Although Phillip Dennis Ivey Jr. was born in California on February 1, 1976, his family moved to New Jersey during his early years. The young Phil grew up in Roselle and through his grandfather, who is an important figure in the youngster’s life; he learned five-card stud poker. His grandfather’s mission was not to teach him to play, but the downside and pitfalls of gambling. Cards however caught the child’s eye and he sneaked into back rooms by the age of sixteen, playing money in small stake poker games. During his 17th year, he started working in New Jersey as a telemarketer.
Soon after he started his job however, he started travelling two hour per day, by bus to Atlantic City in order to play at the casinos there. Jerome Graham was the name on his fake id as he was still under aged and not allowed into the casinos until the legal age of 21. He was considered as a bad player those days and friends today Barry Greenstein and Daniel Negreanu who knew him when he started those days used to call him a “sucker” around the poker table. During the years he honed his skills and started to win enough that when he turned 21 he won more than lost, but still playing low stakes hands.
At 24, he felt skilled enough to enter his first live tournament, which was the Jack Binion World Poker in 2000, held in Tunica. During 3 of the events, he reached the final table, while winning one of the other events, a limit Hold’em for $500 buy-in and won over $53K. Phil Ivey felt he is ready to take on the WSOP tournaments. He gained 12th place in his first WSOP event with seven-card stud, a 5th place in a NHLE $2K event and finally a win of $195K in the Omaha event with a $2,500 buy-in.
By 2002 the poker world took notice when Ivey cashed 7 times during the 2002 WSOP, 3 of those times earning him bracelets. Later in 2002, he won at the Poker Championship in California State as well as two separate wins from the L.A. poker Classic. He made 3 WPT finals during 5 months from November 2002 until April 2003 as well as 2 wins in Bellagio WPC events. During 2003’s WSOP, he cashed 6 times and in the 2005 WSOP, he took another bracelet. He continues to win several other tournaments and event such as the 2005, Monte Carlo Millions, where he took home the 1st prize of $1 million. In 2008, he won $1.6 million Poker Classic, which was a WPT event as well as 2 other WSOP tournaments in 2009. In 2010 was his 8th WSOP win in the HORSE $3K tournament.
Phil is the proud bearer of 8 WSOP bracelets, 4 finishes in top 25 WSOP Main Events during a 7-year period. Other accolades to his name are the youngest player in history to date to win 9 bracelets under 33 years of age as well as earning 8 of the bracelets in the shortest period. Friends and well-known poker professionals such as Greenstein admits that the young “Jerome” as they met Phil in the beginning of his poker playing days, completely metamorphosed his play. He is a relentless player confusing his opponents and the world of poker has great respect for this player with his famous icy stare and unsettling calm.
Phil has $21,252,120 career winnings to date, #2 behind Antonio Esfandiari.