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What a ride!

by Phil Hellmuth |  Published: Jun 21, '07


Down and depressed!!!

I tied the all-time final table record today with 39 (TJ has 39 as well), but other than that happening, it was a tough day. I played good enough to win the tournament, but I couldn't pick up a hand when the crazy players would reraise me with K-Q!! Or when they raised my blind time and again…I would have 3-3 (vs. the K-Q reraise) and lay it down. Or I had 9-9 vs. Q-Q, and laid down the 9-9. I hung around and hung around, but couldn't win the big pot. I gave myself a great chance to win the big pot. Could I have made more moves? Maybe. Could I have opened for bigger numbers than 3X the big blind? I should have, and then committed myself to play. But I feel pretty darn good about my play. I probably should have made a few more moves on day two. Like when they robbed my blind, turn it around and re-steal, which I'm the master at. I guess that I was used to playing straight up, and picking up hands in my big blind. I should have attacked the attackers, like I always do, until they gave me all of their chips (like they always do).

Phil Ivey was watching Beth Shak at the final table (he made this promise long ago), and when I went all-in with A-A vs. 7-4 off suit he offered me insurance. I accepted $20,000 worth to win $90,000. My hand held up and then I took insurance from Ivey every time I was all-in from then on. The next thing you knew, I was $109,000 loser!! Which was fine with me, as it meant that I had won every single all-in hand; the bad news was that I finished in sixth place, and only won $76,000! So basically I lost $33,000 for the tournament, sigh. And how lucky is Ivey? He happens to be watching a final table, basically for the first time, and he win more than fifth place money!

On the plus side of the ledger, it was terrfic having my great friends Greg and Janelle Pierson in attendance watching the final table. Greg is an amazing guy, who is also CEO of Iovation (a cutting edge Internet security firm with 37 customers, including GE). Greg was so chilled it was amazing! I'm so used to seeing him in "Business mode," wheeling and dealing, and offering up great ideas (or shooting them down) with great energy. After I was eliminated, Greg, Janelle, my wife and I went out for dinner, and then my sons joined us for the show "Ka" at the MGM Grand. It was the fourth time I've seen "Ka" and I loved it again.

Food poisoning!!!

My wife stayed up all night Tuesday throwing up from food poisoning. Poor girl! She called me up from the VIP check in at the Bellagio (where I had a nice penthouse suite for her) and basically said, "I'm too weak to move." I rushed over there and picked her up, but on the way to my hotel (at 2:00 pm), the food poisoning hit me hard. The next time your spouse says, "Try a bite of my fish" you better think twice! Wow, that was not fun, but at least I slept easily all night and didn't notice anything out of the ordinary. I did a cover interview from bed for Justin Marchand at Card Player magazine. Then I fell asleep feeling sick and tired, and slept through a photo shoot for Bluff Magazine (scheduled for 5:30 pm). I texted them saying that I thought that I could make it 7:00 pm, and did I mention that I had also signed up for the 5:00 pm $3,000 buy-in limit Hold'em tournament? At 6:50 I hustled over to the Rio for my photo shoot for Bluff, and it was pretty cool! They had 11 bracelets lined up, along with the ESPN final table. I gave them 30-40 minutes and then I jumped in the tournament almost three hours late. Food poisoning wasn't going to stop this train! By the way, I still had $4,975 of my $6,000 starting stack.

I was super tired from three long days of poker, culminating in the final table the day before. I was also tired because my wife and kids were in town, and I was rushing off to play "Wi" with the kids at every 15 minute break, and the dinner breaks, for two days. Not too mention the fact that I had had food poisoning earlier in the day. In any case, I made it until the end of the day-and the final 109 players-at 3:00 am. I was in great shape with $24,500 in chips. I was so exhausted I was ready to get some sleep, and forgo the usual late night workout. However, two things forced me to go to the gym. First, some young kid didn't shake my hand when I apologized for my over the top whining, teasing, and complaining. Everyone has always accepted my apologies in the past, and by the way, the kid gave it to me pretty good as well, saying, "I haven't seen you play hand the right way yet!" Also, everyone in the poker world knows I can get a little worked up, and no one takes it personally, usually. By the way, the kids not shaking my hand may have had something to do with the fact that he went broke on the last hand of the evening. The second thing that forced me to go to the gym is that I couldn't see a downside to getting a clean workout.

