Sign Up For Card Player's Newsletter And Free Bi-Monthly Online Magazine


2010 WSOP! Time Magazine, Aria Hotel City Center deal, MMA WSOP Entrance

by Phil Hellmuth |  Published: Aug 13, '10

Posted: August 10, 2010 04:46 PM

After the year I was having, and looking back on two WPT final tables in a row at Bay 101 and the WPT Championships, I felt like I was going to win at least one WSOP bracelet!  I checked into my beautiful two story suite at the "Golden Nugget" over-looking the swimming pool, and I got down to business at the Rio Hotel trying to win WSOP bracelets number 12 and number 13.  First up was the $50,000 buy in eight game mix, which I was more prepared for than at any other time in my life.  I spent a lot of time in 2010 working on all of my games like Seven card stud, pot limit Omaha, and every other mixed game; and I felt like a win in this event would dispel the myth that I can only win in Texas Hold'em tournaments.  After two full days of play I was still in there, but I was fighting awfully hard to overcome some truly bad luck.  I took a bunch of bad beats in every game, and basically for the last 6 hours of my tournament life I won, maybe, three pots!  Still, I was encouraged because I was clearly playing better than the "Great mixed game players" at my table.  In fact, I caught some of them in some pretty bad spots, but the deck saved them!  It was nice to have the best of it against David Oppenheim in a few nice pots.  David OP is a great mixed game player, and I need to be at my sharpest to compete with him.  I knew this was a great sign for my future in poker, both in the cash games (in Bobby's room and on the Internet), and in the mixed game tournaments, but alas I fell short and busted at the end of Day Two.

A few days later I made a deep run in a $1,500 buy in no limit Hold'em tournament and here is an article about that run:

                                              Pocket Tens with Big Blinds

Early on in the 2010 WSOP (World Series of Poker) I made a deep run in a $1,500 buy in no limit Hold'em tournament.  One key characteristic that measures the way I judge my own play is how often I am all in and called during a given poker tournament.  And by that standard I was playing great poker as I wasn't all in and called for 16 levels of play!  On level six--right before the dinner breakI was all in and called, and I was lucky when my A-10 outran my opponents A-Q with a ten on the river.

Fast forward to Day Three (level 23), and looking back I hadn't been all in and called since that ten hit me on the river on level 6.  With the blinds at $10,000 - $20,000 and 16 players remaining, the following hand came up.  I was sitting on a short stack with $260,000 in chips when I peered down at 10-10.  Everyone else had folded in front of me and I had four players to act behind me, including the small blind and the big blind.  I studied for 30 seconds before I opted to open for $65,000.  The player directly behind me called, and everyone else folded.  The flop came down A-K-6, I checked, and my lone opponent checked.  On the turn a seven came off, I bet out $20,000, and my opponent called.  On the river a three hit, I checked, my opponent bet out $60,000, and I called.  My opponent showed down K-J off suit to collect the pot.

Let's take a closer look at this hand.  These days the Internet math kids, of whom I have a great respect for, would tell you to ship it all in with 10-10 and only 13 big blinds left in your stack.  They would also say that you should ship 13 big blinds with a lot of hands in my position, like any pair, any ace-high, or even hands like king-high or Q-10.

Assuming a move in with Q-10; they would tell you that even if you did get called, then it is likely that you would not be in horrible shape.  For example, if you were called by A-K, then you would be roughly a two-to-one underdog.  If you were called by A-J, then you would be a three-to-two dog.  And if you were called by 9-9, then you would be a small six-to-five underdog.  Of course, most times you would not be called, thus you would add $54,000 ($20,000 $10,000 8 x $3,000 [antes]) to your stack risk free.

I felt like 10-10 was too powerful to move all in with, that's why I opened for $65,000, which is a lot by Internet standards, but standard for the old school line of play.  On the net these days a two-and-a-half-to-one size raise is standard.  I hate the $65,000 call with K-J off suit!  I had been playing super tight, and I studied for 30 seconds pre-flop while clearly thinking about moving all in.  K-J is the kind of hand that you can get yourself in trouble with when you call raises with it, and I am the kind of player that could punish you for the whole $260,000 in chipsplus this guy only had $430,000 in chips to start the hand.  I like my little $20,000 min bet on the turn, but $45,000 would have been better as it protects my hand more and pretty much lets me know I am beat when my opponent calls.  On the river, I think my opponents $60,000 bet was a good bet as I probably would not have checked an ace to him.  I do not like my $60,000 call, but I went with my read, and I do not mind that.  Sadly, I went on to finish in fifteenth place when I moved all in and was called for the first time in 16 levels and lost with my Q-9 to their A-6.

When I went broke in fifteenth place my wife couldn't believe how well I handled myself!  She was in shock as I chatted away amicably, and enjoyed the whole rest of the evening with her.  None of my usual depression or recurring statements all night long like, "How could this have happened to me?"  Instead of dwelling and depression, we watched a movie, had a late dinner, and chilled all night.  I could get used to this!  Usually I turn myself into a wreck after a defeat, and to what end?  Getting that emotional could take years off of my life!  And I need to stay healthy the next 40 years if I want to post 24 (or more) WSOP wins.  Also, I remembered that most times that I go deep for the first time in a given year in the WSOP, I do not win.  But going deep usually leads to many other deep runs.  So I chose to stay positive.

