By Sean Chaffin
WPT fans from the early days may remember Paul Phillips. The poker boom was on and Phillips had some of the biggest of finishes on the World Poker Tour – a Travel Channel superstar.
From 2003 to 2005, Phillips was a regular on the tour and took down a couple of major scores. After so much success in the early-2000s, however, Phillips disappeared from the scene for the most part after 2005.
The 44-year-old software developer and entrepreneur apparently moved on to other pursuits, until last week when he was back on the scene at ARIA playing in the Season XVI WPT Tournament of Champions. This returning WPT champ, who hails originally from San Francisco, seemed pleased to get back to the poker felt and meet up with some old friends.
“The circumstances converged on it being easy to come to this, so I’ve come to drop in and say hello and play one tournament,” Phillips said on Day 1 of the event.
Phillips burst on to the poker scene in September 2003 when he finished runner-up to Mel Judah at the WPT Legends of Poker and took home $681,217. In December of the same year, Phillips won the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic at the Bellagio for $1.1 million. In 2004, he returned to the WPT Legends of Poker and finished seventh for $82,625 and then finished 24th at the event the following year for $20,850. And that’s it. It was an impressive two-year run, but beyond just a couple of other cashes, Phillips hasn’t been seen on the poker scene much in recent years.
So where’s he been and what’s he been up to?
“Not playing cards,” Phillips said with a laugh. “I moved to Oregon after my first daughter was born and led a regular life – and continue to do so. I’ve been writing software. It’s not so much I just got busy as I just didn’t want to play cards anymore.”
Will he become a regular player again on the tournament poker scene?
“Probably not,” Phillips said. “This is probably it. Can’t say for sure, but who knows?”
Those early days in the 2000s were certainly good to Phillips and his bank account, and he looks back fondly.
“It was a lot of fun,” Phillips said. “It was a fun time, but you know everything gets old after a while.”
Returning to poker and jumping into the WPT Tournament of Champions after such a lengthy absence has been a bit of learning curve, with new faces and even some things to remember at the tables.
“I can’t say I have a good sense of the scene,” Phillips said. “I’ve had to learn what the rule changes have been and all kinds of stuff.”
Phillips was eliminated on Day 1 of the WPT Tournament of Champions when Marvin Rettenmaier spiked two pair against Phillips’ . Although his run came to an end early, the WPT hopes to see Phillips back in WPT action soon and especially in next season’s WPT Tournament of Champions.
If you’re interested in becoming a WPT champion, you can play for your chance on ClubWPT.com. ClubWPT is where eligible VIP members can play for more than $100,000 in cash and prizes each month, including seats to WPT events. No purchase is necessary for the ClubWPT sweepstakes and the service is void in states where prohibited. See terms and conditions at ClubWPT.com.