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Phil Hellmuth Wins 14th World Series Of Poker Bracelet

2015 WSOP Starts With a Bang

by Brian Pempus |  Published: Jul 08, 2015

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It’s impossible to call Phil Hellmuth a hold’em specialist anymore.

On June 9, Hellmuth emerged victorious in the World Series of Poker $10,000 Razz Championship, which featured 103 of the variant’s best players, to capture his 14th bracelet—the most of any player in WSOP history. The deep run was also Hellmuth’s first cash of this summer and his 109th lifetime at the WSOP, which extends another record he previously held.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” Hellmuth said after the bracelet win. “It’s one of those ones where I kept my head down the whole time. I tried to stay divorced from the result, detached from the result. I was just focusing on playing great, playing great, playing great.”

Razz is the poker variant in which Hellmuth won bracelet number 12, which was his first-ever non-hold’em WSOP win. Last year, he finished runner-up in a $1,500 razz event. He had never cashed in a WSOP razz event prior to winning that razz bracelet in 2012, according to the WSOP database.

Hellmuth moved four bracelets ahead of Phil Ivey, Doyle Brunson, and Johnny Chan, who each have 10 bracelets. Last summer, Brunson indicated that he is likely done playing WSOP tournaments, while Chan hasn’t cashed in a WSOP event since 2012. Ivey is still Hellmuth’s biggest threat, but he has yet to enter any Vegas bracelet events.

The $271,105 in prize money Hellmuth received for the Razz Championship brings his lifetime earnings to $18,054,002, with $12,783,905 of that coming in WSOP events since 1988.

The 50-year-old Hellmuth beat out poker pros Mike Leah, Stephen Chidwick, Shaun Deeb, Eric Wasserson, and Brandon Shack-Harris deep in the event. Bracelet winner Mike Gorodinsky was the runner-up. Eight-time WSOP bracelet winner Erik Seidel finished 11th.

While Hellmuth’s win was the highlight of the first quarter of the 2015 WSOP, many other of the game’s best players enjoyed success in the early stages of this year’s WSOP.

Two Poker Pros Join Three-Bracelet Club

The first open event of the 2015 World Series of Poker, the $5,000 no-limit hold’em event, began on May 27 and was won by New Jersey poker pro Michael Wang for $446,120. He beat a star-studded final table that included the likes of Bryn Kenney, Jason Wheeler, Greg Merson, and Byron Kaverman. The event attracted 422 players, many of whom are the toughest no-limit hold’em players on the circuit.

Days later in the $1,500 Omaha eight-or-better, veteran grinder Robert Mizrachi took gold, which was his third lifetime at the annual summer poker festival—moving him into a tie with his brother, Michael. Robert’s second bracelet came just last summer. For outlasting a massive 918-player field in the third event of this summer, Mizrachi scooped $251,022 in prize money.

Winning a bracelet in back-to-back years was something Tuan Le also accomplished when he took first in the $10,000 Limit Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw Lowball Championship, but Le’s feat was even more special than Mizrachi’s. Remarkably, Le won the very same event in 2014. The LA-based poker pro raked in $322,756 for his performance this year after outlasting a field consisting of 109 of the world’s best players.

In the $10,000 No-Limit Hold’em Heads-Up Championship, longtime poker player Keith Lehr was able to capture his second career bracelet and $334,430 in prize money. Lehr bested Paul Volpe in the finals, who would later go on to finish second in the $10,000 Pot-Limit Hold’em Championship. That event was won by poker pro Shaun Deeb, who ended his long WSOP drought. Deeb took home $318,857 for outlasting Volpe and 126 others in the Pot-Limit Hold’em Championship. Merson, who is still chasing his third career bracelet, made another final table in that event, finishing fifth.

Deeb, whose first cash at the WSOP was in 2007, was widely regarded as one of the best high-stakes pros without a WSOP win. The New York native said after the win: “This is the biggest stage of all, where it’s at in poker, and where you have to win to prove yourself. I wanted to cross this off my bucket list for quite some time, and I finally took it down.”

