“No Home Jerome” is back at the World Series of Poker. BPC players may know one of their poker idols better as Phil Ivey – one of the biggest names in the game.
After sitting out the WSOP last year and playing sporadically the last few years, Ivey recently announced that he’s ready to get back to Las Vegas and playing tournament poker. He recently told PokerNews: “I plan on playing this year. I want to start playing some more tournaments; I kind of announced that at the beginning of the year. I plan on playing the World Series of Poker.”
The series kicked off this week and many in the poker world were pleased with the news that one of the best-known players in the game would be returning to the biggest spectacle in poker. Other big-name players were pleased with the news as well.
“A @philivey return to the WSOP and tournament poker in general is a ratings bonanza!”
Tweeted Daniel Negreanu after learning of the news.
A Poker Star is Born
No Home Jerome? That’s the nickname Ivey earned as a youngster on the Atlantic City poker scene, regularly mixing it up in games at the Taj Mahal and Tropicana with a fake ID showing his name as Jerome. The nickname came because he was always at the poker room and never seemed to leave.
“It was common for me to play 14 or 15 hours a day or more,” writes in the book Deal Me In. “I was there so often and so long, that people began to wonder if I even had a place to live.”
Born in Riverside, California, in 1976, his family moved to Roselle, New Jersey, when he was still a baby. At age 8, Ivey’s grandfather taught him to play Five-Card Stud and his fascination with the game grew. When not playing cards he enjoyed anything competitive from video games to basketball. But poker was always top of mind.
“It was obvious very early that I had a gift when it came to gambling,” Ivey writes in the Deal Me In.
Even in middle school Ivey dreamed of becoming a professional poker player – and was happy to tell others of his plans. By the age of 16, he was playing in games all over the state including in Atlantic City casinos with his fake ID.
Inspired by a few of the full-time players he met who described how they made a living at the game, Ivey knew that a life in poker was in the cards. In those days before computer analysis and online forums, Ivey kept a journal on players, hands, and situations to fine-tune his game – learning from his losses and wins.
At age 21, Ivey walked into the Tropicana and told the poker room manager his real name. Jerome had retired – Phil was now ready for action. His first major win came at the first Jack Binion World Poker Open for $53,297. More wins would follow.
In May 2000, he went on to win his first WSOP at the age of 23 for $195,000. More final tables and wins followed over the next few years. In 2002, he had a monster summer at the WSOP, winning three bracelets. His reputation as the hottest young player in the game was sealed.
Credits for the photo: WSOP/Caesars
When the World Poker Tour debuted in 2003, Ivey found success on that tour as well. He finished runner-up to poker legend Dave “Devilfish” Ulliot in the first WPT Championship for $290,130. From 2002-2007, he had eight final table appearances capped by a win at the L.A. Poker Classic for $1.6 million.
After dominating the game for years, Ivey now has more than $26 million in live tournament winnings and is also a regular in high-stakes cash games. Whatever the tour or game through the years, it seemed Ivey just couldn’t lose.
While Ivery has become a poker superstar, looking for a gambling edge has led to some controversy in recent years.
In 2012, Ivey won $11 million at the British casino Crockford’s in a game called Punto Banco but was eventually denied his winnings after the property learned that he used a technique called edge sorting. The technique involves a player using slight differences in the backs of cards to determine possible values of the cards.
Ivey’s attorney issued a statement for Ivey denying any cheating claims from the incident: “Any allegations of wrongdoing by Crockfords are denied by me in the very strongest of terms.”
In 2014, the Borgata casino in Atlantic City sued Ivey for using similar techniques at the property to win several millions of dollars in Baccarat and sued Ivey to help recover over $10 million in losses.
After a few years of legal wrangling, the UK Supreme Court ruled in Crockford’s favor and ruled that his actions were dishonest. Ivey would not get his cash. The Borgata had sued the playing card manufacturer for its losses but was recently denied those efforts in court.
Ready for a Return
No doubt the return of Ivey will be good for business. The WSOP has deals for coverage across the globe including ESPN in the U.S. as well as Poker Central, which will air hours and hours of live coverage on both its PokerGO app as well as in a partnership with Twitch.tv.
In essence, Ivey’s return to the WSOP is basically a return to tournament poker after a couple years away. He earned plenty of press recently when he won the HK$250,000 No Limit Hold’em – Short Deck event as part of the Triton Super High Roller Series. The win brought Ivey $604,952 and he also took a third-place finish in another event at the series, a HK$1 million buy-in event for $1.7 million.
Ivey was also a late addition to this week’s $300,000 Super High Roller Bowl, which has been streamed on the PokerGO app.
Considered the best player in the world by many, Ivey has been called the “Tiger Woods” of poker. His last bracelet came in 2014 in the $1,500 8-Game Mix, in which he topped a field of 485 for the title and $166,986.
With a packed schedule this year that includes 78 events beginning Wednesday, Ivey should find plenty of events to his liking. Higher buy-in events that he might make an appearance in include:
- the $100,000 No-Limit Hold’em High Roller on June 1
- the $50,000 Poker Players Championship on June 15
- the $25,000 Pot-Limit Omaha 8-Handed High Roller on June 20
- the $50,000 No-Limit Hold’em High Roller on July 13
There will also be plenty of $10,000 events for Ivey to take a shot at another title. He remains tied for second in total WSOP bracelets with legends Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan behind 14-time bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth. In total at the WSOP, Ivey has 59 cashes and more than $6 million in winnings.
Could this be the year that the 41-year-old Ivey surpasses Chan and Brunson and applies some pressure on Hellmuth in the bracelet race? It might not be a good idea to bet against it.
Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer in Texas. His work appears in numerous websites and publications such as PokerNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @PokerTraditions.