Hellmuth ups ante in book

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Since winning the main event of the 1989 World Series of Poker, the world's most prestigious poker tournament, as a 24-year-old, Phil Hellmuth Jr. has been recognized as an expert on the game.

In his new book, "Bad Beats and Lucky Draws" (HarperCollins), his follow-up to the best-selling "Play Poker Like the Pros," Hellmuth recalls some of his favorite hands and offers advice on poker strategy.

The title refers to the highs and lows of poker, which Hellmuth admits to sometimes not handling well. His poor behavior at the poker table is legendary. After a loss to Annie Duke, another professional, at the World Series of Poker's Tournament of Champions this year, he went on a five-minute swearing rampage.

"I haven't learned (to handle a bad beat, or unlucky loss) yet," he said, laughing, before appearing Friday at a book signing at Harry W. Schwartz Bookshop, 2559 N. Downer Ave.

After he calms down, he is able to think about how he played.

"Afterwards I can step back say, did this work? Why did I do what I did?" he said.

Despite his behavior at the table, he goes out of his way in the book to praise other players. However, he's often as critical of their play as he is of his own.

"I'm honest, and no one's ever complained about that," Hellmuth said.

Hellmuth's mother and father, a former associate dean at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, both attended Marquette. Hellmuth himself attended UW-Madison, but did not finish pursuing a degree in philosophy. Instead, as he details in a chapter called "Cheesehead Poker," he became a regular at Madison poker tables.

He said poker and college "go hand and hand," and college poker players are good for the game. In fact, he assisted in a university-sponsored poker tournament at UW-Madison Thursday.

"When people play, they play a game of skill," Hellmuth said. "It's better that they play poker than go out drinking."

But he cautions that his life as a poker player is not for everyone. He said if his two young sons decide to be poker pros, he will support them — but only if they finish pursuing their degrees.

"They would get more support from me than the average father, because I understand the positives, negatives, ins and outs," he said.

But the poker lifestyle can be dangerous. Hellmuth said he was lucky to avoid the temptations.

"I'm 24 and thinking to myself, 'Your future's so bright, the only way to f— it up would be with drugs and alcohol,'" Hellmuth said.

The book includes contributions from other poker players and Hellmuth's recollection of poker hands involving celebrities, including Matt Damon and Larry Flynt.

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