Why I believe Tim Ferriss is right to interview Phil Hellmuth

Why I believe Tim Ferriss is right to interview Phil Hellmuth

After Tim Ferriss’s announcement that he is set to interview Phil Hellmuth went down like a lead balloon, Lee Davy explains why he believes he is the right choice for poker.

I asked Dan Smith if I could interview him after learning that he was matching $175,000 in a charity drive.

Cue tumbleweed.

I didn’t take it personally. I have asked Dan for an interview before. He said no. I don’t recollect reading too many interviews from him. I guess he is a private person.

This morning, while following a Twitter stream sparked by Tim Ferriss asking people for questions to ask Phil Hellmuth in a future interview, I stumbled across this.

I guess I was wrong.

Dan Smith does do interviews, but not with me.

And there is a lesson to be learned within this rebuttal, and it involves Phil Hellmuth and Annie Duke.

What we Can Learn From Phil Hellmuth & Annie Duke

It seems that a thin slice of the professional poker playing community are not happy that Tim Ferriss has chosen to interview Phil Hellmuth.
Why I believe Tim Ferriss is right to interview Phil HellmuthTerrence Chan called Hellmuth a ‘pure self-promoter.’

Connor Drinan believes there are ‘much better options for interesting poker players.’

Isaac Haxton believes that Hellmuth ‘is not competitive at an elite level.’

David Benefield wants Ferriss to get a ‘poker player that is respected within the poker community,’ to come on his show.

And it goes on.

As a member of the poker community, I believe we need to take an unselfish standpoint for the better good. It would be unbelievable for Tim Ferriss to get into the mind of Phil Galfond or Fedor Holz but what do we gain?

As a regular listener to the Tim Ferriss podcast, I know there is nothing he will extract from both of those players that a member of the poker media couldn’t dig out. I would even go as far as to say that a member of the poker media would produce a better interview because of their knowledge of poker.

So what value does the poker community gain from Tim Ferriss interviewing someone from within the team? I believe it’s exposure. Tim Ferriss has a gazillion listeners and interviewing someone connected with poker increases the likelihood that more people will try the game. And this is why Phil Hellmuth is an excellent choice, not a bad one.

I have a friend who watches every single episode of the World Series of Poker (WSOP), and he is a Phil Hellmuth nut. He is a very smart young man who enjoys playing poker. He is not interested in watching Dan Smith, Fedor Holz or Phil Galfond. He is interested in being entertained, and Hellmuth is his man. He won’t be alone.

When promoting poker to someone for the first time, it has to be fun. Phil Hellmuth is fun. He has also won more WSOP bracelets than anyone alive or dead. He thinks he is the greatest player in the world and people will believe him, and what’s wrong with that?

I think Hellmuth attracts more people to our game than all of the Wizards combined.

So How Does Hellmuth do it?

Let’s go back to the Terence Chan quote.

“PH is a pure self-promoter.”


It’s for this reason that Phil Hellmuth is the figurehead of our game on a global scale. It isn’t Phil Ivey. It isn’t Daniel Negreanu. When you talk poker to a non-poker player, then it’s Hellmuth’s name that is more likely to be mentioned.

And it’s because he has ticked all of the boxes when it comes to self-promotion. And because of that hard work he can sale through his career without even taking the handbrake off. He barely plays, picks up a WSOP bracelet every year, and people like Ferriss invite him onto the show because he knows he will pull in the numbers.

And Hellmuth isn’t alone.

Stephen Dubner of Freakonomics fame has created a new podcast called Tell Me Something I Don’t Know, and there is only one poker player on his new show: Annie Duke.

Annie Duke is on the show because of James Altucher – a friend of Dubner – who always talks about her when he refers to poker on his podcast, which he does a lot.

Duke got into Altucher’s head because she is great at marketing herself as an expert in her field. Duke, despite what people think of her, now has a thriving business as a personal speaker where she uses poker philosophy to help grow people’s businesses.

Ole Schemion was the 2013 Global Poker Index (GPI) Player of the Year. The Top 5 consisted of Daniel Negreanu, Paul Volpe, Bryn Kenney and David Peters.

So who did Tim Ferriss turn to when he wanted a poker coach for an episode of the Tim Ferriss Experiment where he tried to learn to play poker?

He chose Phil Gordon.

In 2013, Phil Gordon didn’t cash in a single live event. He hasn’t done so since 2011.

Only Daniel Negreanu has done the foundational marketing work that would lead him to pique the interest of Tim Ferriss. The rest of them don’t stand a chance. Hellmuth, Duke and Gordon have done that work. If poker players want to get on the Tim Ferriss podcast, then they should be smart enough to understand that it’s not what they know but who they know that counts and personal branding and marketing are the key.

I could complain that Smith turned me down and now wants to be interviewed by Ferriss, or I can understand that Ferriss is THE MAN and deserves the accolade because he has done the work.

Complaining about it doesn’t change a thing.

Trying to elevate myself into a position where people like Smith want to be interviewed by people like me is a much smarter use of my time. And I could do much worse than to seek an opinion from Hellmuth, Duke and Gordon on how best to do that.