The $3,000 no-limit hold’em shootout was won by Massachusetts poker pro Nick Petrangelo, who beat a starting field of 308 to win his first bracelet. He beat high-stakes pro Jason Les heads-up. Days later, Les final tabled the $10,000 Pot-Limit Hold’em Championship, finishing third behind Deeb and Volpe. Les started off the summer on a tear, just weeks after he and his poker teammates crushed Carnegie Mellon University’s no-limit hold’em bot “Claudico.” A notable appearance at the shootout final table came from Hollywood actor and longtime poker player James Woods. The 68-year-old Woods beat online cash game legend Doug Polk, who was also on the team that beat Claudico, to reach the final table.

Joining Mizrachi in the three-bracelet club with a win early on in the 2015 WSOP was Italian poker pro Max Pescatori who won $155,947 and the bracelet in the $1,500 Razz event. Pescatori outlasted 461 other players, including a final table that featured Cyndy Violette and Eli Elezra, to further cement his place in Italy’s poker history. Pescatori’s last bracelet was in 2008.

First-time bracelet winners in the smaller buy-in events during the first quarter of the 2015 WSOP include John Reading ($1,000 hyper no-limit hold’em for $252,068) and Paul Michaelis ($1,500 pot-limit holdem for $189,818). The hyper no-limit hold’em likely benefited from being held right after the start of the $565 buy-in “Colossus” and thus drew 1,436 players. Michaelis won gold in just his second lifetime cash at the WSOP, beating veteran poker pro Thomas Marchese heads-up. Marchese is still without a bracelet and is considered one of the best around without WSOP hardware.

William Kakon ($1,500 limit hold’em for $196,055), Idan Raviv ($1,500 no-limit hold’em six-max for $457,00), Konstantin Maslak ($2,500 Omaha/seven-card stud hi-lo for $269,612), Barry Hutter ($1,500 no-limit hold’em shootout for $283,546) and Brandon Barnette ($565 casino employees event for $75,704) also won their first career bracelets during the first two weeks of the series.

In addition to Volpe, Merson, Deeb and Les, Hutter has had a stellar string of deep runs so far. In addition to his win in the $1,500 shootout, Hutter notched two other top-15 finishes.

Colossus Shatters Field-Size Record

When the WSOP announced in late 2014 that it was going to host the largest live poker tournament in the history, the poker community was not skeptical. After all, the WSOP has the brand and the resources to run massive tournaments. However, no one was really expecting a live event with 22,374 entries.

After two starting days of play and an extra day to calculate the prize pool, the WSOP gave the official announcement that the 2006 main event’s then-record field of 8,773 had been shattered. The $565 buy-in Colossus did benefit from a player’s ability to enter four times, but there were 14,284 unique players in the event, far more than the No-Limit Hold’em Championship nearly a decade ago.

The WSOP said earlier this year that roughly 24,200 players was probably the maximum it could support for the event, and it nearly hit that mind boggling threshold.

Eliminations happened at a lightning-fast pace, as 2,241 players eventually made the money. The top prize of $638,880 was on everyone’s mind, including those who had busted the event. Many in the poker community expressed disappointment that the event didn’t award a larger first-place prize, as $638,880 was less than six percent of the $11,187,000 prize pool. The WSOP defended the payouts, pointing out the top prize was 1,130 times the buy-in, and the event brought hoards of new poker players to Las Vegas. According to the WSOP, more than 5,600 of the players were making their WSOP debut.

As the criticism dissipated, the event played down to a final table and eventually 25-year-old Cord Garcia, a poker pro from Houston, Texas, emerged as the champion. Garcia beat Bradley McFarland heads-up. Longtime poker pro Ray Henson finished third. “It feels like it is my breakthrough,” Garcia said after the win. “But at the same time, I feel like I am capable of doing bigger things.”

That may be true, but Garcia will never outlast as many players in a single live tournament again. It’s possible no one else will either. It’s unclear if the WSOP will hold another Colossus next year. ♠