Setting Goals, Making Money, and Overcoming Tough Times — Phil Hellmuth (#260)

“The difference between your best and your worst? The perception of others. Block out the noise, and you’ll stay on track.” Phil Hellmuth

Phil Hellmuth (@phil_hellmuth) is an American professional poker player who has won a record fourteen World Series of Poker bracelets. He is the winner of the Main Event of the 1989 World Series of Poker (WSOP), the Main Event of the 2012 World Series of Poker Europe (WSOPE), and he is a 2007 inductee of the WSOP’s Poker Hall of Fame. Hellmuth is also known for his temperamental “poker brat” personality — reflected in his new book, Poker Brat: Phil Hellmuth’s Autobiography.

In this conversation, we discuss:

  • The importance of setting goals and blessings
  • How he became the youngest person to win the World Series of Poker
  • The right way to manage your money
  • His prep for high-stakes games
  • What it takes to compete at the highest level
  • And much, much more.

This episode comes from my new television show Fear(less), where I interview world-class performers about how they’ve overcome doubt, conquered fear, and made their toughest decisions. You can watch the entire first episode with illusionist David Blaine for free at (To watch all episodes, please visit DIRECTV NOW).

We recorded three hours of material and only one hour was used for the TV show. This podcast episode is almost entirely new content that didn’t appear on TV.


#260: Setting Goals, Making Money, and Overcoming Tough Times -- Phil Hellmuth

Want to hear another podcast with a guest from Fearless? — Listen to this episode with Micahel Gervais. We discuss how to win the war against anxiety, some of the more effective (and less effective) ways to self-talk, behind-the-scenes stories of Michael’s clients, understanding mastery, and much more. (stream below or right-click here to download):

#256: How to Overcome Anxiety and Stress - with Adviser to Olympians, Michael Gervais

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QUESTION OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

Selected Links from the Episode

  • Connect with Phil Hellmuth:

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Show Notes

  • Can you tell when someone’s lying? Can you lie and not get caught? Phil Hellmuth has spent 30 years practicing both. [05:15]
  • Swearing is part of the lexicon shared by poker players and people from Long Island. [06:16]
  • How Phil constantly reminds himself of goals and blessings every morning — and how this practice has motivated others. [07:05]
  • Phil’s coping mechanisms and strategies during tough times. [09:55]
  • Dealing with criticism — especially of the anonymous, online variety. [13:10]
  • Young Phil sets his life goals after an epiphany in wintery Wisconsin. [17:41]
  • What happened when some of these life goals started to fall into place — and how his first book became a New York Times bestseller. [22:39]
  • Why Phil places more value on his money management acumen than poker skills, and what system has worked best for him. [25:01]
  • Phil talks about his late ’80s showdowns with Johnny Chan. [30:48]
  • The Antonio Effect as a tonic against unbridled hubris. [36:17]
  • What’s Phil’s secret to marriage longevity? [40:10]
  • How do Phil’s poker skills help him away from the table? [43:56]
  • Who are the first people who come to mind when Phil hears the word “successful?” [48:23]
  • On the concept of forgiveness and its unexpected rewards. [52:11]
  • From forgiveness to rampage. [59:52]

People Mentioned

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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30 Replies to “Setting Goals, Making Money, and Overcoming Tough Times — Phil Hellmuth (#260)”

  1. Phil said it Tim; how others view us has nothing to do with us, so keep your own counsel, appreciate connecting with human beings but don’t let either lavish praise or harsh criticism sway you. I have learned that rabid fans see greatness in themselves, so they see it in you. Harsh critics see problems and issues in themselves, and see it in you.

    We are the mirror; the fan or critic sees a reflection of self but appears to dole the love or hate on you.

    This is why I advise folks to do what they do mainly for the fun of it. The work becomes play, and the play is the reward. All else – money, fame, outcomes-based stuff – is extra, a bonus, icing on the cake, cherry on top, nothing to sweat, nothing to go bonkers over. The work – that you feel passionate about – is the reward, so working is good enough for me.

    Less labels, more just loving what you do and keeping your focus there.

