The Joy and Pain of Playing with Phil Ivey at the WPT Premier MUG

Despite playing for significantly lower stakes than his usual games, Phil Ivey enjoyed mixing it up playing $2/5 No Limit Hold’em with players hoping to win a seat to the WPT World Championship at Wynn Las Vegas.

Tim Fiorvanti
Dec 1, 2022
Phil Ivey was all smiles at the WPT Premier Meet-Up Game at Wynn Las Vegas on Thursday. (Enrique Malfavon photo)

When you talk about the most recognizable poker players in the world, Phil Ivey’s name would have to be at or near the top of almost every list.

So it should be of little surprise that his entrance into the WPT Premier Meet-Up Game at Wynn Las Vegas on Thursday was an event unto itself. Action in the MUG kicked off with pomp and circumstance at 10 a.m. local time, with WPT Ambassadors Andrew Neeme and Brad Owen, the originators of this MUG idea that eventually grew into this spectacle, joined by a bevy of WPT on-air talent and executives.

Just over an hour later, Ivey moved down a quiet walkway towards the Wynn Poker room with relatively little fanfare, but that quickly changed as soon as he turned the corner. As Ivey greeted WPT CEO and President Adam Pliska, the tone and energy of a room that was already full and buzzing clicked up a few more notches.

Ivey was immediately approached with requests for photos and autographs, which he fulfilled with a big smile on his face. He was quickly walked over to one of the tables along the edge of the room.

Eight lucky players at a $2/5 No Limit Hold’em table got to be the first ones to play with Ivey at this MUG. Here’s how the first orbit, which lasted just under 30 minutes, played out in real time.

11:08: Three minutes after walking into the room, Ivey sits down with a coffee in hand and buys in for $500. The introductory chatter starts bouncing around immediately, and Ivey immediately gets involved in the first hand he’s dealt. Facing a raise to $30, Ivey calls. The player to his immediate left, whose name is Jin, raises to $150 in the cutoff. The initial raiser gets out of the way, but Ivey pushes all in. Jin calls, and the hands are turned up.

Ivey: Heart 4 Club 4 Jin: Diamond A Club K

The Heart K Club 5 Spade 3 flop immediately puts Jin well ahead, and the Heart J and Heart A followed on the turn and river. Not only has Jin taken down a pot worth over $1,000, by getting involved in an all-in pot with Ivey, Jin wins a raffle ticket for a chance at one of four $10,400 WPT World Championship main event seats that will be given away at 2 p.m.

Phil Ivey poses with Jin, who won a $1,000 pot from Ivey the moment he sat down.

11:10 As Ivey waits to reload for $1,500, he signs playing cards and hats, and takes a few more photos. After scooping in his big pot, Jin mentions that he’s met Ivey twice before in Las Vegas – at Jasmine restaurant at Bellagio, and the Spanish Hills Golf Course. He shows Ivey the pictures as proof.

“Did we play golf together?” Ivey asks, raising an eyebrow as he does some mental math.

“No, no,” Jin insists.

11:14 Ivey takes a peak up at one of the many TVs on in the poker room, which is playing the FIFA World Cup match between Germany and Costa Rica, which Germany led 1-0 at the time.

11:19 Ivey picks up Heart 10 Club 10 under the gun and gets into an all-in pot with Charity Starrett, who is in middle position with Diamond K Diamond Q and a shorter stack.

The flop falls Diamond A Diamond 7 Club 3, adding a flush draw to Starrett’s outs.

“Diamonds are a girl’s best friend,” Starrett says, hoping one of her outs materializes. The Spade 5 turn and Spade A river are both bricks, though, and Ivey scoops the pot.

One of Starrett’s tablemates mentions that at least she’s got a raffle ticket now.

“An expensive one, though,” she replies.

Charity Starrett shows off the raffle ticket she won from playing an all-in pot with Phil Ivey. It gives her a chance at winning a $10,400 seat in the WPT World Championship at Wynn Las Vegas.

11:23 Brad Owen walks over to the table to greet Ivey, and daps him up after a quick, friendly chat. He hopes to be moved over to the other side of the room shortly.

11:26 After folding a few hands, Ivey limps and then calls a raise to $30. After checking through an Spade A Heart 9 Club 3 flop, a bet of $50 on the Diamond 8 turn is enough to drive Ivey out.

11:32 As Ivey reaches the end of his first orbit at the table, he gets involved in a pot with both Jin and Starrett. He limps in middle position, Jin makes it $25 and Starrett calls in the small blind. Ivey calls, and the flop comes down Diamond K Club 8 Diamond 6. It’s checked to Jin, who bets $50, and both Ivey and Starrett call. The Spade J is the turn, prompting a check from all three players. The Spade 2 river does likewise.

No one wants to show their hand, and Starrett mucks quietly. Ivey shows Diamond Q Diamond 4 for a missed flush draw, and that’s second-best to Jin’s Club Q Heart 10.

“That’s where all my outs went,” notes Starrett.

Ivey, down about $375 and having bestowed some potentially life-changing lottery tickets to a couple of players, shakes his head with a slight grin, and the game rolls on.