The Breakout with Phillip Hui: Finding Love and Happiness in Poker

Phillip Hui won his first bracelet in Omaha Hi-Lo at the 2014 WSOP. (Photo by Drew Amato)

Phillip Hui won his first bracelet in Omaha Hi-Lo at the 2014 WSOP. (Photo by Drew Amato)

Phillip Hui hasn’t been playing poker all that long and found his way to the tables through his golf buddies as he worked his way towards becoming a professional golfer. But life has a way of changing one’s course and a couple years later he found his passion, found the love of his life and enjoyed almost instant success on the felt.

Hui has been a poker pro for two years, earning over half a million dollars, collecting four World Series of Poker Circuit rings and won his first WSOP bracelet in just his second summer at the Rio. Many in the poker community were introduced to Hui as Loni Harwood‘s significant other when she went on a tear in 2013, but Hui proved to everyone that he was more than a supportive partner on the rail.

Hui tossed chips around the table in high school but didn’t take the game seriously until 2010 when he needed to supplement his income as a pro golfer. ” I met a friend, who is no longer in poker but at the time he was an online reg, that taught me tournament strategy and I found quick success online,” Hui said. “After my Fall semester that year I decided play golf professionally and poker part-time online. Shortly after that Black Friday happened so I focused my time on golf.”

But then Hui met Harwood  in Lake Tahoe at a WSOP Circuit event and poker tournaments became his way of spending time with her as they lived almost 2,000 miles apart. “To be honest I was just trying to see Loni and then poker kind of fell back into my life,” said Hui. “After I traveled to a few stops, I realized that the skill set I was taught needed to be refined, but was still effective enough to win. I played cash games in San Antonio and always did well, which helped me fund my journey to the circuit. Once I won my second ring and qualified for the National Championship, I decided to play the summer Series for the first time ever.”

With six months of professional experience Hui arrived at the Rio and cashed twice in bracelet events, including finishing sixth in a stacked $1,000 No Limit Hold’em event for $57,324. The final three tables boasted Phil Ivey, Shannon Shorr, Dominik Nitsche, Kyle Cartwright and eventual winner Taylor Paur.

“I always joke around with my friends that [it was the] tournament when I knew I was good enough,” Hui said. “When we got down to two or three tables Ivey was two seats to my left and I two barrel bluffed Ivey while staring him down. When we got to the final table my mindset was wrong – all I was thinking about was how much money I was playing for instead of just playing poker.”

“I knew all the spots to take and just didn’t take them. I hated the result and how everything happened at the final table,” he added. “I’ll never know what would have happened if I played like I know I should of, but I do know I will get another opportunity. That is what is amazing about poker, you are going to make mistakes but you will almost always get another opportunity.”

Over the next 10 months Hui cashed 16 times for $86,000 on the tournament trail, including a HORSE win at the 2014 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. Hui entered the 2014 WSOP with confidence but didn’t get out of the gate like he wanted; the first event he cashed was in Event 45 (of 65) for a little over $2,000 in 127th place. The next week he cashed in 79th place for $5,725 in a $15,00 NLHE event.

A couple days after that Hui entered the $3,000 Omaha Hi-Lo event. “I was playing with David Williams, Matt Glantz, and Brett Richey towards the end of Day 2 and Limit Omaha Hi-Lo is a slow game so there was a lot of joking going on,” Hui said. “Interacting with those players definitely helped calm me down, they kept the mood very light. I felt like I was in a home game back in San Antonio. I bagged average at the end of Day 2, but was elated to be in a position to reach another final table so soon after the disappointing showing I had in 2013.”

Hui went on to win his first bracelet; perhaps the highest point of his young career, but he had do it without Harwood by his side. “It was a roller coaster for me, I was down to one big blind ten-handed,” Hui said. “Loni had left to deal with a personal issue back home, her family was in my heart the whole time. They never gave up on me and I never gave up on them.”

Harwood was live-railing him via an Ipad and even the most cynical observers seemed touched. Hui spoke to BLUFF after his win and said, “It means everything, it’s what we play for. Your mind is just not right when you’re coming into the last week and half of the Series and you’ve bricked everything. It’s just unreal, I feel like I’m in a movie.”

While things have been good for Hui recently, he believes his best days are ahead of him. He joked that in five years he saw himself with seven bracelets, 11 rings and $10 million in earnings. Then he quickly backed off that and said, “I have no clue where I will be in poker but I know that in five years I have better have put a ring on Loni’s hand or I would be very disappointed in myself. Loni is my life and that is the only thing I don’t see changing in the next five, ten or 50 years from now.”

“I have definitely thought about golf again, but what poker has given me the past two years has been more than I could ever ask for,” he continued. “The money and prizes are nice, but meeting the love of my life is amazing. It is amazing to have so much in common, being able to travel with my girlfriend and play tournaments all over the country. I would love to give golf a shot one more time but I’m not sure I will have the opportunity, for now poker is my number one priority.”

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Paul Oresteen

Senior Writer: Paul Oresteen originally joined BLUFF in 2008 as an intern. He covered two World Series of Poker’s before leaving to join PokerNews.com. After a two year hiatus Oresteen returned to BLUFF in November 2012. Since starting as a poker journalist Oresteen has covered the World Series of Poker, WSOP Circuit, World Poker Tour and European Poker Tour. He graduated from Georgia State University with a B.A. in Communications in 2008.
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