The fox and the hedgehog
Allen Kessler has turned to the wisdom of crowds to solve a decades old question: who is better at No-Limit Hold’em, Phil Ivey or Phil Hellmuth?
Kessler set up a Twitter poll to see what the poker community thinks. The question he asked was phrased as: “Who’s better at no limit holdem?”
They both have strong cases.
It’s a difficult call to make. They both have strong cases.
Phil Ivey always appears in any discussion of the greatest all-around poker players. Phil Hellmuth, however, is a contender for best-in-class when it comes to tournament No-Limit Hold’em.
Can the adaptive fox beat the specialist hedgehog at its own game? NLH is the home turf of our hedgehog, but even so, 88.3% of the first 4,998 voters in Kessler’s poll went for Phil Ivey.
Negreanu berates the brat
Kessler’s prompt for the question was a clip from Poker After Dark in which Negreanu hammered Hellmuth over claims of being the best poker player in the world. The epic rant took Hellmuth to task over not playing in high roller events and above all for Hellmuth’s claim to be better at tournament Hold’em than Phil Ivey.
“You want me to tell you you’re better at something than Phil Ivey at something, then what?” Negreanu asks.
Hellmuth sheepishly asks if he’s not better at Texas Hold’em than Phil Ivey, only to to be told that he is “not better at anything than Phil Ivey,” by Negreanu.
Hellmuth is no stranger to confrontations at the poker table, but even he seemed shaken by the exchange.
Part of what makes the comparison difficult is the lack of comparable results between Ivey and Hellmuth. They don’t often play the same formats.
Phil Ivey only rarely plays tournament poker now, favoring cash games for the most part. Phil Hellmuth plays almost nothing but tournaments. When Ivey does play tournaments, it is usually super high roller events. Hellmuth, on the other hand, is rarely seen in a tournament with more than a $10,000 buy-in outside of the World Series of Poker
Hellmuth seeks publicity wherever he can
The biggest difference between the players isn’t the games they play though. It is that Hellmuth seeks publicity wherever he can, while Ivey is a quiet player whose time playing private games lends his results an air of mystery (for years, Ivey vanished into the back rooms of Macau).
This difference may also give us a clue as to the true answer to Kessler’s question: Ivey’s talent can speak entirely for itself, while Hellmuth’s requires a full-time salesman.
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