Poker Brat Phil Hellmuth Recalls Gambling With Michael Jordan

Hellmuth was a guest on 'Chicken Dinner'


Aug 23, 2023

Imagine going heads up with Michael Jordan in cards.

Jordan is famously as competitive a gambler as he was a basketball player, an other-worldly craft that helped him win six NBA Finals, five Most Valuable Player awards and 10 scoring titles over a storied 15-year career.

Growing up in Chicago, I heard my fair share of stories about Jordan’s constant appetite for action. There’s one tale where he spent 10 hours playing cards overnight with fellow Dream Teamers, then played 18 holes of golf, then helped Team USA clobber Angola by almost 70 points in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.

Just another day in the life.

Reporter Connie Chung asked Jordan if he had a gambling problem back in 1993.

“No,” Jordan replied.

“I can stop gambling. I have a competition problem.”

Legendary poker player Phil Hellmuth came up around the same time as Jordan. Hellmuth won his first World Series of Poker bracelet in 1989 at age 24. Jordan’s Chicago Bulls won their first NBA title in 1991 when MJ was 28.

The two became fast friends due to their rising stardom.

“MJ and I have hung out at a lot of different places, but we’ve never played poker,” the 17-time WSOP champion told NESN’s “Chicken Dinner” podcast.

“He challenged me once and I didn’t have a lot of money in town,” Hellmuth continued. “I was stupid, I should’ve just called my friends (to stake me). But he would’ve wanted to play ’til seven in the morning and who knows at that point.

“He will grind you down, but I’m a little stronger. I’m not some 23-year-old playing his first session with MJ. I would give him an hour notice of course, which is reasonable and he would accept that. Then I would leave.”

While Hellmuth and Jordan never played poker together, don’t think for one second they didn’t spend many long sessions battling at a private table for big bucks.

“Michael likes to play badugi, which is a very fun game,” Hellmuth said. “You’re dealt four cards and you want to have a club, a diamond, a heart or a spade. Ace, deuce, three, four (in four different suits) is the best possible hand.

“And (Jordan) wants to play no limit, so things can get really crazy.

“If you have ace, deuce, three, but you don’t have the badugi and he doesn’t either, then the best three cards (win). So if you have ace, deuce, three, you’ve got to get the money in because you get three draws and ace, deuce, three will hold up a lot of times. But if he puts in with four, five, seven and he hits his card and you don’t, he wins the pot.

“It’s a swingy game and that’s what he likes to play.”

Hellmuth shares many more stories along with his favorite NFL regular-season win total right here.

Thumbnail photo via Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports Images

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