Phil Hellmuth Wins Tenth WSOP Bracelet
Aug 15, 2006  
2006 Randy Saylor  

Phil Hellmuth tied fellow poker legends Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan with ten World Series of Poker bracelets, signifying a win in one of the many events that are held each summer in the poker world’s largest gathering.

Hellmuth was the youngest player to ever win the $10,000 Main Event at the World Series of Poker when he accomplished the feat at age 24 in 1989. He has won over fifty major tournament titles in his illustrious career.

A Busy Room

The Amazon Room at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas was packed to the rafters with poker players. Amazingly, portions of five events were being played simultaneously in different parts of the room. The prime time event was the final table of the $1000 rebuy No-limit Hold’em, and prime time is where Phil Hellmuth likes to be.

Hellmuth was at his third final table of the 2006 WSOP. He had previously finished second in a $5000 no-limit hold’em tournament and sixth in a $3000 Omaha Hi-Lo event. He was hoping his third final table would be the charm, and that Event 34 would elevate his bracelet count into double digits.

He entered final table play as the chip leader, with almost double the chips of his nearest opponents. One short-stacked player went out on the first hand, and then Hellmuth personally eliminated the next three. Two were beaten by better pocket pairs and a third lost when Hellmuth rivered a flush to beat a flopped straight. To Hellmuth’s credit, the other player was low on chips, and Phil did hold top pair.

The Poker Brat

Hellmuth has earned the nickname, no doubt. Some of his bad beat tirades are legendary. His near-crying rants and rolling on the floor after things don’t go his way are scary. His berating attitude when a player defeats him with a lesser hand is painful to watch. Is he good for poker? He is, because he’s colorful and controversial. No publicity is bad publicity, as the Hollywood talent agents say. Poker is an individual undertaking, and if that individual chooses to continue to warrant the “Brat” nickname, who are we to judge?

Certainly nobody can doubt his ability to make a name for himself in poker. His ability to read opponents is legendary, as evidenced by his title in the 2005 Heads-Up Poker Championships.

A Three Hour Battle

When down to four players, the tournament went into stall mode for three hours, with nobody making any large moves. Hellmuth finally reduced the field to three by eliminating John Spadavecchia.

The fact that Phil had eliminated four of the six defeated players so far at this final table meant little. After all, a player could theoretically win a tournament by knocking out only one other player. Hellmuth’s cards went cold, but another player went out, and Phil found himself heads up against professional player Juha Helppi (Finland).

Helppi held almost a 2-1 advantage when heads up play began, and it only got worse for Hellmuth, who was in danger of another second place finish in the same WSOP. The advantage had stretched to over 3-1 when this tournament-turning hand occurred.

Hellmuth held 5 5 and pushed all in. Helppi thought for a long time before calling with A 6. The three-suited board of K J 5 gave Phil a set of fives, but gave his opponent a flush draw with the lowly 6. The Q on the turn appeared to end it, but Hellmuth had ten outs to a full house (or quad fives) on the river. When the heart queen came down on fifth street, Hellmuth got his reprieve.

The chip stacks were nearly even at this point, and a later KK versus AT allowed Hellmuth to double through again. Helppi was on the ropes after this vicious attack. He took a shot with A9, but Hellmuth called with AJ and it was all over.

The crowd chanted “Ten!” in honor of Phil’s accomplishment. World Series of Poker Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack summed it up well by saying: “I’m going to keep this very simple. Johnny Chan. Doyle Brunson. Phil Hellmuth.”

Phil Hellmuth has made a lot of friends and a lot of enemies in his years on the big time poker scene. One thing is certain, though: he is one very good poker player. Ten bracelets and mention in the same sentence as Chan and Brunson proves it.

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