  2. Hi Tim I like listening and reading all . Ever thought of coming to Australia & NZ heaps of interesting people here as well . From a merchant seaman Ausi to Japan run LNG. See ya

  3. First poker I ever read was your Play Poker Like The Pros book back in high school. You’re awesome, Phil! It was great to listen to you speak so personally.

  4. Tim. Mankind is better with you in it. Much better.

    Here is a challenge. A long shot. Hail Mary. Against all possibilities- Have a conversation with me and change the immediate future of every student – all 54 million.

    If you are interested in helping our children and their parents – we took the first step for funding everything for all children through OMG- offer motivated giving – need everyone involved.

    Our free platform for all schools to raise thousands of dollars every day it’s not a skyline changer or tipping point – it’s the start of a movement – hope to share a visit soon. Thank you for all you do!

    We cracked the code on school funding.

  5. Tim you seemingly like to meditate (Headspace) I think there is a need to create new approach to the ever evolving generational mindsets offering a more spiritual lifestyle value balanced hub updating the Speakingtree (in) / Deepakchopra com [personality] model. Headspace meditation/music is phenomenally successful I believe Adhyatmik (dot) com +TV could become the hub for Adhyatmik / Ayurvedic lifestyles scaling in North America & India. Contact me.

  6. Great episode – ‘Phil sucking at poker’ reminds me of a quote from Khalil Gibran:

    “Judging a man by his weakest deeds is like judging the ocean by the power of its foam.”

    Super interesting to listen to. Thanks for sharing, guys

  7. Wow, brother. Your 5-Bullet Friday quote this week: “I will only let you touch me if your hands are so full of intention that every brush of your palms feels like you’re writing a novel on my skin.” (Azra.T “Braille”)

    Incredibly moving.

    I’m almost exactly 3 yrs older than you — HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY btw!!! — and have never tied the knot. One reason why I’ve remained exclusive with my 34-year-old mismatched love interest these past 2+ years is because he has always kissed me and held me like he means it, touched me with focused intention. You can imagine how that carries over to the bedroom (or wherever).

    My far-superior-on-paper Delta Force ex-fiancé has asked me repeatedly with disgust: “Why would you be with this guy? Or if you like him, why did you ever want me?” Others have tried to sway me to be with someone more sophisticated and professional. I stick with my “best friend with benefits”/dirty welder/carpenter/all-around handyman. He is more consistently present, focused, giving, driven to continually improve, passionate, and intentional than anyone I know. Sometimes I find the quiet, less obvious souls to be more evolved. And the good work he does with those hands? Man.

    Warm Regards, Amy

    PS. Your teaching has changed my life. You are my most influential teacher of all time. THANK YOU!!

  8. Hey Tim! You may have already been informed, but the semicolon tattooed on your friend’s forearm that you mentioned most likely represents struggles with depression or other mental illnesses that he or a loved one have overcome. The nonprofit organization Project Semicolon puts it simply that “a semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.” The Semicolon tattoo has been a great way to start a conversation that normally wouldn’t happen due to the stigma around talking about mental illnesses.

    In an attempt to break this stigma, I am personally a part of two nonprofits that deal with depression awareness and suicide prevention. Spread the Lifeline, and Push for Awareness. Thank you for taking the time to read this and thank you for all that you do! You have made a huge impact in my life and my personal development and self improvement.


  9. Hey Tim,

    I appreciate that you actively ask for feedback (otherwise I honestly wouldn’t be writing this). I personally really can’t get into these episodes that are the FearLess extras. The flow is off and I simply don’t get the same inspired feeling that I get from your long form interviews. I actually find myself avoiding them once I realize it’s not one of your regular interviews. I think the secret sauce is listening to you and your guests get into a rhythm. I figured you would want to know because I’d imagine, if I feel this way, others likely do too.

    I am very much a fan of you, your perspective, and your work. Thanks and have a nice weekend.

  10. Good. Constant Reinventing. I have never heard of this guy /don’t watch TV. Wonderful talk!

    Best? Blessings talk.

