If you’ve ever explored the world of professional poker, then you’ve likely come across a few of the top players. Despite the fact that professional poker doesn’t quite fit with traditional sports or eSports, its sharpest competitors still tend to become celebrities in their own right. This is especially true for over-the-top players like Philw Hellmuth.

Phil Hellmuth has been part of the professional poker world since he took home the Main Event at the World Series of Poker back in 1989. After losing out to Johnny Chan the previous year, a young Hellmuth returned to stake his claim on the poker world. He’s stuck around since then and has even managed to make headlines for his wacky behavior just as often as his poker exploits. 

Let’s take a closer look at this divisive personality who has earned the nickname, The Poker Brat.

WSOP Bracelet Count: Highest Number of Wins Across 5 Decades

Before we dive into some of Hellmuth’s more memorable exploits and meltdowns at the poker table, it’s worth pointing out that he is a consistently competitive player. In fact, Hellmuth holds the world record for the most number of WSOP bracelets with a total of 17. The closest players to that record have only ten.

Bracelet count aside, it’s also worth pointing out that Hellmuth has been a professional player for decades. His first win came in 1989 while he logged his last WSOP win last year in 2023. That means that Hellmuth has won bracelets across five decades, starting in the 1980s and culminating in the 2020s.

The ‘Poker Brat’

Now, let’s cover what has helped keep Hellmuth in the headlines: his status as the Poker Brat. In reality, just about any poker player can suffer what’s called emotional tilt. In Hellmuth’s case, his emotions tend to get the better of him and can even tank his performance in major games.

Over the course of his career, he’s had a few high-profile meltdowns. In 2007, he got into it with competitors on NBC’s Poker After Dark show, demanding that they quiet down when it was his turn (which isn’t a poker rule by any means). In 2008, he insulted another player while competing live at the WSOP event, earning him a penalty.

A Penchant for Showmanship

It might not surprise you to hear that Hellmuth has a penchant for showmanship on top of his status as the Poker Brat. One thing that the poker pro is known for is his imaginative and over-the-top entrance to the WSOP event—these usually take place long after other players have sat down at the tables. 

Over the course of his career, he’s dressed up as some truly memorable characters to make his grand entrance, including Gandalf the White (a character from Lord of the Rings), Thor, PT Barnum, Julius Caesar, and a professional boxer.

Phil Hellmuth

He’s Taken Home a Main Event from Europe, Too

Showmanship aside, Hellmuth hasn’t lost his touch as a professional player. In 2012, over two decades into his career and WSOP dominance, Hellmuth crossed the pond to compete in WSOP’s European leg. While many expected him to fail overseas, he ended up staging a huge coup. Hellmuth didn’t just win a bracelet at the WSOPE tournament but took home the Main Event—a feat few other poker pros have managed.

Phil Hellmuth has Published Four Books

Over the course of his career, Hellmuth has taken on many positions that put him in the limelight. Interestingly enough, he’s also penned four books with his own publishing house, beginning in 2003 with Play Poker Like the Pros and culminating in 2017’s #POSITIVITY: You Are Always In The Right Place At the Right Time. Each book offers a unique perspective on Hellmuth’s approach to the game from both personal and professional viewpoints.

He’s Also Spent a Lot of Time on TV

As we outlined above, Hellmuth has placed himself in front of the screen a few times with shows like Poker After Dark. In reality, he’s made appearances on dozens of poker shows, including High Stakes Poker, Best Damn Poker Show, and Celebrity Poker Showdown. Over-the-top antics aside, Hellmuth is still respected for his poker insights and skills.

His Wife is a Psychiatrist at Stanford University

Let’s round this list off with maybe one of the most surprising facts about Hellmuth’s life: he’s married to a psychiatrist from the highly esteemed Stanford University. Phil Hellmuth and his wife, Katherine Sanborn, have been married since 1992. He splits his time between being with her in Palo Alto and trips to Las Vegas.