Book Review: Poker Brat by Phil Hellmuth

4 years ago
Book Review: Poker Brat by Phil Hellmuth
04 Sep


If you plan on reading Phil Hellmuth's autobiography aptly titled "Poker Brat" in order to get the lowdown on the UltimateBet cheating scandal, prepare to be disappointed.

Sure, Hellmuth explains his version of the insider cheating that went on at UB and brags that he "initiated the investigation" that resulted in over $20 million being paid to players who were harmed by the God mode program that allowed hole cards of players to be seen by UB honchos. But Hellmuth never even mentions principal player (cheater) Russ Hamilton by name.

Also, the entire UB mess is revisited in an appendix to the autobiography, with Hellmuth carefully including a disclaimer that he doesn't "know all the facts" pertaining to the scandal and that "some of this stuff happened 17 years ago" and that readers should forgive him if his memory is a bit foggy.

Fogginess aside, others may claim that Hellmuth is downright delusional in believing that Greg Pierson, the creator of the UB software that was eventually used to cheat players, was not involved in the scandal. So convinced was he of Pierson's innocence that Hellmuth actually gave him one of his 14 WSOP gold bracelets earlier this year.

Despite being cleared as having no involvement in the entire superuser scandal, Hellmuth's association with and representation of UB that lasted a decade seriously damaged his reputation. And that reputation, while it includes the brat persona that makes Hellmuth come off as a spoiled child, unable to control his temper when things don't go his way at the poker table, also includes recognition as one of the world's best poker players.

You don't win 14 WSOP titles by accident and Hellmuth reminds readers of that throughout the book. In fact, Poker Brat may get labeled by other reviewers as just a lot more of Hellmuth being Hellmuth, with Phil's massive ego getting massaged by his own words as he lists his many accomplishments both on the felt and in the world of business.

The Other Side of Hellmuth

However, I'm happy to report that there are a number of tender moments to be found in Hellmuth's autobiographical account. A different side of Phil that poker fans familiar only with his temper tantrums and cockiness never get to see.

A loyal husband, devoted family man, and caring friend off the felt, Hellmuth is seen in a different light when he takes time out from boasting about his poker prowess to discusses his relationships with his parents, siblings, wife, sons, and friends. We see a cool guy that would likely be fun to hang out with, someone who earnestly wants to grow as a person, and a man who is astutely aware of his shortcomings and how he comes off to others.

We also come to understand why Hellmuth acts the way he does at the poker table, the need to win at games like poker sprouting out of a desire to be good at something since he couldn't compete with his brothers and sisters academically. Phil had, as most of us do, a need to make his parents proud of him, and was able to replace success in the classroom - which was held in high regard by mom and dad - with success at the poker table.

I must admit that I was a bit apprehensive about reading Poker Brat, wondering if I could stomach all the braggadocio that Hellmuth is known for and actually finish reading the book. But then again, love him or hate him, Phil does have plenty to brag about.


He's had an interesting and exciting life, one that tons of poker players certainly envy. And it’s nowhere near finished, with Hellmuth fully expecting to win another 10 WSOP bracelets or so before all is said and done.

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Charles is a Chicago native and long time poker player who dusted off his journalism degree and began writing about poker following the events of Black Friday in 2011. He has written for a number of leading poker websites, offering his insights and expertise on subjects ranging from online poker leg...Read more


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