They can play a week’s worth of hands in one day. You can accumulate a lot more money a lot more quickly. You can also lose a lot more money a lot more quickly these days. Some of the kids involved in this game are going to grow up at a lot faster pace. They’re going to learn a lot more.
If I were to give someone advice, I would say to learn poker on the internet; test yourself and build your bankroll there. However, I have the impression with some of these internet kids have no bankroll management skills. For me, I’d play and then I’d have two or three days to think about my next move. If I went to Las Vegas, I had to decide how much money I was going to bring with me. There were bankroll concerns that you had to think about and take seriously; otherwise, you couldn’t pay your rent. The online guys are playing tons of hours every day and taking unhealthy swings.
I would say to play on the internet and try to control your hours. I played a lot with Phil Ivey when he was coming up. He played on Ultimate Bet and we had $75/$150 Omaha and Hold’em games. He left every day exactly at 2:00am. He worked out every day as well. I was impressed. I would play until 5:00am and 6:00am and here was a new guy who understood. Win or lose, he was done exactly at 2:00am. Controlling the hours you play is important.
When you do enter the real world, you probably think you’re better than everyone else, but you haven’t had to play where you had to look at people. A lot of internet players who have won money at a much faster pace and have played more hands per hour don’t slow down when they enter the real world. They underestimate that the people in the real world can read them. Also, don’t go right to the top and sit down. Almost every internet player who has a couple hundred thousand dollars goes to the Big Game in Las Vegas and sits down and loses. Sometimes they win, but they end up losing it all later. The last thing I’d say to a beginning player is to make that adjustment when you hit the real world.