In any case, the kid not shaking my hand bothered me, and made me contemplate this much: I had crossed the line a bit, and I didn't like it one bit. What is happening to me? I'm winning and setting records, but so what. I don't have to be a jerk to anyone. Last year at the WSOP, I had one of my best years ever, and I kept the whining and berating to almost nothing for six weeks. This year, the whining has returned, but even worse the berating has returned. It is one thing to be a "Poker Brat" and another thing to berate players. They play badly sometimes, so what? Let it go. Even Annie Duke, from the next tables, asked me to shut up for awhile. Instead of seeing that I was out of line, and taking her comments as an opportunity to berate myself and shut up, I said, "Mind your own business." To which Annie replied, "I'm trying to, but you're so loud (subtext: and obnoxious) you're making it all of our business!" I vowed to go into day two on Thursday with a better attitude.

61 cashes…and counting.

OK, I worked out last night until 5:00 am, only to come back to my room, where my wife and children were staying (after my wife had to cancel her flight due to not being able to move because of her food poisoning), log onto the net to write my BLOG, and realize that I had to write an article right then and there! I was now super exhausted, pushed almost to the wall, and I had to write an article, ouch! Here it is:

Trying to be the Greatest

After winning my record breaking bracelet number 11 on June 11, I seemed to be walking on cloud nine for a week. That's great, but it is the middle of the WSOP (World Series of Poker), and I want more! On Sunday (June 17) I entered the $3,000 buy-in no limit Hold'em event here at the WSOP. By Tuesday I was at another final table trying for bracelet number 12, and this one was an ESPN final table (to be aired in September). This time around we had merely 900 entrants vs. the event that I won which had over 2,600 players. By the way, I tied the record for most final tables at the WSOP with T. J. Cloutier at 39.

One thing was for sure, I was making waves at the WSOP! To separate myself by two bracelets from the great Johnny Chan (10) and Doyle "Texas Dolly" Brunson (10) would be quite a feat. I just had to beat 9 more players. The problem was that I was short stacked, with only $213,000 when the average stack was $480,000 in chips. A really interesting hand came up that people will talk about for a long time, and ESPN will undoubtedly show over and over again. With the antes at $2,000 a man, and the blinds at $10,000-$20,000-I had only $120,000 in chips remaining--I opened for $50,000 with K-6 off suit. A player behind me reraised it to $200,000 to go, and now I thought a long while, and finally folded my hand. You may be saying to yourself, "What was Phil thinking? He folded for his last $70,000, even thought there was $220,000 in the pot?" Why didn't I call when I was getting laid over three-to-one on my money with king high? Simple, I thought that a better situation would come up in the next five hands.

I was roundly criticized by the table, and then I said, "Your criticism of me represents the way that the world thinks. I represent the way I think." I then proceeded to pick up pocket aces the very next hand, and I opened for $40,000. The same guy that criticized my play, claiming that I didn't understand the math (maybe's he's right after all!) was in the big blind with 7-4 off suit. I said, "I know your going to call for the math." And he did! When my pocket aces held up, I effectively tripled up, and was back in the saddle.

Let's take a closer look at the hands. First of all, I thought that I was at least a two-and-a-half-to-one underdog with my K-6. I thought my opponent might have Q-Q or A-K. You see, the players at that table played with me the day before, and they had the impression that I was playing very patiently (because I was playing super patiently). Thus, my opponent thought that I had something (even though I didn't have anything), and he had to have a strong hand to reraise me. So I chose to fold rather than take the three-to-one. I thought that I might get a better situation in the next five hands, and who knows, maybe even pick up a big pair (pretty lucky that!). I also reasoned that someone may make a weak raise when I had the blind while trying to steal it. This means that I would have a decent chance of winning the pot when I did have the big blind. The last thing I thought about before I folded was this: my chips are always worth at least 2-3 times what everyone else's chips are worth, so I was actually calling $210,000 (three times $70,000). The argument for the call is this: you're getting three-to-one on your money, if you win you have $290,000 in chips, and you only have five hands left before you have to play for all of your chips! Why save a lousy little $70,000? Verdict: the call was probably right for most of the world, maybe even me. However, I wanted a chance to work a little "Phil Hellmuth magic!"