When "Aria Hotel" opened their poker room (with Phil Ivey's name on it), they did it with a $1 million freeroll.  I had been in Vegas earlier that week, but I was tired and I had just flown home when Bill McBeath (the President of "City Center") called me up to invite me to the freeroll.  I decided not to go, but Bill and I decided to have a golf match soon.  Also, he invited me to stay at "Aria" in a nice suite for free during the WSOP.  Now I love my two story suite at the Golden Nugget overlooking the swimming pool, and I love the people there as well, but the "Aria" is a bad ass place! 

On about June 8th Bill and I met for drinks at "JG Steak House" (they have 5A Kobe beef at $25 an ounce, the best steak in the world) and we ended up eating dinner, hitting the club "The Deuce," and then hitting "Haze" nightclub.  While we had a few drinks, we negotiated a deal whereby I would wear an "Aria" logo on the side of my hat for a year whenever I could.  My wife is happy because the "Aria" is a "Green Hotel" and it has amazing technology!  Our suite there had an amazing view, check out this amazing 360 degree camera tour of my suite:   Bill also gave a me a locker at the legendary "Shadow Creek" golf course (Michael Jordan's favorite course!).  Clinton, Bush, Woods, Mickleson, Jordan, Barkley, Stalone are just a few of the names on those lockers.  The place is AMAZING!  I played there 5 or 6 times, and most of those times there was only our group of 3 or 4 players on the whole golf course!  Shadow is a like a beautiful desert oasis, with manmade waterfalls, rivers, and holes designed where no one can ever see another player!  Some people that do not have lockers can play the golf course, but the green fees are at least $500, and you have to take a limo from the Bellagio to get there.  Businessmen have offered $1 million for a locker.

My 2010 theme: play great, watch others around me play poorly, and then bubble on level 16 20!  I came up short in the 10k limit Omaha eight or better, bubbling on level 18 or so.  Then I came up short in the Stud 8 (Seven Card Stud eight or better) 10k buy in, bubbling on like level 17.   A word on Stud 8: back in the 1980's I played a lot of high low split poker in Madison, Wisconsin and I made my first WSOP final table in Stud 8, finishing fifth in a 5k WSOP event in 1988.  Buy the time the year 2005 rolled around I was convinced that I was horrible at the game.  Then this year I worked hard to improve my Stud 8 game, and much to my surprise I found myself a huge favorite against the field!  Considering how many poor players there are in the WSOP, I shouldn't have been shocked, but the level of play in this game, and in PLO 8 (Pot Limit Omaha eight or better) at the WSOP this year was truly horrendous.  I felt enormously unlucky when I bubbled!  As Mike "The mouth" Matusow said, "The Stud 8 or better events are the juice balls of all time!"  I am going to predict that I will win a WSOP bracelet in Stud 8 in the next ten years, maybe two of them!  There is some serious skill in this game in tournaments.

As time passed at the WSOP I became sharper and sharper, and I made a final table in PLO 8.  After working really hard on learning this game, I tried playing a new style, and it worked to perfection!  Sadly I finished outside the top three, in what was a super card dead final table for me.  In the next PLO 8 ($5,000 buy in) I played until level 18 or so while only being all in and called one time!  Then I took a bad beat just outside the money (bubbled again!).  To sum it up, I entered the $1,500 PLO 8, played Day One, Day Two, and the final table, then the next day I entered the 5k PLO 8 and I played Day One, then played until after midnight on Day Two, where I finally moved all in--in a heads up poton a flop of 10c-10d-9c with A-K-10-6.  Devilfish had Ac-Qc-Jd-4s.  There was $46,000 in the pot before the flop, and we stuck in $110,000 piece after the flop (I was only 69% to win).  If my hand holds up, then I am near the chip lead, and I would have made Day Three and the money.  Five very long days of PLO 8 had passed, and I wound up lying on my back on the floor two tables over from the action for two straight hours!  I was in pain and all I could think was, "The injustice of it all!  I DESERVE BETTER!"  I will win multiple bracelets in PLO 8 in the next twenty years, maybe more if the field continues to misplay the game.

