The poker legend, who has been in the game for over 25 years, is going through hard times in his career due to the shirt-reading litigation. Somehow, magically, Phil manages to remain a favorite of the public, even in the shadows. In 2021, he gave his first voluminous interview as part of the DAT Poker podcast, where he spoke with Adam Schwartz, Terrence Chen and Daniel Negreanu.
If you understand English well, you can watch the original conversation. We will only translate selected parts for you.
Ivy is not easy to find
Schwartz: We asked Daniel for a year and a half to invite you to our podcast. Thank you for taking the time to answer our stupid questions.
Ivy: Yes, everything is fine. I have to say that getting me to the podcast isn’t that difficult – you just have to write to me, so let the fans know – Negreanu didn’t put in that much effort.
Negreanu: Wait, wait. What phone should I write to you ?! Ivy First, Ivy New, Ivy New New? He changes numbers all the time because he loses his phone every four days.
About life today and playing in Macau
Schwartz: We remember that you played in Asia for several years. But what does your life look like today?
Ivy: My daily life is pretty boring right now, to be honest. Last year I devoted myself: I did yoga, meditation, golf and spent time with my family. Nothing special. I look forward to returning to poker.
Schwartz: Nothing special in Macau or Asia specifically? You were there?
Ivy: No, I couldn’t travel. Haven’t been there for a year and a half. As soon as the borders are opened, I will fly to Hong Kong and sit in quarantine for 21 days.
Schwartz: Is there still a game?
Ivy: There is a game in Macau, but not very expensive.
Schwartz: Tell us more about how the game has changed in Macau. Obviously when you first started playing there the lineups were fantastic and the limits seem to be the highest in the world. How are you doing now?
Ivy: Nowadays, the short deck is mostly played, because inexperienced players have more chances to win in it. When I first came to Macau, the locals played super expensively and studied at the same time. Many of them are very smart, so their level has risen quickly. But at first the compositions, of course, were amazing – many sat down, not even knowing the basic rules.
One day a guy came and asked: which is stronger – straight or flush? A minute ago he played baccarat, and now he sits down at your table and is interested in the rules of hold’em.
Where did the nickname No Home Jerome come from?
Schwartz: Let’s talk about the beginning of a career, and at the end we will play a game “truth or myth” about you. Did you start playing back in the Taj Mahal (Atlantic City)? They say you used fake documents where your name was Jerome Graham, right? This is where the nickname “No Home Jerome” came from.
Ivy: Yes, I started playing at 15-16 years old. I do not recommend repeating, but this is my story. A couple of times I missed the last bus home and had to sleep on the street under the beach bridges. Not that I had a habit of sleeping on the street, but it happened five or six times when I was losing my bankroll.
How Grandpa Taught Little Phil to Play Stud
Chen: I read that your grandfather had a huge influence on you and even taught you how to play five card stud. Do you think you became a poker player because of him? Who else has greatly influenced your life?
Ivy: Grandpa was definitely an ideal for me. He was, so to speak, the head of the family, which consisted of 17 people and lived in his house. He had a dry cleaning business and also played golf. Every time I was able to spend time with my grandfather, he took out a jar of change and taught me how to play poker. I was 7-8 years old then and I already loved playing cards, although then I took a long break – I returned to poker at the age of 14.
Chen: Was gambling a big part of your childhood?
Ivy: Yes, I used to play the craps variation popular on the streets of the east coast all the time. I learned about gambling and the chances of winning very early.
Ivy was a nit at the start of his career
Chen: Returning to the beginning of your career in the Taj Mahal, tell us – were you immediately favorites in the games that you participated in? Have the rest of the people noticed that some child prodigy is sitting with them at the table? How did it all happen?
Ivy: It’s hard to say if I was the favorite. When I got to $ 75/150, I easily beat the limit. But when he sat down at $ 400/800, he was clearly not the favorite. As soon as I got hold of the money, I immediately went to $ 400/800 and lost everything there, returning $ 75/150 or $ 30/60 to get the BR back. At the $ 5/10 tables, I can say that I was immediately one of the best, because I just watched the actions of my opponents.
