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November 17, 2017

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Photos: Poker prince Phil Laak sets astounding 115-hour playing record

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Tom Donoghue/www.donoghuephotography.com

Phil Laak’s nonstop poker-playing record at the Bellagio Poker Room on June 6, 2010, included girlfriend Jennifer Tilly and Antonio Esfandiari.

Phil Laak's Poker Record at Bellagio

Phil Laak's nonstop poker-playing record at the Bellagio Poker Room on June 6, 2010, included girlfriend Jennifer Tilly and Antonio Esfandiari. Launch slideshow »

Phil Laak's 58th-hour pushups

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Phil Laak's nonstop poker-playing record at the Bellagio Poker Room on June 6, 2010, included girlfriend Jennifer Tilly and Antonio Esfandiari.

Click to enlarge photo

Phil Laak's nonstop poker-playing record at the Bellagio Poker Room on June 6, 2010, included girlfriend Jennifer Tilly and Antonio Esfandiari.

Poker prince Phil Laak broke the 72-hour Guinness World Record and then went on to smash the unofficial 78-hour mark -- and then in a total surprise kept going until he hit 115 hours. Only then at 7:04 a.m. today did he call it quits -- and finally went to sleep for the first time in nearly five days. Larry Olmsted previously held the 72-hour record.

Phil, aka “The Unabomber,” has a new world record for the most hours of poker played in a single sitting and the unofficial poker community record by playing for 115 hours. It all took place at the Bellagio Poker Room when play started at 12:04 p.m. last Wednesday. For the statisticians, Phil broke the world record by 36 hours and 15 minutes when he stopped this morning.

“I was shooting for 80 hours all along and eventually it came. The obvious next step was to honor the moment by making the most of it. A gambling degenerate by trade, this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see what my inner vampire was really made of,” Phil said. “Well we sure found out! It was loads of fun and of course impossible without my crew.

“This has been one of the most wonderful journeys I’ve ever taken, touchingly human and beautiful on so many levels. Thanks to everyone who shared in this amazing ride.”

Phil used the record-breaking attempt to raise money for Camp Sunshine, an organization that provides respite, support, joy and hope to children with life-threatening illnesses and their immediate families through various stages of a child’s illness. He donated half of his winnings, or $6,766, and raised additional funds by selling his signature hooded sweatshirts, along with T-shirts worn during the record-setting game, for up to $500 each.

Phil, who is known for wearing sunglasses and a hoodie pulled over his head during play, also won a 58th-hour challenge to do 30 pushups for a $1,000 donation.

“We thank Phil Laak for taking on this incredible challenge in support of Camp Sunshine,” said Matthew M. Hoidal, executive director of Camp Sunshine. “As the uncle of a Camp Sunshine camper, Phil truly understands our mission to help seriously ill children, along with their parents and siblings. This donation will help us continue that important work.”

Many of Phil’s poker pro friends and peers came to play with him and/or offer support. In addition to his longtime girlfriend, actress and poker pro Jennifer Tilly, others who stopped by included Scotty Nguyen, Prahlad Freidman, James Mitchell, Rod Fani, Eric Liu, Huck Seed, David Wells, Mike Matusow and Jean-Robert Bellande.

Jennifer said: “Phil has accomplished an incredible feat of human endurance. He’s like an Olympic athlete. It’s inspiring to see what an ordinary man can accomplish if he just sets his mind to it, but I can’t believe my boyfriend is such a weirdo!”

Phil’s run was a thoroughly modern affair that included him on Twitter throughout to give updates to his more than 4,700 followers and a continuing online video stream that was viewed in 120 countries by more than 177,000 people.

A seven-member team who rotated in shifts around the clock to ensure that the proper Guinness documentation requirements were kept supported Phil. He was also brought meals every five hours by nutritionist “All American Dave,” who kept Phil’s blood sugar at a consistent level with a diet of fruit and vegetables, lean chicken and fish and his new favorite, sweet potatoes.

In all, Phil ate every five hours for a total of 23 identical meals. It proved impossible to count the number of bottles of water that he drank, but he did squeeze in four yoga sessions and five showers and changed his trademark T-shirts 20 times.

Doug Dalton, director of poker operations at Bellagio, said, “We are thrilled to be a part of history and to support Phil in breaking the world record. He is a great customer and friend of ours. The Bellagio Poker Room staff was happy to be part of the record effort.” The poker room plays host to the World Poker Tour’s Bellagio Cup this month.

Jennifer was at his side with celebration champagne when Phil won a $45,000 pot against his buddy Antonio Esfandiari moments before passing the 78-hour mark. Earlier, Jennifer gave him a Ganesha statue (a Hindi god who is the remover of obstacles) and a white crystal for clarity. Media from all over the world covered the story; Jennifer told me she’d had interview requests from 90 countries. Le Figaro posted a story yesterday, and, oui, it’s in French.

Jennifer drove Phil home this morning, as he wanted to wake up in his own bed rather than at the Bellagio. She estimates that he’ll sleep 17 to 32 hours before he’s back to a normal routine: “I’ll wake him every seven hours or so to ensure that he’s still breathing and moving properly and that his heart doesn’t stop,” she told me.

She added: “He came into this in the best shape he’s ever been. During the last five months, he lost 30 pounds, and sitting at the poker table for this world record attempt, he even lost another five pounds. I’m very proud of his health kick. The perfect combination of carbs and proteins -- he cut out everything in his diet over five months that could affect him, so everything was all about the nutrition.

“A month or so ago, he studied sleep deprivation in London, and he came to the table to keep his mind occupied throughout with brain medication music. He was totally determined to go the distance and then some. He has a mind of his own that kept him focused.

“The power of his mind is a testament to what he achieved. He never wanted to harm himself. He remained sensible throughout and was in charge of his body -- except the eyelids -- when he decided it was time to bring it to an end. But he even said there were no hallucinations.”

Said Phil: “I have played many enduro sessions of poker, but never anything of this magnitude. This is testing my limits, but I love a good challenge and am excited to be trying to beat this record in Las Vegas’ top poker room.”

We have an interview scheduled with Phil when he fully wakes that we’ll run here at Vegas DeLuxe shortly after our conversation.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.