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Poker News | World Series of Poker | WSOP2009 | Poker Personalities

Day 22 Of The WSOP: A Hellmuthian Afternoon

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Day two of the latest $1,500 No Limit Hold Em event saw the legendary 11 time Phil Hellmuth in position to make another run at another bracelet. The players entered action just short of the money and I decided to spend the day watching Hellmuth. I thought it would be interesting for readers to see what Hellmuth is like when the cameras aren't on him. People have always told me that I have a love-hate relationship with Hellmuth... in that I love to hate him. I wouldn't say that I hate him, but I definitely don't agree with the way he behaves sometimes. Enjoy this perspective of one of the greats in poker.

Phil walks up to the table right on time. Unlike the first day of a tournament, Hellmuth is always prompt when it's day two or for a final table. He does his customary handshakes with the players at his table. It's a tough table containing the likes of successful internet professional Eric “basebaldy” Baldwin and tough Russian professional Alexander Kravchenko. Play gets underway and on the very first hand it is folded to Phil in the small blind. He raises and the big blind folds.

A few minutes later, Hellmuth limps in after an early position limper, and three other players join in. Kravchenko is in the big blind and raises it an additional 7K.  The initial limper folds and Hellmuth starts to eye Kravchenko, studying him curiously. “How much do you have left,” he asks the Russian. Hellmuth fidgets in his chair, adjusting himself to sit up more upright. Carefully he counts chips out from his stack, all the while looking at Kravchenko. “How big is that yellow stack,” he asks, referring to the stack of 1,000 chips the Russian has.

Finally, Hellmuth announces “I raise 40K.”

The rest of the limpers quickly fold and just as quickly Kravchenko says “I'm all in.” Hellmuth is resigned but knows he has no choice and says, “I have to call.”

The hands are turned over and Kravchenko has pocket aces, far ahead of the tricky queens that Hellmuth shows.

Hellmuth yells over to Roland DeWolfe who is at a nearby table. “Roland,” he says, “how do you like this hand?”

Roland comes over and looks and shakes his head. Tony G . happens to be in the area and he's Hellmuth's least favorite protagonist. Tony walks up to the table and says, “Everybody is destroying him. It's great!”

Hellmuth doesn't care for this and asks the dealer to call the floor to get Tony removed. Tony leaves on his own accord and Hellmuth starts muttering under his breath, his words unable to be understood.

Hellmuth is now down to 30K and tells Kravchenko, “I had a weird feeling you had kings in the big blind.” It's folded to Hellmuth and in what appears to be a tilt raise, he opens the action to 3400. Eric Baldwin comes over the top of him and Hellmuth says, “I'm going to fold this and you guys will pay me off later because of it” and shows A-Q.

Baldwin mucks quietly, a small grin on his face.

Phil can't stop thinking about the pot he lost to Kravchenko and he tells him, “You play so bad and it works out for you every time and then you wake up with aces.”

Alexander laughs while Phil continues muttering under his breath. Phil starts talking out loud... to no one in particular... I think he just wants to hear his own voice. “I'm a warrior, you know that right? Someone is going to make a mistake and give me chips.”

He reminds me of that guy, Coach, from the latest Survivor who was always going on about how he was a warrior... and about how he was a Dragon Slayer. Perhaps we should change Hellmuth's nickname from Poker Brat to Dragon Slayer?

In the meantime, it has gotten extremely close to the bubble and Hellmuth says, “To not cash on the bubble again would be so frustrating but I'm not going to fold a big hand.”

Phil gets up and goes to sit at the payout table in the back corner. He goes back in time to see his cards, folds, and starts to head back to the payout table. He looks up and sees his Wall of Fame photo directly above him. It's a great moment and I wish I had my camera out, but I don't. I almost ask Phil to hold that pose, but decide against it.

To his credit, Phil was a man of his word. He gets a big hand and he doesn't fold it, despite the fact they are now hand for hand and if he is eliminated he will not make the money. He moves all in with A-K first to act for just over 24K. The small blind calls and the big blind after thinking it over folds jacks. The small blind has pocket queens and when the flop comes J-2-4 (sucks for the guy who had jacks but it was a good fold all things considered) and the turn is a 5, it is looking like Hellmuth will be our bubble boy. The river is an ace though and Hellmuth can't believe it. “Ohhhhhh,” he says. “Saved by the river.”