As far as the second pot goes, I do not like his "Math call," but it wasn't a bad play; more like an average play. After all, he was in the big blind, and it would cost him $47,000 to put me all-in and look at five cards. Let's take a closer look at the math: there was $20,000 in antes, a $10,000 small blind, his $20,000 big blind, my $20,000 call, my $47,000 raise (assuming that I put it all-in), which totals up to $117,000. So he can win $117,000 by calling $47,000 more. Thus the pot was laying him two-and-a-half-to-one, and he had over $500,000 in chips. The call was actually warranted for most players. But for me, I would rather save that $47,000, which I feel is triple value in my hands, for a better situation. Maybe use it when I have a huge hand, and I'm a huge favorite to win the pot. You never know when that $47,000 could come in handy down the line. I went on to finish in sixth place, but I'll be back to another final table soon (read my BLOG at

I then slept in until 3:00 pm, and went to play day two at 4:00 pm. I glided through the field, even though I was exhausted, and the next thing you know we were in the money (27 were paid). I did lose a huge pot with pocket aces, and was down to $2,000 in chips, and then ran it back into $60,000 or so. I wish I would have continued to play super patiently, but instead I made a few moves, and was unlucky in a pot or two. In any case, the dinner break was upon us and Greg Mueller and I (and a friend of his) went to "Gaylords" Indian Restaurant (My normal stop) for dinner. I was feeling good about the cash, and I decided that I would either play the final table Friday in this event, or take the day off. This put more pressure on me to make it, and I really thought that I would make it. When I came back from dinner I felt my exhaustion, but so what? I had fought through worse than this many times to make a final table. I thought to myself, "I don't care if I'm up six days, and the best players in the world are in there with me, they cannot beat me in Texas Hold'em!" I was trying to psych myself up, and it usually works. But this time it didn't. In this third hand dealt I picked up A-Q in late position and ran into Q-Q for $20,000 (I had $30,000 and the limit were $4,000-$8,000). Then two hands later I picked up K-K and limped in for action on my last $9,000. A tight player raised it up, and everyone folded. I then reraised it my last $1,000 and she flipped up her 9-9, and I flipped up my K-K. The flop was A-9-2-A-J and I was gone. A 90 minute dinner break, and I lasted 4 minutes afterwards!!!

I then went over to see how Mike Matusow was doing. I was in a bad mood for just a few minutes, and then I was suddenly happy. I really am enjoying the fight!!! I walked around the $5,000 buy-in Omaha eight or better tournament smoozing for almost an hour. Man, it was fun to see--and chat with--so many of my poker friends. I also ran into Doyle and I lost $6,500 to him playing Chinese poker at his 15 minute break. Then I bet Phil Ivey $20,000 on Mike Matusow in the O/8 tournament: $10,000 at 13-to-1 to make the final table, and $10,000 at 35-to-1 for Mikey to win. I could win $480,000 from Ivey!!!

Ride the cart baby!! More Chinese poker…

Then I ran into Roland De Wolf, and he offered me $10,000 to ride Doyle's cart around the room three times shouting, "I'm the greatest poker player in the world." I passed, and then I asked Ivey how much it would take for him to do the same, and he said, "$40,000, not a penny less." Roland may offer me $25,000, and I may do it for that. Roland and I then started our own Chinese game for $500 a point, and I lost $30,500 to him. I played until 6:00 am, and now, after writing this BLOG for over an hour, it is 8:30 am, and I'm going to bed! I have an ESPN segment scheduled at 4:30 pm (I get to throw a Frisbee at some targets), and a Card Player cover shoot at 6:00 pm. Otherwise, I pretty much have the day off. I'll get a massage, chill out, hit the whirlpool, and "Sweat" Matusow a bit. On Saturday I will play the $1,500 no limit, and if I do well (and make it to day two with chips) it may force me to skip the $50,000 buy-in HORSE tournament on Sunday. Even if I do make it to day two in the no limit, I'll still probably buy-in the HORSE tournament. After all, it would be about the best jewel that anyone could have in their cap, along with the main event (I have one in 1989), the WPT Championship (close twice, but no cigar), and the NBC Heads Up (I won in 2005). By the way, you can see my video BLOG at, and have that video BLOG (and all the new BLOGs as they come out) on your own website for free in a matter of 20-30 minutes

Learn more about Phil by going to his website, and visit his Web store at

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