Then I had two deep runs in PLO (Pot Limit Omaha), and I spent another 5 days playing and bubbling!  On Day Three of the last PLO event, while 15 other great players (Chan, Seidel, Duke, Harmon, Negreanu, Seed, Hachem, Lederer, Ferguson and more) from the TOC (Tournament of Champions "All Star" game) milled around waiting for me to bustso that we could play a few hours that nightI made some great lay downs and hung in there until there were 2 tables left.   It was now Saturday night, and Durrr and I were making a deep run together.  I was prepared to play the PLO event until 5:00 am and win it, and then come back to play the TOC at 10:00 am!  "I can handle it," I thought, but truly I was as exhausted as I have ever been.  I mean 10 long grueling days playing PLO and PLO 8 left me in a state of exhaustion.  But so what, I won 9 bracelets in a state of exhaustion!  Durrr went out like 16th, and then I went out 15th, but I made one of the best lay downs of life against Jason Mercier to make it that far (I folded A-K-Q-9 on a A-Q-6 flop when we were short stacked and Mercier and the other champions there watching could not believe it!).  10 days of Omaha, sigh.  I was in the zone and now I cannot help but wonder; if I would have played more Hold'em tournaments instead of all of those PLO and PLO 8 events, what might have beenI mean when you play no limit Hold'em flawlessly, then you can a lot of the luck out of the game, but you cannot do that in the other games.

The good side is that I feel like I can win any of the above non-Hold'em WSOP tournaments now, but a person needs some good luck to win one of them.  My main event entrance as an MMA Fighter was a spectacle, with dancers, and a big stage, and beautiful models and more!  You can catch some 360 footage of it at  I am getting better at the entrances, and I am enjoying them a lot more.  It is a fun thing for me to do, and most people really seem to love those entrances!  As to the main event, I just seemed to lose pot after pot, including the hand below:

                                                  Queens in the Big Blind

On Day One of the 2010 WSOP (World Series of Poker) main event, on the ESPN televised table, the following hand came up.  With the blinds at $150-$300, an aggressive loose young player opened for $700, an older woman (who was playing tight and pretty passively) called, two other players called, and I looked down at pocket queens in the big blind, and called quickly.  Five of us took the flop, and it was 10c-9d-8s, I checked, and then everyone else checked.  The king of diamonds hit on the turn, and I bet out $1,500.  The young aggressive kid called, and the older passive woman called.  The last card was the 6h, I checked, the kid checked, and the woman bet $1,000.  I folded quickly, and the kid agonized for a minute (probably because the bet size was so small that he felt like he had to call) before calling.  The woman showed down 8-8 and scooped the pot with her trip eights.

What happened here?  I like the $700 call from the woman pre-flop, although if you know that you are a tight passive player, then it might be better to reraise with this hand, especially against the loose aggressive kid (who probably has a weak holding).  A tight passive player might as well use their image to win a few pots here and there before the flop!  As to my quick call pre-flop it was a judgment call, and a decision that I made immediately.  If I were to have studied awhile before I made that call, then an opponent may actually have thought that I was strong pre-flop, and I was deep under cover setting a trap.  However, it could be argued (and the math kids on the Internet will argue this) that a raise here with my queens would have been better.  I mean a raise would have eliminated at least a few of my opponents, and thus given me a better chance to win the pot.  Maybe a $3,500 raise would have won the pot pre-flop!  Even I think that a pre-flop raise was a better move 80% of the time.  But this was the main event, and I was trying to play extreme small ball!  There was no reason for a player of my caliber to play a big pot with pocket queens, right?  Not when I believed that I could skate along and hit $100,000 in chips risk free.

As to my check on the flop, it was probably better to bet, but the reason that I checked was that it gave me some flexibility.  If one opponent bet, and another made a big raise, then I could always fold.  If everyone checked, then I could always bet the turn, with what would now look like the best hand.  If one opponent bet, then I could always raise it up, or smooth call, depending on what my reading abilities were telling me at the time.  I hate the woman's check on the flop with trip eights!  I mean, she just flopped her set, and now she is going to give four people a free card?  I mean, if a jack came off then she would find herself putting in money with the worst hand.  Yes, it was a semi-dangerous flop, but she should have bet, and not a small bet at that.  I would like to see her bet 70% of the pot.

On the turn my $1,500 bet was OK.  You never know when everyone else just folds, or when you actually have the best hand, get called, and still win.  As to the bet size, that was OK too.  Some might argue that I should have bet more.  On the river, my check was pretty standard.  The woman's $1,000 bet was actually OK.  She did manage to milk the kid for $1,000, and any seven beat her (straight).

It was a tough day, and I believe that either I have to play poorly, or get unlucky to get eliminated on Day One when we start with $30,000 in chips.  This year I was pretty unlucky. 

All in all I had a really good WSOP, just not in terms of making records.  I only had four cashes (80 cashes now, which is still way ahead of second place) and one final table (41 or 42, still #1), along with two fifteen place finishesand a TON of bubbles!  I was deep so many times that it was scary, but I just didn't seem to hit cards when I needed them.  Some WSOP's you do not play your best (me in 2009).  Some WSOP's you play great day after day but you do not get much out of it, probably related to bad luck (me at 2010 WSOP). Some WSOP's you run good and play great and that's when you can do some damage (me at 2011 WSOP?)!

In my next BLOG I will write about my experience with Bill Clinton, pic of Clinton and I:

Learn more about Phil at and visit his web store at

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

Any views or opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ownership or management of
Newsletterbanner Twitterbanner Fbbanner

Most Viewed Blogs