carrying the title, "dot-com millionaire",
Paul Phillips now has plenty of time for poker.
Yet that's exactly why he chooses his tournaments
carefully and doesn't burn himself out. While
he's made quite a few friends over the years,
he hasn't avoided the usual throng of haters out
there. So how does this guy stay focused and still
find a way to win a tournament now and then? Read
on to find out...
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PokerLizard: How did you first get interested
Paul: I've always been a sucker for gambling.
When one of my programming
buddies in college found out about my penchant
for blackjack, he took me out to play poker. I
PokerLizard: On most broadcasts that you have
been on the announcers generally call you a “.dot
com millionaire.” It seems as though they
are insinuating two things: that you didn’t
work hard for your money, and that poker is just
a hobby for you. Do you ever get sick of their
qualifying you and your poker success?
Paul: It comes with the territory because television
loves to have "sound bite stories" for
all the players and that has become mine. There's
some truth to it -- at least that I was very lucky
to have as much financial success as I did, and
that it's unlikely I'd be devoting so much time
to poker if I hadn't had that early success.
Some people judge players by their results alone,
and others will always diminish the skills of
someone who didn't earn his poker bankroll through
poker. That's a matter of opinion intractable
to argument, which is fine with me. In many ways
it's better for me if people devalue my poker
PokerLizard: What advice would you give to any
aspiring pros? Any pitfalls to avoid?
Paul: My advice to aspiring pros is to change
aspirations. Poker seems much more glamorous than
it actually is, and for every player who is living
the dream, there are dozens who aren't. If you're
smart enough to succeed at this game, you're smart
enough to succeed in the real world, with much
greater satisfaction. If you don't want to work
for “the man”, then start your own
company and put your efforts into that.
I think poker is a great hobby but a very poor
choice of profession. I'm concerned that the current
poker craze is going to leave us with legions
who eventually discover that poker isn't all it's
cracked up to be, but who have also rendered themselves
PokerLizard: I’ve noticed that you are
very active in the online poker forums. What do
like and dislike about them?
Paul: I've been active in online discussion of
all kinds since I first discovered bulletin boards
fifteen years ago. As poker came to dominate my
life it came to dominate my online discussion
time too. I enjoy the process of articulating
my opinions because it is through that process
that I sharpen my thinking. I also enjoy authoring
the occasional flame when people take poorly thought-out
Unfortunately, the quality of online poker discussion
has plummeted the last few years and I am close
to giving up on everything but my live journal.
I admit it's difficult to completely tear myself
away, but there's a point at which one has to
surrender to the weight of garbage.
PokerLizard: You have an online blog, http://extempore.livejournal.com/,
that is gaining in popularity. Was it bitter-sweet
to have people discover your writings? What made
you decide to start a blog?
Paul: I started writing in my blog because it's
immune to imposters and because I thought it'd
be a relief to only be read by those who went
out of their way to read me. That latter goal
didn't quite happen since it's still read by plenty
of people who openly hate me, but I guess that's
the price of being high profile.
I'm glad people read it and participate in it.
It's a compliment anytime someone wants to spend
their time writing in my personal journal as opposed
to a general purpose poker forum. I'm sure its
popularity is a result of the dearth of quality
alternatives as much as anything else.
PokerLizard: What is it like being on the WPT?
From watching the show, it’s hard to tell
how long the betting rounds last, how long the
final table has been playing, etc.
Paul: When you're out there playing, it's pretty
much like any other final table except with cameras,
hot lights, and a large audience. A typical final
table takes about five hours to complete, which
might be a little faster than I'd like but still
leaves room to play. Of course you see fewer than
one hand in ten on television and they make it
nearly impossible to tell what happend in between
the televised hands.
PokerLizard: Do you think the WPT/WSOP shows
are hurting new players since the viewer only
gets to see a bunch of all-in play?
PokerLizard: Do you have any specific poker goals
for this next year?