  11. Tim,

    I NEVER leave posts for anyone. I miss your regular show. These episode edits don’t feel the same, they leave the good stuff out. I dont have time or want to watch TV…

    Please more regular show!


  12. I’m normally a huge fan of the show, but this is the first episode I’ve not been able to finish.

    The format feels choppy, and missing the flow that makes this podcast great, but the biggest problem is Phil. I think he’s too self focused to offer any useful insights. You could have picked 20+ more interesting people from the poker community who are doing great things.

  13. Hey Tim and Team,

    My name is Sarah Chisholm and I cannot fully articulate what a positive impact listening to your podcasts and reading your books has made in my life. I find you (all) to be truly fantastic. However, recently since most new podcast episodes are segments from Fear(less) episodes I am finding what I loved about your long form and in depth conversations to be lost. It feels like a sound bite. A condensed “gem” of need to know information… but it requires less thought and lessens the humanity of both you and the interviewee. Sometimes the in between holds the most powerful insights. I would love to know what you think of this…

    All the best,


  14. Thanks for all the episodes. I really appreciate them, and while I don’t play poker, this was still really compelling.

    Anyway, I heard you mention that you have a friend who has a semicolon tattoo. It sounded like your impression was that this was because he’s a big literature nerd. While this may be true, it may also hold a more personal significance. In fact, you might want to consider getting a semicolon tattoo yourself.

    Here’s a brief explanation:

    A semicolon is a literary mark that happens when you could have ended a sentence, but didn’t; the sentence continues.

    Someone who has had a serious brush with suicide, and decide to continue their sentence instead, will instead get a semicolon tattoo.

    Thanks for all you do.

    I love you.

  15. Anyone know where this comes from? 30s women leave men

    40s men leave women that Phil mentioned? Like to get more stats from that. It stuck out as I was listening to it.

  16. Very interesting the dealing with criticism part. You’re never as bad and you’re never as good as they say you are. Just block out the noise and you’ll stay on track.. And forgiveness is so important, but knowing whom to ignore and whom to connect with and forgive is also a challange.

  17. One of the best podcasts recently.

    I do find that the magic is lost with editing, missing the old style though good luck with your new project. No time for TV though.

  18. Hi in the show Phil mentioned his how to pyramid of things to do in order to achieve his future success. Is there any more documentation, notes, book on that? It felt like that would be a good system or tool for goal setting and execution.

  19. Tim I know this slightly off topic… but I recently discovered you are Bipolar… So am I… I wanted to know your stance on medication? What works best for you personally? You seem to accomplish so much for someone with this condition, I feel I could be much more productive if I understood and could thus effectively treat Bipolar… the doctors seem to know and understand so little of the condition. The meds they put me take away my creative drive and motivation.

    I know this is a deeply personal question but I really value your insight.



  20. Tim, I listen to heaps of your interviews and could not even begin to describe what I get out of your efforts. Many thanks for your contribution, it is truly outstanding. I was going to bypass this one thinking I have no interest in poker, and although true, I found the interview to be profound and Phil’s authenticity a gift and a blessing, not to mention entertaining. Thank you very much. Angela

  21. What an interesting post. I need some guidance. I am an environmental consultant. How do I apply the 4 hour work week in that industry. I am the company. I have to know the legislation and meet with the client to advise him. If I outsource to anybody it will mean somebody with the same knowledge and skillset than me. Then there is nothing stopping that person from just stealing the client. Any advice,?

  22. Tim! I’ve been listening to a bunch of your stuff lately and am really loving it. I’m a top 10 ranked tournament player in the world. ( I see you follow my friends Fedor/Liv. I would love to hang one day and pick your brain, in return I will happily coach you a few hours in poker. Hopefully I hear from you soon! -J

  23. Hey Tim,

    Long time fan of your work, both podcasts and books! I think you did a great job in this interview, but it was kind of tough to get through – Not trying to drag anyone down, but over and over again, it seemed like I was getting slapped in the face with how amazing Phil is at winning and how rich he is and how forgiving he is. I know that poker attracts a certain kind of personality, but jeez…

    Also, if you forgive someone for the sake of a future return on investment, your motives are probably off.

    – Joel