What Makes Phil Ivey One of the Most Successful Poker Players?

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Source: @gambling911 via Twitter  Phil Ivey is a poker legend. 

When it comes to poker players, everyone has their favorite. From the domineering gameplay of Patrik Antonius to the cult Twitch fandom of Lex Veldhuis to the commentary of Jason Somerville or the tenacity of Jennifer Harman. The world has seen some incredible poker players and each is commended by even their harshest critic. But there is one who stands above the rest as one of the most successful poker players by the numbers and by his gameplay style – but also by popular opinion. That man is Phil Ivey. As poker players start out on the professional circuit, they are often compared to the legend that is Phil Ivey – and it’s no surprise why.

From “No Home Jerome” to the “Tiger Woods of Poker”

Phil Ivey came from humble beginnings to holding the world of poker in his fingertips. With an estimated $23 million accrued from his tournament winnings alone, a World Poker Tour title, 10 World Series of Poker bracelets, and a spot in the Poker Hall of Fame, Ivey has flourished into one of the most formidable poker players in history. Ivey began his poker career early when he played five-card stud against his grandfather and cultivated this love of the strategy and skill into more than 15 hours per day playing poker at casinos throughout Atlantic City. Spotting his talent from early on, his family encouraged him to turn his hobby and aptitude into a career. He gained the nickname ‘No Home Jerome’ due to the time he spent honing his winning strategies in the casinos. Ivey’s strategic thinking was cultivated by his mentors – Daniel Negreanu and Barry Greenstein – who helped him solidify what made him a really strong poker player, which he is then able to pass on to other poker players who study his moves and choices. Relatively unknown before his $200,000 win in 2000, Ivey’s defeat of Amarillo Slim gave him not just the World Series of Poker bracelet. It also gave him the confidence to go further, and it showed others he was a serious and tough poker player. Ivey’s 10 bracelets range from Omaha Hi-Lo to Seven-Card Stud to Five-Card Stud, showing skills and prowess across the board. 2017 saw Ivey’s greatest accomplishment as he turned 40 years old and was eligible for entry into the Poker Hall of Fame. Often referred to as ‘the Tiger Woods of Poker’, Ivey is one of the game’s greatest success stories.  

Ivey’s Aggressive Play Style

When it comes to pinpointing the reasons for Ivey’s rise in poker, there are many factors that come into play. One of them is the aggressive style of play he cultivated from a young age in order to dominate the poker tables. Aggression in poker refers to raising and re-raising, never limping into the pot. The direct attitude of Ivey means that his opponents can’t put him in a specific range, and he often uses the tactic in order to command the table and take control of the game. Ivey raises pre-flop because he has developed a very strong post-flop play style. When playing both at the Borgata Casino and Crockford’s in London, Ivey used his aggressive play in order to attempt to show the weaknesses in his opponents strategies. At both casinos he was able to use this in order to win millions. Some critics suggest that when faced with the same aggression back, Ivey will back down quickly – which could potentially impact the game. Some also suggest that the aggressive style is why Ivey doesn’t fare as well in No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em poker.  

Source: @fulltiltpoker via Twitter      Caption: Phil Ivey’s bluffing and reading has earned him a fierce reputation. 

Ivey’s Bluffing Ability

It’s alright being an aggressive player when in the lead, but there are times when the cards just don’t work in your favor – and bluffing needs to take place. One of the most sensational bluffs for Ivey was against fellow high stakes bluffer Tom Dwan. Ivey had just called a $200,000 bluff against Jason Mercier – so to engage in a bluff off was a risky maneuver. Eventually, Ivey had to fold – but the bluff was for a hand worth $600,000, showing Ivey’s skills in bluffing, one of the cardinal attributes necessary in high stakes poker. Ivey was more successful in his bluffing against fellow poker star Paul Jackson. The pair raised one another until Jackson backed down, leaving Ivey to walk away with $1,547,000 in the pot. Many poker guides suggest that being able to bluff in poker is an imperative, but it isn’t a skill that comes readily to everyone. Having said that, it’s definitely one that can be perfected and learned. Phil Ivey most likely wasn’t an expert at bluffing and maintaining a poker face when he started out playing the game. It’s something that can be worked on – and should be for anyone attempting to make it big in poker.   

Ivey’s Ability to Read Others

Finally, Ivey’s ability to read others is also a critical feature of his success in poker – and one that keeps fans and spectators excited about any game involving Phil Ivey. Even if Ivey isn’t able to gain the edge when play starts, his acute ability to read others enables him to gain it eventually. One of the most famous examples of Ivey’s ability to read others is when he played Paul Jackson. The difference in prize money was $400,00 and Ivey raised after Jackson called. Through forcing him to continue raising, Ivey was able to analyze Jackson, who eventually folded by the end of the round. By monitoring Jackson’s micro-expressions and the way he reacted to what Ivey was doing – in part down to his aggressive play – Ivey was able to reign supreme.

Phil Ivey is a poker legend in his own right. He has earned millions – and even started a charity that aims to give back to those who started life in less fortunate positions. His aggressive play style, ability to bluff his way to the top, and knack for reading his opponents have left him as one of the most entertaining poker players who has ever graced the World Series.