Paul: I can't be too ambitious with goals since
my wife and I are expecting our first child in
April and I expect that will severely curtail
the amount of time I spend playing. Indpendently
of that, I was already dropping most of the WPT
events from my schedule because I'm tired of traveling
to unappealing locations for poorly-run tournaments.
I suppose my goal is to have another winning year;
given the variance in $10K tournaments these days,
it's easy to have a losing year when you don't
play that many.
PokerLizard: What has helped develop your game
the most (books, mentors etc.)?
Paul: By far the most important development was
the decision to critically, honestly, uncompromisingly
analyze my own play. In many ways poker isn't
that difficult to get good at, but if you can't
admit that some aspect of your play is hurting
your results, then you cannot improve. And there's
a huge difference between rationalizing your plays
and critiquing them. If you can't think of any
mistakes you made at the end of a tournament,
either the greatest player in history or you're
not being honest.
Any time I see someone complaining about how
lucky someone or everyone else is, I know they
haven't turned this corner.
PokerLizard: How much do you play online? What
do you like about the online game?
Paul: I rarely play online. It's fun but I already
spend more time on computers then I ought to.
PokerLizard: How does your strategy online vary
from live games?
Paul: Online I mostly play my cards. In real
life I mostly play the player.
PokerLizard: Which do you enjoy more: live or
tournament games? Why?
Paul: Tournaments are far more fun for me, in
no small part because I'm much better at tournaments,
but also because of the slowly-building excitement
that comes with arriving at the late stages. I
will never win a million dollars in a cash game
because I don't want to risk that kind of money,
but many of the tournaments I play offer that
PokerLizard: You certainly have a flair for interesting
hair/clothing color combinations (orange/purple).
Do you color your hair for an edge, fun, to support
Paul: I like to have fun with my appearance.
You only live once.
PokerLizard: Do you think it will be more difficult
to be successful now that you are famous and people
will be gunning to knock you out of tournaments?
Paul: I think it's the opposite. The thing about
being on television is that I know what hands
people have seen me play so if they're modeling
me on that basis. I can estimate their model and
react accordingly. And if they just want to knock
me out because I'm well-known and they’re
willing to take the worst of it to do so, then
that's fine with me too.
PokerLizard: Some people may not know this, but
you were banned from the WSOP
a few years ago for speaking out on the way the
Horseshoe split money between tourney personnel
and casino personnel. What exactly happened, and
how glad are you that Harrah’s
now runs The Horseshoe?
Paul: The comment for which I was barred when
it appeared in the paper was "the players
have been misled", which in my naivete I
never imagined would cause me such grief. Although
I was eventually unbarred later in 2001, fallout
from that incident persisted and I decided to
stop playing there; I only played one event in
2002 and none in 2003. So I was happy to have
the opportunity to play again. Other than that,
I'm just glad it's over.
PokerLizard: How would you describe your poker
Paul: I try to have all the gears so it is as
difficult as possible to narrow my hand range
in any given situation.
PokerLizard: What 10 players do you most like
to match wits with?
Paul: I won't give you ten players but I always
enjoy playing against [John] Juanda and [Phil]
Ivey because I think they're on another level
than the rest of us.
PokerLizard: Which future tournaments are you
planning on playing?
Paul: The ones in Vegas, so I can drive home
PokerLizard: What is your favorite game to play
Paul: Chinese poker - slot machines for poker
players, the most addictive game known to man.
PokerLizard: Obligatory PokerLizard question:
If you were Matt Damon in Rounders, how long would
it have taken you to kick your girlfriend to the
curb and get with Famke Janssen?
Paul: Now that we've found out that Famke Janssen
used to be a man (see the most recent season of
nip/tuck) I'm not sure I could go for that no
matter how convincing the illusion.
You can keep up with paul at his Live Journal
(aka Blog) improving.org
Update: Since this interview Paul's wife had
a baby and they all moved to Colorado, and Paul
is addicted to Scrabble..
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