WCP Goes Heads-Up With Paul Phillips

What happened to Paul Phillips?

Paul_phillips_2During the poker boom from ’03-05, Phillips was one of the game’s most recognizable personalities. With a WPT title and multiple WSOP final tables, Phillips was an accomplished mixed game player who amassed over $2.2M in career earnings.

As one of the first pros to embrace blogging, Phillips gained a following through his livejournal site, which is still popular to this day (although now void of poker-related content).

Phillips also built a rep for speaking out against what he saw as improprieties with the game, causing a few controversies along the way. Something we can certainly appreciate.

So what the hell has he been up to? Paul was kind enough to accept our interview request and discuss his latest passion (Scrabble), South Park, and of course, why he’s no longer on the poker circuit.

WCP: You’re no longer active on the tournament scene. What have you been up to the past couple of years?

PaulphillipsquoteredPP: Got married, had kid, moved to Colorado, moved to Oregon, had another kid, decided to go back to school and get masters in Computer Science, applying now.

WCP: How are Scrabble and poker tournaments similar/different?

PP: Similar: people who don’t quite fit into society are overrepresented.

Different: most Scrabble players have taken a vow of poverty, while most poker players live large until they can no longer borrow money.

WCP: How lazy was the "dot-com" nickname you got? You got any other nicknames you go by?

PP: Hey, at the time I received it (1999) it was not so widely applicable. I would not say I ever "went by" that nickname, which implies active participation – other people called me that. My livejournal username is "extempore," but I don’t go by that either. So in a nutshell: no.

WCP: For the most part, the poker media is very forgiving to the players, burying or glazing over a lot of the less appealing aspects or personalities in the game. Part of your popularity was due in part to speaking your mind and not being worried about throwing flames on message boards and forums. Did this cause any personal issues with you and guys on the circuit? If so, did that also play any part in you withdrawing from tournament play?

Paul_phillips1PP: For the most part my issues were with casinos, card room management, the WPT, etc. I tried to be careful with what I said about other players, though it’s very difficult to talk about the appearance of impropriety without everyone assuming you’re making accusations. It’s kind of a no-win situation there – nobody’s ever likely to prove collusion beyond a shadow of a doubt without a confession, but are we supposed to just ignore how much advantage collusion provides in a tournament setting?

There were a couple instances of friction, but that didn’t have anything to do with why I quit. I quit because I was starting a family and playing poker (especially tournament poker) is not conducive to having a happy family life. Had I not quit for that reason, I would have quit anyway because the juice had become too big, there was too much collusion, television was exerting a highly corruptive influence on what fairness remained, I was tired of having to fight through five hundred people on bathroom breaks, etc. etc.

PaulphillipsinclineWCP: Are you politically active at all? If so, any thoughts on the up-coming election?

PP: Let’s just say the political situation does not incline me to reduce my immense stockpiles of krugerrands and ammunition.

WCP: You strike me as a guy who likes South Park. If so, any favorite episodes?

Too much awesomeness for a short list, but if there’s a gun to my head, the one that springs to mind is the one about mormons.

WCP: So on your site you mentioned you want this alien warrior sculpture. But wouldn’t you rather have an Asimo?

PP: I don’t like buying anything that implies a new time commitment. I’d have to actually use a robot somehow. With an alien warrior sculpture, you cash in 100% of the goodness with no further involvement.

WCP: You seem to have an uncanny knack for getting out of "the game" before the bubble bursts…you did it in the dot-com world and you left poker before it lost some of its trendiness and took a hit from the UIGEA. Lucky or do you look for the trends and try to stay ahead?

Paul_phillips_quote3PP: It’s mostly coincidence. I’m not big on crowds (real or virtual) so by the time something I’m into becomes mainstream, there’s a good chance I’m already getting tired of it.

WCP: So you probably didn’t have any Bear Sterns stock…

PP: True, but I have a feeling that iceberg goes down a long ways. Let’s not count our chickens yet – the piper may require more payment.

WCP: Do you still keep up with news from the poker world?

PP: Nope. Only thing I know from the last couple years is that Carlos [Mortensen] won a WPT championship. There are a lot of poker players I consider friends but I don’t have spare bandwidth for following something I’m not doing.

WCP: Any plans to return in the near future?

PP: Ha!

* Image from Hendon Mob.

** Image from World Poker Tour.


6 Responses

  1. Joe Schmo

    April 14, 2008 8:46 pm, Reply

    Someday, someone is going to write a hard core tell-all book that is going to blow the lid off of poker.
    And I’ll still be playing $1-2 NL games like I did before the boom.

  2. Todd

    April 15, 2008 5:21 am, Reply

    Wish you had asked him for specific examples (without naming player names) of when he thought collusion took place in poker tournaments. Chip dumping or letting someone know your hole cards are possibilities but it would have been interesting for you to ask him what specific things occurred that led to his perception that it took place. Not to mention asking him why he thinks Television is a factor in ridding the game of its last ounce of fairness?????? (I’m paraphrasing)

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