– General Information –
Phil Laak is an Irish-born American professional poker player. He was born on September 8th, 1972 in Dublin, Ireland. His family moved to the United States when he was a child.
He has won over $3.8 million on live poker tournaments. He has a WSOP Europe bracelet and a WPT title. Laak has also appeared regularly on Poker After Dark, the classic NBC poker show as well as High Stakes Poker on The Game Show Network. There, he was known for his energetic and bombastic table presence; and also for wearing a hoodie with the hood up and sunglasses all the time. His appearance gave him the nickname “the Unamomber”.
Laak is married to actress and well-known recreational poker player Jennifer Tilly. He’s also very close friends with 3-time WSOP bracelet winner Antonio Esfandiari with whom he’s even been roommates for a while.
– Key Career Dates –
- 1999: He starts playing live poker in a New York City poker room.
- 2005: He wins the £6,000 William Hill Grand Prix Grand Final event for £150,000. That is his biggest single live tournament cash to date.
- 2006: He first appears on Poker After Dark, the classic poker TV show on NBC.
- 2010: He sets a world record for the longest continuous cash game session every played with a 115-hour session.
- 2010: He wins a WSOP Europe bracelet in the £2,650 Six-Handed No-Limit Hold’em event for £170,802.
– Phil Laak’s Career –
→ Beginnings ←
Laak graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a degree in mechanical engineering.
In an interview in 2018, he told the story in detail of how he found the game of poker for himself.
“ I was at 41E 68th Street in 1999 in New York at a club where I occasionally played backgammon. There was a guy there that we used to call Chucky and who used to play a little bit of poker.
He kept trying to convince me to come and play poker with him, but I would never do it. But one day he said the magic words: ‘There’s a pool table there.’
See, in NY in 1999, you had to pay $14 to play billiards for an hour and you had to wait for ages. So I went with him and I played pool while 30 guys were sitting at three tables playing poker.
I did that a few times, until one day I actually paid attention to what was going on at the poker table and it was the best thing I’d seen in my life. There was a fish there, so as we left, I asked Chucky how often that guy came to play.
His answer? ‘Every single day.’
I knew nothing about poker, but that’s when I decided to play. I read a book about poker that very night and the next day I went back to the club to play.
Money was what motivated me, but 20 minutes later I actually started enjoying the game, I fell in love with it. Which is great, because no matter how much money you can make, if you don’t love what you’re doing you’re not going to stick with it for very long.”
→ Live Tournaments ←
Phil Laak’s Hendon page shows $3.8 million in live tournament earnings. He has 141 tournament cashes to his name.
The earliest is from February 2002. He took 18th place in a $1,000 LA Poker Classic event for $1,720.
His big break came in 2004. He won an invitational freeroll (!) World Poker Tour event, playing against both poker pros and celebrities, for $100,000. Also, that is where he met his future wife, actress Jennifer Tilly, for the first time. The tourney was held at the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles.
Phil Laak and his wife Jennifer Tilly
In 2009, he won a partypoker.com World Open event in London for $250,000. In 2010, he triumphed again in the British capital, this time winning the £2,650 Six-Handed No-Limit Hold’em WSOP Europe event for £170,802.
His biggest live tourney score to date is smaller than you’d expect from a world famous poker pro like Phil Laak. He finished first in the £6,000 William Hill Grand Prix Grand Final in 2005, pocketing “only” £150,000 ($265,000).
→ World Series Of Poker ←
Laak has never won a bracelet during the summer World Series in Las Vegas, only in the aforementioned WSOP Europe tournament.
Overall, he has cashed 35 times in the “regular” WSOP for a combined $868,234.
In 2015, he cashed in the Main Event, eventually taking 412th place for $24,622. He finished ITM in the $111,111 One Drop High Roller in 2013 where he came in 19th for $173,723.
In 2005, he was very close to claiming his first WSOP gold bracelet. He finished runner-up in the $2,500 Pot-Limit Hold’em event for $156,400. He lost the heads-up battle for the title to none other than 2-time WSOP Main Event champion Johnny Chan.
→ Live Cash Games ←
Phil Laak has played a lot of live cash games in front of TV cameras.
He’s appeared on Poker After Dark on NBC, High Stakes Poker on The Game Show Network, the PokerStars Big Game on the Fox Network and Poker Night in America on CBS Sports as well.
Here are a few interesting hands from these shows.
Laak VS Tom Dwan:
Laak Vs Salomon:
Laak at Poker Night in America:
Laak is in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest continuous poker cash game session. In June of 2010, he played $10/$20 No limit Hold’em at the Bellagio for 115 hours straight. He smashed the former record holder, Paul Zimbler by over a day.
On top of his world record he also managed to end his marathon session with a profit – he bagged $6,766 extra, giving him a 2.94 BB/hour win rate.
→ Business ←
Laak launched his own online poker room, Unabomber Poker in 2010 as part of the Cake Poker Network. However, that project of his was short-lived – it shut down in 2012.
He also starred in a reality show with his close personal friend and former roommate Antonio Esfandiari. The show was titled “I Bet You” and it ran for a season on the now defunct cable channel MOJO HD. The two famous poker pros would wander on the streets of America and look for prop bets to play against each other.
→ Scandals ←
Disguising himself as an old man for the 2008 WSOP Main Event
During the 2008 World Series, Phil Laak, 36-year-old at the time, decided to hire a professional make-up artist to disguise himself as an old man for the Main Event.
He did this because he wanted to lull his opponents by hiding the fact that he is in fact a well-known pro cardplayer. Also, players tend to assume older men play tighter than the average young player.
In response to Laak’s controversial move, the World Series implemented a new rule next year. Since 2009, it is illegal for participants to “cover or conceal their facial identity” in a WSOP event.
– Phil Laak on Social Media –
Twitter: https://twitter.com/phillaak 131,000 followers Instagram: https://twitter.com/phillaak 131,000 followers