The bubble burst just a minute later and Phil rubs his hands together and says, “I love records baby!” referring to increasing his record for the most WSOP cashes ever.

Hellmuth is a bit more amiable now and starts talking again with Kravchenko.  “What's your boys deal?” he asks him, referring to Tony G. “I lose a pot and he comes running over to taunt me.”

Roland DeWolfe walks over and tells me, “It's nice that they still let him show up for these things. It's like Jack Nicklaus showing up and getting to tee off even though he can't break 100 anymore.” Roland walks away and says, “You can quote me on that.”

A loose player limps in early position, the small blind completes and Hellmuth in the big blind checks his option. The flop comes Q-7-3 with two spades and the blinds check. The loose player bets 2,500 and the small blind calls. Hellmuth sits up and says, “Well I was going to just smooth call but now I gotta bump it up.”

He counts out a raise and makes it 8K more. The loose limper folds and after a minute of thought the small blind goes all in. Hellmuth insta-calls and turns over K-Q. His opponent shows A-J of spades for the nut flush draw with the over card. Hellmuth wins the pot to knock out the small blind and increase his stack almost back to the point where he started the day at 80K.

Hellmuth's new found chips give him renewed confidence and he starts to play more hands. He calls a raise from the button out of the small blind and leads out for 2.5K into an 8K pot on a Q-8-4 flop. His opponent raises and Hellmuth says “Ok, you got this one buddy!” and quickly folds.

His opponent grins and says, “I was behind the whole time.”

Hellmuth nods and says, “Bad play, I should have re-raised pre-flop.”

The very next hand, the hijack raises and Hellmuth calls from the button stating, “It's going to be a fast day for me, I'm playing every hand.”

The flop comes A-9-5 with two spades. Hellmuth checks and his opponent bets 5K. Hellmuth doesn't even hesitate and makes the call. The turn is a 3 of clubs putting two clubs on the board. Hellmuth checks again, his opponent bets 11K, and just as fast as he did on the flop Hellmuth calls. Hellmuth says, “Come on spade, hit me!” and the dealer turns over the river card... another 5.

Hellmuth checks yet again and his opponent again makes a wager, this time for 22K. “How much is that?” Hellmuth asks.

The dealer counts it out for him and Phil counts out the chips and makes the call. His opponent shows A-K and Phil stands up and holds his cards up in front of them. He flicks the cards with his fingers and tosses them into the muck.

“I hate poker,” Hellmuth says with disgust obvious in his tone. “I had no pair. I called him with king high.” He takes his jacket off. “Unbelievable,” he says, and starts muttering under his breath again. He shakes his head, pauses for a second, and then shakes it again.

Phil is visibly frustrated and raises first to act. He looks at Baldwin in the big blind and says, “Go ahead kid!” but Baldwin thinks better of it and folds.

The hijack raises to 4K and Hellmuth calls from the button. The big blind joins in on the fun and the flop comes 10-4-3. All three players check. The turn is a 6 and the big blind leads out for 8K. The raiser starts counting out his chips, looking at the big blind. Hellmuth, unlike his normal self, isn't studying the two players. Instead he seems very uninterested in the hand, and even yawns. Immediately I think to myself that Hellmuth actually has a tell, but no, that can't be possible. I try and discount it but it just seems too obvious... the whole “oh I don't care what you guys do, I'm done with this hand” act makes me think he has a big hand.

The pre-flop raiser finally folds and now it's Hellmuth’s turn. As I figured, he doesn't fold immediately. Instead, he counts out the 8K and sees how many chips he has left. He moves all in for an additional 12.8K. The big blind insta mucks much to Hellmuth's chagrin as he flips over pocket 10's for the flopped set.

Hellmuth looked at the pre-flop raiser and said, “I had visions of him sliding in his chips. He's going to do it I was thinking.” He then looks at the big blind and adds, “I thought I'd at least get 12.8 more from this guy.”

