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Phil Laak

By Paul McGuire

Phil “The Unabomber” Laak is one of the most eccentric people you’ll ever meet. He’s been given the nickname “The Unabomber” after he showed up to play in a poker tournament wearing sunglasses and a hooded sweatshirt. It ended up becoming his trademark. As the story goes, he had had too much to drink the night before and was hungover. He wore sunglasses to hide his eyes from the bright lights and pulled a hooded sweatshirt over his head so no one could see how sick he was.

Phil Laak
Phil Laak - Source: Las Vegas & Poker

In the era of televised poker, Phil Laak is an admitted TV whore. He’s a fun guy and relishes being in the spotlight. The various poker programs love giving him camera time since he says the weirdest things and often plays without his shoes on. He’s known to have performed different exercises while action is being played out. His quirks and fun-filled approach to poker makes him one of the most likeable characters in poker today.

Phil Laak is most recently known for dating actress Jennifer Tilly. He taught Tilly how to play better poker. His tutorial session paid off. In 2005, Jennifer won her first WSOP bracelet when she took first place in the Ladies Only WSOP event. Two months later, Jennifer would go onto to win the WPT Ladies Night. Phil Laak’s advice seems to have worked.

Phil Laak was born in Dublin, Ireland but grew up in the Unites States. He earned a degree in mechanical engineering and held plenty of odd jobs including being a repo man where he stole cars legally. He also was a sports betting broker and real estate investor. These days, he’s a professional poker player and can be found playing in Las Vegas and in California. Although he had been playing since he was a child, he first caught the poker bug in 1999, when was introduced to high stakes poker in an underground New York City card room. He’s been hooked ever since.

Phil Laak is a student of higher-order thinking and feels that’s what gives him an edge at the tables. He uses various high-order mental capacities to get inside of his opponents’ minds. He also uses lucid dreaming to try to pick up on players’ tells.

Phil Laak almost won his first WSOP in 2005 but Johnny Chan kept him from that prestigious honor. It was a special moment when the two played because Chan was on the verge of making poker history when only Laak stood in his way of winning his record 10th WSOP bracelet. It was an entertaining heads up match to watch because of the contrasting personalities of the two players. Chan is quiet and calm at the table, where as Laak cannot sit still and is constantly talking. Chan ended up winning, but Laak looked like he enjoyed every moment of playing against one the best players of all time.

Phil Laak has two career cashes at the WSOP. He has won one World Poker Tour title in his short career, when he finished first at the 2004 WPT Invitational in Los Angeles. He also made another WPT final table at the 2003 Legends of Poker at the Bicycle Casino. In 2005, he played against a poker robot, which was supposed to be the best “bot” in the world. Phil won and proved that man was still a better poker player than a machine.

"All the decisions of my life are based on satisfying three primary functions: fun, freedom and fulfillment. Poker is a blend of them all," is one of my favorite quotes from Laak and pretty much sums up what he’s all about.

Phil Laak is currently the host of E! Hollywood Hold’em which is a poker show which focuses on celebrity home games. He currently lives in California and one of his former roommates is fellow poker player, Antonio Esfiandari.

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