Phil Ivey Online Poker 2015: Why is He Losing?

2 years ago
Phil Ivey online poker 2015
09:00
01 Dec

It’s not often that the words ‘Phil Ivey’ and ‘losing player’ are mentioned in the same breath, but 2015 has been a catastrophic year 'Phil Ivey online poker'.

A loss of $1,250,806 since January under his pseudonym ‘Polarizing’ on Full Tilt, coupled with a $2.522,933 million disaster under ‘RaiseOnce’ on PokerStars may not have made much of a dent in his reputed $100million fortune, but it has raised concerns in the poker world that Ivey is no longer the force he once was.

Let’s look at some of the possible reasons for this horrible slump affecting the biggest name in poker, with a little help from our online railbirds at 2+2 forum.


A normal downswing?

This is obviously going to happen to every player at some point in their poker careers, and not only once! Viktor ‘Isildur1’ Blom has had some of the biggest down-swings ever, and still finds a way to bounce back and prove himself time and again as one of the very best online nosebleed players.

However, Ivey’s year has seen him play over 50,000 hands across many different games – a close to year-long $4million downswing is serious cause for concern. Whenever he wins a small (say, $100K) session or two, it feels as though he might getting back on track – only to come crashing down with a much bigger losing session.


His opponents know him too well

This is always going to be a big reason for losing money. The people Ivey is playing at these huge stakes are every bit as good as him in general, and have no shortage of information on how he plays in different games across different situations.

If Ivey has a leak or two, the top guys will show no mercy – Ivey’s reputation doesn’t scare everyone; very good players, especially online, analyse and play with little fear.


Playing the wrong games

Another factor which could definitely be affecting Ivey’s play. Being very good at many games is one thing – trying to prove you can beat the very best in each of their specialised games is quite another.

Lancelott on 2+2 expressed it well when said:

Can’t deny heart of champion willing to play vs the best, esp. at all types of games (and I don’t mean mixed games vs specific guys, but separate games PLO,NLH,2-7,etc).”

Nevertheless, although testing yourself at this highest levels is usually a long-term positive approach, in the short-term (and 1 year is still short-term in poker) it’s always likely to be a –EV play. And at some point you have to just say ‘OK, enough already, I can’t quite hack it at this level over so many variants.’


Not improving the way others are

Poker is an ever-evolving game, and although Ivey’s talent for card games is way above that of mere mortals, time stands still for nobody.

Studying opponents playing strategies, working in the ‘home laboratories’ that Gus Hansen once spoke of, reading about others’ strategies, and analysing hands – all these things are hugely important no matter how good or talented you are.

Other stars are willing to put in the work, even those from the generation before Ivey, so he can’t expect to get by on talent and play alone.

2+2 forumite NeA thinks Ivey is:

Too busy living the high roller lifestyle to put in the same hours as the online bosses."

Of course, for someone in Ivey’s position and with his interests, this is always going to be true – but perhaps he has to find a better balance if he intends to take money away from the online big boys rather than paying for THEIR future jets!


His opponents are simply better

Let’s take a look at where Ivey’s millions have been going this year, to see if he is indeed simply being outplayed by superior skills.

Ben "Ben86" Tollerene – Ivey chucked $175K Tollerene’s way in barely 1 hour in a $200/400 PLO battle.

As HighStakesDB reported:

Having just reloaded, Phil Ivey picks up AAxx and is reluctant to fold as Ben86 fires multiple barrels. Having flopped two pair and turned a full house, Tollerene gratefully takes down this $81k pot.”

This was on top of countless smaller pots which went PLO expert Tollerene’s way.

Timofey "Trueteller" Kuznetsov took Ivey for $163,500 over 1,700 hands of $400/$800 8-Game, which occurred over 12 hours last month.

Supernova9 profited by $399,097 and both Viktor ’Isildur1’ Blom and Ben ‘Sauce’ Sulsky have taken chunks of Ivey’s bankroll on and off this year.

Are all -or any- of these players better than Ivey? Perhaps not in a live venue – but online these are the modern-day behemoths who have the bankroll and dedication and talent to challenge Ivey on almost every level.

If Ivey doesn’t take care of the other factors mentioned in this article, then he simply won’t be able to compete seriously with these guys. End of.


Online high-stakes is simply practice for his live adventures

This is not quite as far-fetched as some might think – a $3 or 4million hit online is nothing if it allows him to take down $10 or 15 in the huge live games he plays.

Civ77 says, with some spelling errors corrected for clarity:

I like to think he knows the games are too tough for him to beat, but he's using them as a training tool to improve enough to crush the much bigger live games he plays in. Yeah he gets murdered at 200/400 PLO, but if it gives him even 2-3 bb/100 increase in win rate at 2k/4K nosebleed live games it's worth it.”

If true, we should be seeing Ivey doing exactly that: crushing the big games in Macau, Vegas and elsewhere. Unfortunately these games tend to reveal very little about themselves, but Tom Dwan (in the same stratosphere as Ivey these days) recently lost over $2million in Macau and Ivey is on record as saying:

You could play in a poker game where you could lose five, ten million.”

Meaning, of course, that it is entirely possible to WIN these huge sums if you run good, do your homework and have plenty of practice. Still, it’s a big call to say that his online losses are always going to be compensated by huge live cash-game wins.


Other people’s action

Recorded stats and money aren’t always what they seem; as mentioned above not everything in a poker player’s life makes it to the final balance sheet!

Ivey has been known to take pieces of other players action and according to sb77 (again edited somewhat for readability):

Ivey alleg(edly) he won the most of Viktor’s $3m recent upswing due to x-booking, I think the big booked games where he's 1 tabling for 10-12hrs are where his biggest wins are gonna be. Multi-tabling 2/400 plo vs the dream machines he's gonna do chunks. obv these results are gonna be diff than shown on hsdb.”

Taking chunks of other people’s action might help to balance the books, but it doesn’t change the fact that he’s spewing cash whenever he sits down himself!


Personal issues

Ivey’s 2011 divorce and well-documented court cases over the years will have had an impact on his overall wealth, but it’s impossible to say how much effect, if any, such things have on his online game.

Some people seem happy enough to comment on it though, with Fear_itself stating:

Probably lifestyle related. Marriage has a moderating influence on wealthy young men. Hardly surprising that he's declined post divorce. Success is built on a platform of routine and stability.

Of course there is a general truth in this kind of statement, and Ivey’s run-bad since Black Friday (an online loss of close on $6milllion compared to his $19million or so pre-Black Friday profit) would seem to indicate that some such thing has happened, but personally I feel that the other factors we have looked at are more in need of attention.


Overall, it seems that Ivey needs to take a look at these factors and work out which, if any, are the cause of his poor 2015. If he doesn’t – and the cards continue to go against him – he can expect 'Phil Ivey online poker' in 2016 to be at least as bad as 2015!


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Andrew from Edinburgh, Scotland, is a professional journalist, international-titled chess master, and avid poker player.Read more

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