Is Phil Ivey still the most feared player in poker?

Does the 'Tiger Woods of poker' still have the aura of invincibility he once had?

Phil Ivey
Phil Ivey

The only thing rarer than a Tom Dwan sighting at the poker tables these days is a Phil Ivey sighting. Where he once looked on course to eclipse Phil Hellmuth for all time bracelets, we are now lucky if he plays three bracelet events a year.

This week he was spotted playing cash in Bobby’s Room but notably skipped both the $300,000 Super High Roller Bowl and the $111,111 One Drop High Roller. This is also the first year he is eligible for the Poker Hall of Fame, something he will almost certainly, deservedly, achieve at the first time of asking.

I suspect that Ivey is crushing some very big, private, cash games in places like Macau, so in that respect I would still argue he is the one of the best/biggest winning live players in the world right now. But with his absence in the more public games like online cash and live tournaments, I think his aura of invincibility is also absent. When you don’t see Ivey regularly at the tables, you don’t see Ivey regularly winning at the tables. The player who once made elite pros shake when they sat opposite him actually has a handful of them very keen to play him (at least, online).

Rusty online and in tournaments

Phil Ivey partying
Not quite as intimidating?

This is in no small part because he is probably rusty, at least online and in live tournaments. He might still be winning the biggest live cash games in the world but the online nosebleeds and Super High Roller MTTs are the toughest games in poker, and he has barely played either of them for years. The game evolves quickly, even for the great Phil Ivey.

You also have to look at his more recent online form to show that, at least in the virtual game, there are a lot of players who are ahead of him. It was only after Gus Hansen quit playing the online nosebleeds that it shined a light on how much Phil had been losing online since Black Friday.

His two ongoing court cases on both sides of the Atlantic regarding ‘edge sorting’ in house games is another factor that has perhaps made him lose his fearsome reputation. Even though they are not poker related, seeing Phil Ivey on the wrong end of losing millions via the court system reminds us he is just as vulnerable as anyone in this game of uncertainty.

Still the 'Tiger Woods of Poker'?

Fedor Holz playing poker
Is Fedor now the most feared player?

Ivey may still be considered the best overall player in the world, but I would say your heart would sink more if you sat down to discover Fedor Holz had position on you these days. Phil Ivey is still an enigma in the poker world but he is maybe not the unstoppable force he once seemed.

In that respect, he really is fitting of his nickname of the ‘Tiger Woods of poker’, given how much the golfing Legend is no longer the most intimidating player on the tour. However, Ivey has by no means dropped in people’s estimations by the same order of magnitude (and none of the scandal).

The big difference is that I suspect that, as many others no doubt do, that all it would take would be six months dedicating himself to either online poker or live tournaments before Phil Ivey was crushing everyone again, and scaring the shit out of anyone who gets drawn on his table.

Do you think Phil Ivey is still the most feared player in poker? Let us know in the comments:

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Comments (4)

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  • Tumlex


    I'll be scared for sure
  • HennieP


    People get tired of the spotlight. Nothing sinister about that. Plus he probably gave up on online poker after his Ivey League website never really took off. He wanted people to become better poker players but instead they just ignored the lessons on offer and played like donks. Perhaps someone should have told him that charging $75 per month for poker lessons was a bad idea. Only semi-pros and very serious players would hand over that much money to improve their game.
  • IvicaIliev77


    I think Ivey switched to casino type games and probably is gambling a lot on different sports betting. He is still excellent live player but for online I think his edge dropped significantly as a lot of current top players and upcoming ones are really working hard and steady to stay ahead of the curve using PIO and such software.
  • SDK1987


    Online and live is a complete different game without live tells. I expect he doesn’t want to improve his online game anymore when he can win a lot more live.