Phil Laak was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1972, raised in Wellesley, Massachusetts and now lives in San Francisco and Los Angeles. He has a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and has worked in several fields before becoming a skilled poker player. Laak is a former engineer, sports bet broker, market speculator, repo man and real estate investor. He was successful in the field of engineering but did not derive enough satisfaction to do the work on a daily basis. Laak briefly considered becoming a blackjack dealer but did not want to spend the time necessary to learn the game.
Like Gus Hansen, Laak was also a skilled backgammon player where he learned his aggressive style. From backgammon games in New York, he switched to poker and then moved to California where he began playing regularly. As of this writing, he is dating actress Jennifer Tilly who is also a poker player. She won a WSOP bracelet in 2005 in the $1,000 buy-in Ladies No-Limit Hold’em Championship.
Laak is a colorful and controversial figure in the game because of his aggressive style of play, his appearance and his antics at the table. His nickname is the “Unabomber” because he wears a hooded sweatshirt which was given to him by Gus Hansen and sunglasses while playing. He hides his face from other players by closing the drawstring on the hood of the sweatshirt during large hands.
He also states he is metaphysically inclined and does mental exercises at the table which “allows him to connect with the other players”, stating that this gives him a major advantage during the games.
Based on his antics, some poker fans had this to say about him:
“Personally, I find the name “Unabomber” quite offensive. The name came from a deranged killer sending mail bombs to universities. Considering Ted Kisinski (the real Unabomber) actually killed people by his actions it would be like someone taking on the moniker of The Osama Bin Laden of Poker.”
“I personally think he wasn’t amusing at all. Maybe laughing at him but certainly not with him. He was acting like a 12 year old and playing like one too……………when he starts doing sit-ups and dancing like a dinosaur then it is just tooo much.”
“Never laughed once. Thought it was shameful and totally disgusting.”
Of the comments written by fans on this poker message board, most were against his behavior.
Some of the highlights of Laak’s career thus far:
* Making the final table of the 2003 Legends of Poker $5,000 Main Event
* 12th place in the Bellagio Five-Diamond World Poker Classic in Las Vegas
* First place in the WPT Invitational in Los Angeles.
* Second place in the 2005 WSOP $2,500 Pot Limit Hold’em Event.
E! Entertainment hired Laak to host the Hollywood Hold’em Television Series and he has also been featured in one of GSN’s Poker Royale Series installments called “The James Woods Gang vs. The Unabombers”. Laak tours the US and Europe playing in big-money tournaments and continues his involvement in the real estate and stock market.
By Kenneth Bateman
Kenneth Bateman writes numerous articles on the subject of poker and its players. To read more player profiles, Play Poker at XL Poker.com.