The turning point of my career was the arrival of Daniel Negreanu to some tournament that he won. I watched the final table and was surprised how many hands he played. “Wow” – I thought and decided to change something. I played pretty tight then.
“I was never afraid to pour my bankroll”
Chen: When you poured your bankroll at high stakes and came back, did someone notice you? Did you offer backing?
Ivy: I had this: I saved up a bankroll of ~ $ 50,000, of which I usually left $ 5-10K, in order to play lower in case of need. In the course of his career, of course, he received all kinds of help from various people. But I was never afraid to fill my bankroll, as I was always sure that I could make poker for a living. This feeling helped me to play higher limits – I was never afraid.
How does Ivey feel about the WSOP?
Schwartz: How has your attitude to the World Series of Poker changed? Over the years, you’ve won a bunch of bracelets – has something changed or do you still have the same feelings for the series?
Ivy: I still love the WSOP. I’ve just had to deal with personal issues for the last couple of years. I’m looking forward to playing the series. In terms of poker, I will give her priority.
New life in pursuit of happiness
Ivy: Poker has not been a priority in life for a long time. Much more important is psychological and physical health, as well as family. Now I meditate every day, do a lot of yoga and try to benefit my loved ones.
Negreanu: What has changed in your life in 10 years?
Ivy: I have grown old. I do not know if I have become wiser, but I have grown older for sure. Now, I will say this, I am chasing a feeling when I feel good. He began to live a different life, happier.
Chen: I watched your interview with Barry Greenstein, where you said that you used to think that a lot of money and shopping would make you happy. At some point, apparently, everything changed and other things began to bring happiness?
Ivy: Yes. I grew up in a humble family, we had practically nothing, so I made money as my god. When a lot of money falls into your hands, you realize that this was not the answer to your search. I’ve always wanted more, more and more. At some point, it dawns on you, and you start looking for happiness in something else. My life is much more balanced now.
Solvers or Chuika – which one does Ivy choose?
Negreanu: A lot of things have happened over the years. And there are tournaments for $ 25K, $ 200K, $ 300K – I remember that you participated in a couple, but you still didn’t grind them. How competitive do you think you are against the best No Limit Hold’em players in the world who participate in these events?
Ivy: I am not sure, let see what will happen. I really don’t know. Before that, everything was great for me in high roller lineups, you know?
Negreanu: Do you work on the game somehow or are you still skating on the feel?
Ivy: I don’t work at all, I just play. But I will study and devote time and energy to it. So far, this has not been a priority for me.
Schwartz: Have you used solvers or something similar?
Ivy: Not at all. But apparently it would be worth
Truth or myth – fables about Phil Ivey
Schwartz: At the 2008 WSOP, a Canadian medic won the $ 10K PLO Championship for $ 800K or so. They say that after that he comes up to you and says “Hi Phil. Thank you for testing me for this tournament “ and holds out a wad of money. Your reaction was: “Who are you?”
Ivy: No, it was not like that. I didn’t ask who it was. I just didn’t expect to take a stake from him in that tournament.
Schwartz: In 2015, you won the $ 250K Aussie Millions event and received about $ 2.2M Australian dollars. They say that this amount wasted you after losing a bet on the Seahawks at SuperBowl 2015?
Ivy: No comments.
Schwartz: Another story happened at the club. They say that some businessman recognized you and paid for a bottle of expensive champagne for your table. In response, you sent him five, he sent you ten, you sent him twenty. Truth?
Ivy: I very badly remember that evening, as I was very drunk.
Schwartz: The story about Daniel that took place in Monte Carlo. He slapped you in front of people, and you, instead of answering, told him “Revenge will be sweet”.
Ivy: I said that I would answer him the same, only on TV. This has not happened yet.
Schwartz: The last story. They say that once you won a WSOP tournament, but the winnings remained at the box office, ostensibly as a “tip” to the dealer.
Ivy: I don’t think so. How many were there? I’m still sure that this didn’t happen.