With nicknames like “No Home Jerome” and “The Phenom,” Phil Ivey’s rise to prominence in the poker world is quite the story.
As a teenager, Ivey slept underneath a boardwalk in New Jersey while he learned the ins and outs of poker. He was so dedicated to making it in the game that he risked using a fake ID so he could get into the casinos in Atlantic City.
That fake ID said his name was Jerome Graham, and thus the legend of “No Home Jerome” was born. It was not so easy, however, to get the “Tiger Woods of Poker” nickname. That took a lot of hours at the tables and even more hard work.
Ivey broke onto the big tournament scene in 2000, when he cashed in three events at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. He started with a 12th-place finish in 7-card stud and followed that less than a week later with his first final table and a fifth-place finish in No-Limit Hold’em. Less than one week after that, he made giant news when, at the age of 23, he beat legend Amarillo Slim heads-up to win his first WSOP bracelet in Pot-Limit Omaha.
While that performance put him on the map, what he did in 2002 gave him a permanent place in the lore of poker, and led to his nickname “The Phenom.” Ivey won three WSOP bracelets in 2002 (two in 7-card stud and one in limit S.H.O.E.), becoming just the fourth person to win that many bracelets in one year.
He also won WSOP bracelets in 2005, 2009, 2010, 2013, and 2014. Ivey won the World Poker Tour’s L.A. Poker Classic for nearly $1.6 million in 2008.
Ivey has played for the highest of stakes in cash games and other competitions, too. He has been a regular participant in the Big Game at the Bellagio in Las Vegas – a mixed cash game with blinds of $4,000-$8,000.
In 2006, Ivey played heads-up Limit Texas Hold’em against Texas billionaire Andy Beal with stakes of $25,000/$50,000 and $50,000/$100,000. Ivey won $16 million over three days.
He has made a fortune playing online, too. The website HighStakesDB.com reports that Ivey won $1.99 million on FullTilt in 2007, $7.34 million in 2008, $6.33 million in 2009, and $3 million in 2010.
Ivey has also been involved in two high-profile lawsuits over the last decade. He won approximately $11 million playing baccarat at Crockfords Casino in London, England but was refused payment beyond his initial stake because the casino said Ivey used edge sorting to score a big win.
The casino said Ivey noticed a difference in the back of cards and was able to determine the value of the card. Ivey denied any wrongdoing, but in 2014 a UK court said that the techniques Ivey was alleged to have used were a form of cheating and ruled in favor of the casino.
The same thing happened at the Borgata Casino in New Jersey and in January 2019, a federal judge allowed the Borgata to recoup more than $10 million that he won using edge-sorting, pursuing his assets in Nevada. In July 2020, it was reported that Ivey had agreed to an undisclosed settlement for the lawsuit.
Ivey has used his winnings to donate money to charitable causes like underprivileged children in Las Vegas, children’s literacy projects, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Phil Ivey Stats
Total live tournament winnings: $30,311,759
World Series of Poker (WSOP)
31 final tables
4 main event top-25 finishes
1 main event final table
Total WSOP winnings: $7,140,151
World Poker Tour
9 final tables