Breaking Down Phil Ivey’s 10th WSOP Bracelet and His Chances to Catch Phil Hellmuth

phil-iveyPhil Ivey booked his 10th career win at the World Series of poker on Friday night (and won a hefty prop bet he and Daniel Negreanu were offering at the 2014 WSOP in the process) tying two poker legends for #2 on the all-time bracelet list. Ivey now only trails Phil Hellmuth, and based on the numbers, and the smell test, it’s only a matter of time before Ivey passes Hellmuth.

Here is why.

Phil Ivey is roundly considered to be the best poker player in the game. And it’s a hard point to argue considering he excels at everything from high-stakes cash-games to tournaments, to online poker. Unless Phil decides that tournaments no longer interest him (I don’t see that as much of a possibility as long as bracelet bets can be made) he is always going to have an edge on the field.

With his 10th World Series of poker bracelet victory on Friday night Phil has now become one of only four players to hit double digits on that front, joining Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, and Phil Hellmuth, which shows just how hard a feat it is to accomplish. Daniel Negreanu doesn’t have 10, Erik Seidel doesn’t have 10

But the most impressive part of Ivey winning #10 is the speed with which he has done so, and the age at which he accomplished the feat.

Doyle Brunson’s path to 10

Doyle’s first WSOP bracelet came in 1976 when he was already 42 years old (obviously it’s not his fault as the WSOP was created when Doyle was already in his mid-30’s). His 10th bracelet came in 2005, nearly 30 years later at the age of 71.

Of course, Doyle didn’t have the sheer number of WSOP events to partake in like players of the modern era, but he also didn’t have to navigate three and four digit fields for most of that period, so it’s a bit of an even trade-off on that front.

What should be noted with Doyle (where he deserves an asterisk) is that tournaments were not as lucrative or as prestigious during most of this time period, and there were very few tournament pros. Guys like Doyle liked tournaments because the players who busted early and the winners would usually find their way to the cash game tables.

Doyle also boycotted the WSOP for a few years during his prime, which probably cost him 1 or 2 bracelets.

Johnny Chan’s path to 10

Johnny “F’ing” Chan won his first WSOP bracelet in 1985, and like Doyle his 10th bracelet win came in 2005, a span of 20 years. Johnny was 48 when he won bracelet #10.

It’s hard to quantify Johnny Chan’s bracelet winning prowess as it didn’t seem to be a priority for him for many years.

Phil Hellmuth’s path to 10

The other Phil’s coming out party was the 1989 WSOP Main Event, with bracelet #10 occurring at the 2006 WSOP. Phil not only caught up with Doyle and Johnny, but he accomplished the feat in a fairly short amount of time (just 17 years between bracelet #1 and bracelet #10) and did so at a younger age than Chan (Hellmuth was closing in on 42 at the time).

Phil has gone on to win three more bracelets since.

Phil Ivey’s path to 10

Phil Ivey’s first bracelet was won in the year 2000, and bracelet #10 was obviously placed on his wrist in 2014.

Not only did Phil win 10 bracelets in 15 years of playing in the WSOP (14 if you consider he took the entire 2011 WSOP off) but he accomplished the feat at the tender age of 38, and unlike Chan and Brunson, Ivey is still considered to be a major threat to win many more bracelets.

Can Ivey catch Hellmuth?

Consider that both players started winning bracelets at around the same Age (Hellmuth was 24 as was Ivey) than it seems almost a certainty that Ivey will run down the “Poker Brat.”

First of all, he’s on a better pace, and unlike Hellmuth is a master at just about every form of poker, while nearly all of Phil Hellmuth’s bracelets have come in Holdem tournaments. This allows Ivey the luxury of navigating much smaller fields.

So when will Ivey catch and overtake Hellmuth? If we look at both players WSOP histories starting with their first bracelet win, Ivey’s current pace has him winning a bracelet roughly once every 1.5 years. Hellmuth’s current pace is a bracelet roughly once every 2 years.

If these trends continue Ivey will catch Hellmuth in 15 years at the 2029 WSOP, when both men have 20 WSOP bracelets on their resumes. Of course, Phil Hellmuth will be of retirement age at that point (65) while Ivey will likely still have a number of good poker years ahead of him at age 53.

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