The big blind laughs and says, “Sorry.”

Hellmuth adds a bit more to his stack when he check raises in a blind versus blind confrontation on a J-2-2 flop. His opponent folds and Hellmuth again shows... this time pocket queens.

An older guy raises for 4K, leaving himself approximately 15K. Hellmuth and the big blind both call. The flop comes Q-8-4 and the big blind checks. The older gentleman moves all in and Hellmuth snap calls him. The big blind gets out of the way and Hellmuth's A-Q is ahead of the 10's of the older player. The turn, however, is a 10 and Hellmuth jumps out of his chair. “God damn it, mother fucker!” he almost screams. He can't believe his luck.

The chips are pushed over to the older gentleman as the rest of the table just kind of smirks and giggles at Hellmuth's reaction, including the guy stacking the chips.

Hellmuth is livid. “I gave away 22K, but now you guys are giving me chips.” He doesn't stop there. “I probably could have used that 50K but at least you guys are stacking off against me with two outs against me. Now I feel better. That's my life.” He shakes his head and says, “Man!”

I'm not sure if the hand had an effect on Hellmuth but he then proceeds to limp in on the button and lose another 16K when he bets on a Q-4-2 flop and the 10 turn and is check called both times by the small blind who shows Q-6 off suit after Hellmuth checks on the river.

“Unfreaking believable!” Hellmuth says, slamming his flattened palm on the table.

The muttering and talking to himself re-commences and Hellmuth starts talking about the guy with tens again. “That guy two outed me,” he whispers. “It's ridiculous,” he adds, still quiet. He stands up and exhales. “Wow!” he says, not believing what has happened (and not realizing that he's pretty much put himself in this situation by playing poorly).

The old guy that hit the set of tens moves his short stack all in on Hellmuth's big blind. Hellmuth looks down and sees A-J and makes the call. He's behind the A-Q of his nemesis though. “Don't worry,” Hellmuth says, “there is no chance I'll suck out on you.” He doesn't and Phil is now down to 17K. “Nice hand buddy,” he says.

I'm not sure I believe that he actually thinks that. In fact, he's still muttering about the pocket 10's and the old guy is sitting across the table laughing as he stacks Hellmuth's former chips.

The next three orbits consist of Hellmuth doing one thing. Folding. Folding some more... and folding even more. He doesn't play a hand for over 30 hands and the 17K he had disappears quickly. During this time frame, a new dealer comes over and taps the female dealer on the shoulder. They complete the hand and instead of sitting down, the new dealer stands behind for an additional hand while the female dealer starts to deal another hand. Hellmuth starts to complain and asks for the floor, protesting that the new dealer should be dealing. “She hasn't dealt me anything better than Q-2,” Hellmuth whines as the female dealer is allowed to complete dealing the hand.

The hand finishes and the female dealer stands up. “Can she deal one more,” Hellmuth asks sarcastically. He looks at the new dealer. “Oh you're going to deal? OK.” The female dealer shakes her head in disapproval and moves off to her new table as Hellmuth tells the new dealer “I don't like it when rules aren't followed.”

Hellmuth's stack gets so short that it becomes a laughing matter. He calls over Roland DeWolfe and the two actually come to terms on a last longer prop bet where DeWolfe will give Hellmuth 20:1 on a $2,000 wager. DeWolfe has 180K at the time... Hellmuth 3.4K. I want to ask Hellmuth if I give him 50:1 if he will bet me $2,000 as well but I'm afraid I'd get in trouble if I did that so I keep silent. Roland comes back over a few minutes later, looks at Hellmuth's ever decreasing stack, and sarcastically goads Hellmuth... “You play amazing.”

The vultures, aka the media, start swarming the table now that it's a virtual certainty Phil is about to be felted. Hellmuth folds under the gun and the entire table goes, “Aw-w-w-w!” as they all wanted their shot at taking him out. The very next hand he is all in the big blind. The action is raised by a player with A-5 and Hellmuth is live with 7-4 off. He doesn't win the hand and despite the frustrations of the afternoon, Hellmuth shakes the hands of his opponents and walks off quietly to accept his small pay out.

And that was my Hellmuthian afternoon.

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