The Poker Brat extends his legacy…both positive and negative
This year’s World Series of Poker has offered no shortage of amazing stories. From Michael Mizrachi winning the Poker Player’s Championship for a third time to the first mother and son combo of bracelet winners, it has been an exciting event again this year.
However, this time of year always seems to add to the legacy of the greatest WSOP player of all time (in his own head at least), Phil Hellmuth. Hellmuth, who holds the records for most cashes and most bracelets at the event, has also had his fair share of ridicule and showmanship at the tables. He was not having a great summer at the tables, and while it is hard to say why that was, perhaps it is how focused Hellmuth seems to be on becoming a Silicon Valley mogul of sorts. Whatever the reasoning, there were very few deep runs in the WSOP, with only one real opportunity to make a final table.
We all know that Hellmuth, along with others, is focused on winning the Main Event. This cherished bracelet is considered the top of the poker mountain. Hellmuth himself was the youngest champion in 1989 when he stopped the run of Johnny Chan to win the coveted gold bracelet. While younger players have now taken that crown from him, the event is really all about Phil.
Resurrecting a tradition started back when he was a sponsored player of one of the large online poker sites, Hellmuth chose to make his entrance this year in grand style. Along with 14 Wonder Woman-clad models (representing his 14 bracelets), Phile showed up in a full Thor costume to the tables on his Day 1C start date. Let’s put aside the obvious cross-pollination od the DC and Marvel universes here…it was yet another spectacle from the King.
If you have watched any of the coverage, especially when Hellmuth is mic’d up, you will know that he has written a “book” called Positivity, in which Hellmuth outlines 8 steps to living a more positive life. Well, in a Seinfeld-style “Positivity now, Insanity later” incident, the Poker Brat once again reared his ugly head in the Main Event. To summarize, while on the TV table, a player had gotten under Hellmuth’s skin, which started some mumbling rants. Finally, when involved in a three-way pot with this player, he let his mouth get the better of him, ranting so much about this player after folding his hand that he convinced the third player to call and subsequently lose, knocking the player out of the tournament.
Now, talking at the table is not cool, and in this case, the Twitter world erupted with calls for Phil to be given a penalty for his actions. Phil, to his credit, seemed to acknowledge his mistake, but one can only wonder what would have happened if the roles were reversed. We may have heard the greatest rant of all time…or maybe Positivity would have won out.
Regardless, the actions of Hellmuth after the event were definitely not in Poker Brat character. First, we went on the record saying that he did feel bad about the incident. Then, rather than going to bed, he went on to Twitter to take on the trolls…and wasn’t shy about it. He did try to plead his case a bit, but at the end of the few hours of responses, he confirmed that he offered to buy the affected player into next year’s Main Event which was a nice gesture. Finally, he wasn’t assessed a penalty for the incident and the night concluded only a few hands later, so whether it was because he felt bad or he just slept in, Hellmuth showed up an hour late for his Day 3 seat assignment, blinding off more than the one round of chips he would have lost due to the penalty.
Hellmuth was knocked out of the event shortly afterward, and this might be where the story would end if it weren’t for the very smart WSOP organizers. This year, they added multiple bracelet events starting after the main event, likely to capitalize on all the bust-outs. Well, it worked, and each event has seen
excellent numbers. One event, the $5,000 NLH Turbo event, was one that would end quickly in 2 days and would resemble more of an online structure. Hellmuth would enter this event, but the smart money would have been on him being behind many of the players who grind online for a living.
Well, …look out for Positivity! Armed with a more humble demeanor, Hellmuth made it to day 2 of the event, and after grinding with a short stack for the final few levels, a bit of luck came Hellmuth’s way when his K-10 beat the K-Q of his heads-up the opponent. A few hands later, Hellmuth was shocking the poker world again with his 15th bracelet win! He gave a very humble interview afterward, and with that, an up and down summer has come to an end for the great Hellmuth.
Phil has had some lavish celebrations after bracelet wins in the past. Once he announced, he was buying Dom for everyone left watching a late-night win, sending staff at the Rio scrambling to find enough champagne in the place for the hundreds of viewers. This year, with bracelet number 15 in hand, we all waited to see what was coming. However, this time was different. You could tell in the way he was playing near the end of the event. There was no bravado in this win. There was only the understanding that Phil Hellmuth is who he is, and we all want him secretly to be this way. We love being able to poke the bear, and yet we all love to watch living legends, as can be seen from the number of people watching this final table online and at the Rio. Congrats to Hellmuth, and let’s see what next year’s event brings him.