Friday evening Tiger and Phil will be at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino to run Woods’ inaugural Poker Night charity event. Phil as in Hellmuth, not Mickelson.
"I’m the one with the 13-handicap," Hellmuth said when reached at his northern California home near Palo Alto and Stanford University where his two kids are enrolled.
All proceeds from this exclusive poker event will benefit the college-access programs of the Tiger Woods Foundation. Tiger and Phil will be joined by other celebrity and poker notables, including WSOP legend Doyle Brunson.
The event at Mandalay begins at 6 p.m. The top eight places in the poker tournament will receive a variety of gifts, but the winner has the once in a lifetime opportunity for 18 holes of golf with Tiger at Medalist Golf Club in Hobe Sound, Fla.
Woods and Hellmuth are an interesting pairing, especially since they really don’t know each other that well.
"Tiger’s people reached out to me and I’m happy to do whatever I can for charities," Hellmuth said. "I have raised $19 million in charity over the years. I do an event for Eva Longoria each year and became good friends with her. I think I’ll know Tiger a lot better once we get together."
The two certainly are iconic figures in their professions with both enjoying worldwide popularity. Tiger has 14 major titles in golf, Phil 11 gold bracelets in poker.
"I’m a good guy away from the table," said Hellmuth regarding another comparison between the two who are seen as rather cold and intimidating when in action. "I’m a family guy first."
Hellmuth comes off as an engaging person away from the poker table, much as John McEnroe reversed his "bad boy" image once he retired from tennis and became a highly successful analyst.
"The McEnroe comparison is definitely a fair one," Hellmuth said. "I have certainly had my bad moments at the poker table. But, hey, I hate to come in second, which I did three times last year at the World Series of Poker. I feel like I should have been Player of the Year, but that’s poker."
Here’s a bit of Q&A with Hellmuth that may shed a different light on the perceived "poker brat" public persona.
GT: You say you carry an 18-handicap in golf. Do you get a chance to play much when you are here in Vegas for the WSOP?
PH: I play Shadow Creek some when I’m here. Sometimes I’ll shoot well enough to be a 13 or 14.
GT: How is your poker game lately?
PH: Not bad. I had a shot to win in Ireland last weekend. I finished 33rd out of 500 in the Irish Open.
GT: I noticed your name was not among those listed for the Big One for One Drop with a record $1 million buy-in and over $12 million for first place that kicks off the WSOP events. Will that take away from the Main Event?
PH: No, I don’t think so. The WSOP will be gi-normous. I have not officially decided to sign up for the million buy-in, but I would love to play the event. I think it’s great for the sport. It might take a little away from the Main Event, but not many will be in it."
GT: You and Tiger have a lot in common in your approach. Tiger focuses on the majors. You seem to do the same for the WSOP.
PH: That’s true. Since 2002 I have focused on the WSOP. Winning the NBC Heads Up Championship was a good one. I would say that 95 percent of the tourneys I play in are ones that would make history."
GT: Do you ever like to play a regular event with smaller buy-ins to tune up your game?
PH: I did play in a $2,000 buy-in at Commerce (Calif.) recently. I don’t really tune up my game. There isn’t one way to win. I just try to stick to the best possible strategy as the cards come up.
GT: Do you enjoy being seen as the bad boy and winning by intimidation?
PH: I do. I think it’s 100 percent true about the intimidation factor. When golfers see Tiger on the leaderboard they are afraid. A lot of players would prefer not to be on my table. Intimidation has served me well. I feel the fear factor. It helps both of us, especially being tall (6-foot-5.)
GT: How have you handled your fame?
PH: "I don’t seek fame, but at the same time I don’t mind it. Whenever I’m in Vegas, people follow me around. It was that way in Ireland as well. I consider it very high praise and why I make it a point to sign autographs."
GT: A number of poker pros have re-located to Las Vegas. Have you thought of doing the same?
PH: I wanted to move to Vegas in 2001, but was outvoted 3-1 by my kids and wife. We thought about moving there half the time (six months) starting last year, but Black Friday happened. I’m happy in Palo Alto (Calif.). It’s the center of the technological universe.
GT: What are your feelings about legalizing online poker?
PH: I would like to see online poker legal in the U.S. I think it will happen four months after the election. Top 10 poker players get paid millions of dollars a year to represent the sport. It would be nice to have a steady income coming in. Online poker would be great for our game.
GT: Do you think poker is losing a bit of its star power with the continued boom in the sport and increase in entries to the WSOP?
PH: It is to a degree. Poker After Dark is back on the air on the NBC Sports Channel, which helps. The public wants to see the great players playing."
GT: Where might you show up to play poker when you’re in Vegas and not involved in the WSOP such as this week?
PH: I like to play at the Aria. A lot of my time is spent there. High stakes games to three in the morning. I’ll be back in Vegas for Eva’s event. After raising $500,000 for charity, drinks at the Bon Jovi concert would be nice."
Tiger, Mandalay, Bon Jovi!
The $10,000 buy-in guarantees a weekend many of us could only dream about. In addition to the playing spot, each participant is allowed to have one guest attend Tiger’s Poker Night, plus they will get one suite at THEhotel at Mandalay Bay for Friday and Saturday nights and two VIP tickets to attend Tiger Jam, featuring Jon Bon Jovi and Friends, on Saturday.
In addition to that round of golf with Tiger, the winner also receives a putting lesson from Woods, autographed TW memorabilia items and a Nike Golf custom club-fitting at "The Oven" in Fort Worth, Texas.
Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres will start at 6 p.m. PT, and the tourney begins at 7. RSVP is required and seats still remain for Tiger’s Poker Night. Contact 949-725-3003 to reserve your spot today!
And don’t forget to bring that $10,000-buy-in for Tiger’s Foundation.
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