Hellmuth, Sexton, Other Top Pros Share Favorite Holiday Traditions

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Phil Hellmuth, Mike Sexton, Maria Ho, Jonathan Little, Jeff Gross

Join PocketFives throughout the month of December as we bring you the PocketFives 12 Days of Christmas to help keep you in the spirit of giving.

It’s that special time of year and what better way to get in the festive spirit than to take a look around the poker world at some of the favorite holidays’ traditions players celebrate with. This holiday season, we spoke with Phil Hellmuth, Mike Sexton, Maria Ho, Jonathan Little, and Jeff Gross.

For Phil Hellmuth’s holiday tradition, poker takes center stage. There’s even a gold bracelet involved, according to the 15-time World Series of Poker champion, and it sounds as though the entire Hellmuth family knows how to win on the felt.

Hellmuth Family Bracelet“In the Hellmuth Family, all five of us (one brother and three sisters) would bring our families to Madison, Wisconsin, for Christmas,” Hellmuth said. “We did this for 25 years! Then we would have the family poker championship, usually on the evening of the 24th. We even have a gold bracelet (pictured), with all of the winners’ names engraved. Nowadays, the family is too far flung to meet in Madison, but we still have the tourney whenever we get together.

“My sister Kerry won it this year, in August, in Chicago. My son Phillip won it, I won it, my wife Kat won it. And my son Nick has three second-place finishes – ouch!”

For Mike Sexton, longtime poker commentator, Poker Hall of Fame member, and now chairman of partypoker, he keeps it simple with the family.

“My favorite tradition is the day we get the tree, put on Christmas music, and decorate the house,” Sexton said.

Sexton won’t be the only poker player celebrating the holidays in Las Vegas. Maria Ho and her family traditionally travel for the holidays to spend it together in a new place, but this year that place is Las Vegas.

“My family has never been too into traditional gift giving for the holidays, but in our adult years we always make time to take a family vacation together,” Ho said. “The destination changes, but this year the only place that really worked for all of us happens to be Las Vegas!”

We’re sure that with all of the poker happening in Vegas during the first couple weeks of December, Ho will be in the mix quite a bit, so look for her to put up some poker results this holiday season in between time with her loved ones.

Jonathan Little has a handful of reasons to celebrate this holiday season, and it’s more than just celebrating this wonderful time of the year. Little’s birthday and his son’s birthday both fall close to Christmas, and he and his wife are currently expecting another child.

“Our tradition is to celebrate birthdays,” Little said. “My birthday is December 22 and my son James’ is December 24. I am having my second child any day now, so he will be born in December as well. I should go ahead and forget about celebrating mine from now on!”

Lastly, Jeff Gross said his holiday tradition also involves a bit of travel, as he heads down to Brazil every year to visit with his wife’s side of the family. It comes with a special holiday twist, though, and Gross was introduced to a new meaning of “sweating” his first trip.

“A holiday tradition has been to go to visit my wife’s family in Brazil,” Gross said. “Each year, someone dresses up as Santa Claus for the nephews and nieces. In 2014, it was my first time there, which meant it was me! I was a bit nervous being the first time I met Emilia’s large family and I didn’t speak much Portuguese. I remember being in Brazil during Christmas (their summer) sweating in this Santa suit in front of what is now my Brazilian family and my youngest niece at the time crying when I came out (laughs)! It felt like a Southwest Wanna-Get-Away commercial at the time, but we had a good laugh after!”

Do you have a favorite holiday tradition? Let us know by commenting on this article or tweet to us at @PocketFives. Happy Holidays!

*Photos courtesy of the WPT.