phil ivey insights

4 Poker Career-Changing Insights I Learned from Phil Ivey

Phil Ivey is one of the most mysterious figures in poker.

For the past 20 or so years, Ivey has dominated both the live and online poker streets. He racked up 10 World Series of Poker bracelets in addition to $31,377,928 in live tournament earnings. Ivey has also performed well in high-stakes cash games, both live and online.

Despite Ivey’s incredible success on the felt and the notoriety that has come with it, details about his personal life have largely stayed under wraps.

That changed last week when he sat down for an interview with the one and only Joe Ingram.

Check out the video of the interview here or keep reading for four major insights:

Takeaway #1: If you enjoy winning, you have to be comfortable losing

Poker is an extremely high variance game. Some days, it feels like you can’t win a hand. Other days, you feel invincible.

The best players in the world have accepted the fact that you can’t win every time you sit down. Being comfortable with losing is one way to separate yourself from the pack.

Here’s how Ivey put it:

If you enjoy winning, you have to appreciate the fact that you’ll lose sometimes. I think it’s a much easier game and a much easier experience that way. I think it comes with experience. If you play so many hands and so many hours and stuff like that, you know that you’ll lose some of these pots sometimes. We all have off days.

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Takeaway #2: Pace yourself and move up the stakes at the right time

This won’t be the first or last time you read bankroll management-related advice, but I bet this is the only time you’ll read such advice from Phil Ivey!

All poker players aspire to rise up in stakes, but trying to do so at the wrong time can be detrimental to one’s bankroll and mindset.

Ivey has seen many players make this mistake throughout his career:

A lot of people have gotten into a lot of trouble playing over their head, playing for too much money, and putting themselves in some bad spots financially. It doesn’t have to be that way, especially if you’re new to poker. Poker is a very enjoyable game and a great hobby to have. If you don’t go overboard, pace yourself, and move up in stakes at the right time, then it’ll be a much more enjoyable experience for you.

Takeaway #3: You need to learn how to control your emotions

When you’re playing a game for money, there will naturally be a lot of emotion involved. When you’re at the table, however, you have to try to put emotions to the side and make the best possible decisions.

According to Ivey:

In poker, you train yourself for so many years to cut off emotion. For me, I don’t want to be too high up or too down low at the poker table. I want to stay emotionally level, especially when losing. I think that is super important.

Takeaway #4: Being good at poker doesn’t equate to being good at life

This tip is accompanied by a long quote from Ivey, but I promise it’s worth it.

Few, if any poker players in history, have had as much success on the felt as Phil Ivey. However, that success came at a cost as Phil found himself needing to make some changes in his life.

Here’s what he had to say:

It was happening so fast. I got a hold of a lot of money at a young age and I was in Vegas. You get a part of the scene and start going out a little bit. Things just happen really, really fast. You get used to a certain life.

I think that my first real addiction to anything was poker. I used poker as an escape from reality for many years. From the time I was 18-32, I played almost every single day and I played many, many hours. I spent those years that people mature and grow up, I spent them at a poker table. So, I never really grew up. I never really dealt with any emotion. I never really dealt with any past things that you need to deal with in order to evolve and grow.

As I started working on myself, I realized that most things about how I saw myself were quite the opposite. I thought I was a very unselfish person. That really comes to mind. I thought I was unselfish because I would take care of people with money. I would take care of family and friends with money.

But the thing is, I was very selfish with my time. I did exactly what I wanted to do. I was selfish in relationships and I was selfish with people I cared about, doing what I wanted to do and not sacrificing what I wanted at any point. That came out with the work that I did and is something that I need to work on still on a daily basis.

I gave up life itself and put all of my attention and energy into poker. I have great benefits from it, financially and winning tournaments. But eventually, I paid the price. You pay a price when you don’t take the time and work on yourself.

I started working on myself when I didn’t like my behavior and my reactions to things. I didn’t like the things that I was doing. Luckily, I have some people who really care about me and were able to let me know. I got told enough where I had to do something about it.

Being good at poker does not equate to being good in life. It took a lot of work to be good at poker and it takes a lot of work to be good at life.

It allowed me to get back in touch with myself and my family. I started doing a lot of yoga and meditating. Getting things back in order. It allowed me to recognize what’s important and what’s not. I put a certain value on things that are important to me like my mental health, exercise, family. It’s liberating to know what really matters. I’m in a really good place in my life right now.

Bonus: How Phil Ivey Won $16,000,000 in One Session vs. a Billionaire

If you’ve ever read the book, “The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King” you are familiar with the story of how a team of pros, led by Phil Ivey, beat banker Andy Beal for millions.

Check out the story from Ivey’s perspective here (the story starts at 40:32):

Wrapping Up

It’s great to see Phil Ivey being more open about his life. If you haven’t done so already, I’d recommend watching the entire podcast episode in order to grab as much of Phil’s wisdom as possible.

Speaking of Phil Ivey, check out our analysis of a $825,635 pot he played vs another high stakes pro right here.

That’s it for today, though. Good luck at the tables this week!

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About the Author
Patrick Harvey

Patrick Harvey

Graduate student trying to make money in poker so that I don't end up having to drive Knish's truck.

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