World Series of Poker Needs Phil-in: Phil Ivey Hides

Written by:
Thomas Somach
Published on:
Phil Ivey

The death of U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy last week recalled memories of the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

At that convention, Kennedy famously led the attendees in a chant mocking sitting Vice-President and ‘88 Republican presidential candidate George H. W. Bush's role in the Iran-Contra political scandal.

"Where was George?" Kennedy chanted repeatedly. "Where was George?"

Now, 21 years later, the folks who run the World Series of Poker (WSOP) are asking, "Where is Phil?"

Phil, of course, is professional poker player Phil "Poison" Ivey, one of the top poker pros in the world.

In recent years, the nine players who have made the final table of the WSOP's annual Main Event have all been relative unknowns.

Sure, once someone wins the Main Event, he becomes famous, but unless and until that happens, no one cares.

That's why the WSOP's head honchos were thrilled last month when someone who was already famous in the poker world-and would conceivably attract lots of media attention-made the final table of the 2009 Main Event.

And that someone, Ivey, was not just famous, he was one of the most famous poker players in the world.

And one of the most successful.

Having earned almost $9.6 million in his career playing offline tournament poker, he is one of just 10 people in history to have earned at least $9 million doing it.

Plus, he's earned millions more playing in offline cash games and online.

WSOP brass were thrilled Ivey made the "November Nine"-the nickname given to the nine final tablists who will resume play in November after a four-month break-because the envisioned a public relations bonanza for the WSOP.

Well-known, easy-going and affable champ Ivey would give the WSOP Main Event a real shot in the arm-everyone would want to interview the handsome, intelligent and articulate pro.

The Today Show, The Tonight Show, Letterman, Oprah, Larry King-they'd all want him, WSOP officials thought.

It would be tremendous publicity for the WSOP, the Main Event and the game of poker.

Perhaps the most publicity ever.

But there's just one problem.

It hasn't happened.

Ivey has been scarcer on the media scene than a penguin in a desert.

He hasn't been on any of the big American television shows.

Or on any little ones either.

In fact, he hasn't appeared anywhere, save for an unknown poker blog or two.

Much to the chagrin of the WSOP bosses, Ivey is reticent, even shy, and not only doesn't seek the media spotlight, but also tries hard to avoid it.

What looked to be a dream finalist for the Main Event final table has turned out to be a nightmare-a public relations nightmare.

Having one of the most famous and successful poker pros in the world at the WSOP Main Event final table has not reaped a bonus.

And until it does, the folks at the WSOP will continue to ask, "Where is Phil?"

Thomas Somach,