In the realm of live professional poker, there are few names or faces more recognizable than that of Phil Hellmuth. He holds the record for the most WSOP bracelet wins at 13, has a monumental attitude that earned him the nickname “Poker Brat”, and is arguably the most intimidating heads-up poker player the world has ever known. Unfortunately, as much as the legendary poker pro loves publicity, his loving wife of 25 years does not. Thus he was forced to decline an offer this week to appear on ABC’s hit reality television series, ‘Celebrity Wife Swap’.
Phil and his wife, Katherine Sanborn, have been married for 25 years, which must attest in some way to the Poker Brat’s emotional stability away from the live poker tables. When he turned down the offer to appear on the reality television series – an offer he was more than willing to take them up on, had his better half been on board – Hellmuth explained, “Unfortunately my wife is a psychiatrist at a pretty famous institution, and she hates press.”
Phil went on to describe his wife’s position, saying, “She doesn’t like it when they show her on the World Series of Poker coverage… It’s unfortunate for me that she just really has no interest. My wife is beautiful, she’s in fantastic shape, I drool over her every day. She’s brilliant, she’s stable, she’s very logical, and so I think she would do just phenomenally well on the show. People would love her and say great things about her.”
Due to Katherine’s aversion to publicity, Hellmuth graciously declined the offer to appear on Celebrity Wife Swap. For those who haven’t seen the hit ABC television series, it takes two families from completely different backgrounds and swaps the wives between households for two weeks. For example, in a past episode, famed actor and comedian Gilbert Gottfried swapped his wife, Dara, with Tanya Callau, the wife of long-time Hollywood actor Alan Thicke. Other famous celebrities who have appeared on the show include Hollywood actors Lorenzo Lamas and Andy Dick, musical stars Coolio and Mark McGrath, and even wrestling superstars like Rowdy Roddy Piper and ‘The Nature Boy’ Ric Flair.
The 13x WSOP bracelet winner’s disappointment was evident in his declination statements. “It’s pretty cool to get that offer. I would love to do it. That kind of stuff is fun for me, and I feel like it’s a chance for the world to see me, to see the real me.” Not only would he have been the very first professional poker player to appear on Celebrity Wife Swap, he would have received a fee in the $100,000 range for doing so. But his real regret was losing an opportunity to show the world that he isn’t really the person he portrays on the felt. While playing poker, Hellmuth is well known for his insolent behavior, often verbally berating his opponents for making what he considers to be terrible decisions. But in real life, Hellmuth says he’s a completely different person.
“I think too often people think I’m a jerk. If they see me on that show over two weeks – never lose my temper, never swear, a lot of patience – I think they would say wow, this is the Phil that we’ve never seen before, but this is the real Phil.” But alas, it wasn’t meant to be.