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Phil Laak Biography

Phil Laak Biography
by Chad Holloway of

Phil Laak was born on September 8, 1972 in Dublin, Ireland. He relocated to the United States at an early age and was raised on the East Coast, where he earned a degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Laak first learned poker as a child:

"I remember playing poker on a camping trip with family friends. There were probably 4 or 5 of us ranging from 7 to 12 years old . . . So there I was, seven years old and seeing how powerful it was to have money. I could see the dripping equity then. I did not have a name for it but I knew it was a good thing. At the time I was hooked on a chocolate bar called the '100 Thousand Dollar Bar', and knew that I needed to have these guys covered if I was going to be living large in the chocolate world."

Eventually, Laak moved to the West Coast where he began to take his poker game seriously. He broke onto the poker scene by winning the World Poker Tour's Season 2 Celebrity Invitational event at the Commerce Casino ($100,000). His other poker accomplishments include finishing sixth at the WPT's Season 2 Battle of Champions ($54,075), sixth at the WPT's 2005 Five Diamond Poker Classic ($160,995), second to Johnny Chan in the $2,500 Pot Limit Hold'em event at the 2005 World Series of Poker, winning the inaugural William Hill Poker Grand Prix (150,000), finishing fifth at the 2006 Seneca World Poker Classic, and appearances on Poker Royale, High Stakes Poker, and Poker After Dark.

Laak is known as the "Unabomber" because of his sunglasses and hooded sweatshirts, in which he resembles the forensic sketch of Theodore "Unabomber" Kaczynski. He is known for his table antics which include doing push-ups and standing behind the dealer in order to be the first to see the cards. In July 2007, Laak and Ali Eslami barely defeated Polaris, a highly ranked poker-playing computer program. Laak is credited with coining the poker term "felted," which means to lose all of one's chips so that nothing remains in front of them except the felt:

'Felted is a term I coined about three or four years ago . . . I was worried when I started seeing it actually hold up that I might not get credit for it. In 20 years time, the rumor could be, 'Oh yeah, Phil. Of course you invented felted.' I immediately went into gear and made sure people knew it . . . I started with 'liquidise', then 'pulverize' . . . For the first six months I must have gone through five or six things, but I couldn't get them to work. Then it came to me one day: felted was the word. It's perfect because that's all you have left.'

Laak, who is regarded as one of the best cash game players, writes a monthly column for Bluff Magazine and co-hosts the show "I Bet You" with best friend, Antonio Esfandiari. He enjoys playing ultimate Frisbee and is dating fellow poker pro and actress, Jennifer Tilly. Laak currently splits his time between Los Angeles and Las Vegas and has lifetime tournament winnings totaling more than $1.2 million.


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