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"Team Hellmuth" kicks ass at Bellagio

by Phil Hellmuth |  Published: Dec 19, '07


Yo, Sully Erna had a great day! Check this article out:

Rock Stars can play baby!

On Sunday December ninth, "Godsmack's" lead singer Sully Erna entered a $500 buy in satellite at the Bellagio for the $5,000 buy in event on Monday. Erna was looking for action, and the board (waiting list) for the no limit Hold'em side games was just too long, so he hopped into the satellite, and won it, which gave him his entry into the big tournament the next day. If you're not sure who Erna is, he has a top ten single right now.

"Godsmack's" cover of "Led Zepplin's" "Good Times/Bad Times" is all over the radio waves, and maybe number one by the time you read this article. At the end of day one, with fifteen remaining player's, Erna had the chip lead. By the time I received a text from him on day two, he was the chip leader at the final table, and first place was over $500,000!

I worked with Erna for three days the week before--Tuesday through Thursday--on my new reality show entitled the "Best Damn Poker Show". My co-host Annie Duke then gave Erna private lessons on Friday--after the show was over. Although Erna is a skilled poker player, he had never had any formal training or lessons. Somehow, he had never read a book, or watched a DVD on how to play no limit Hold'em. During the "Best Damn Poker Show" I had the chance to watch Erna's hole cards from the booth, over the course of several hours.
I worked with Erna on being super patient. Before we talked, in one hand I witnessed in the booth, with the blinds at $1,000-$2,000, Dr. Allan Mishra opened for $7,000 with 8-8, and Erna defended with 6s-5s in the big blind. The flop came down 10s-7h-3s, Erna checked, Mishra bet $12,000, and Erna called. The turn card was the 6d, Erna checked, Mishra bet $25,000, and Erna called. The river was the 8c, Mishra checked, Erna bet $45,000, and Mishra called. This was an interesting hand to say the least! I broke it down for Erna like this: first, throw the 6s-5s away for a raise pre-flop! Second, calling on the flop was fine, but raising it up was also fine, and in this case it would have worked as Mishra would have been forced to fold his 8-8. Calling on the turn was the right move. Bluffing on the river was weak for two reasons: a) it is tough to bluff anyone on the river these days; b) you have a pair anyway, so why bluff? Bottom line to Erna: stop defending with suited connectors like 6s-5s as they can get you into a lot of trouble. As to the way Mishra played the hand? I love his betting pattern.

Another hand was with the blinds at $2,000-$4,000, Tracy Scala opened for $11,000 with As-9c, and Erna raised it up $14,000 more with 10-10. We knew who was in the finals for both teams, thus I taught Erna to trap Scala by making a smaller reraise, because I thought that Scala might bluff off his chips to Erna. Scala called the $14,000 reraise, the flop was Kh-9h-7s, and both players checked. The turn card was the 5h, and now Erna bet out $30,000. Scala called, and from the booth I said out loud, "We got him, please don't turn an ace, a nine, or a heart!" The river was the Jh, Erna checked, and Scala moved all-in. Erna now folded his hand to the four hearts on the board. In the booth, no one blamed him. Let's take a closer look at this hand. I love the pre-flop reraise of only $14,000, especially against Scala (keep him in the pot!). I don't mind the check on the flop. I love the $30,000 bet on the turn, and Scala's call was OK. I like Erna's check on the river, although a semi-bluff small bet of $10,000 or so might have frozen Scala from making a bold bluff. Scala's bluff on the river was a strong play, and I have to give him credit for it. Although he probably had the best hand anyway In this case he didn't), his bluff made it certain that he was going to win that pot. Of course, none of us in the booth could criticize Erna's fold on the river. A call there would have been world class.

"Phil's Team" scored pretty good when Erna took second place to J. C. Tran and won over $300,000. Think Erna's running good? A second place finish in a tournament he wasn't planning on playing, because he entered and won a satellite because he was bored; and a top ten single!

Elimination, $420,000 chinese poker loss, and more!

First of all I want to say that the party was amazing! We had "Pearl" kick ass. We had Sully Erna sing "Highway to Hell". On day 1 I was a bit reckless. In fact here is my latest article:

Freddy Deeb vs. Phil Hellmuth

I'll tell the story the way I always tell it. At one memorable WSOP (World Series of Poker) tournament in 2003, Freddy Deeb and Marcel Luske bluffed me a combined total of 17 times. They laughed at me, then they laughed some more, but I give them credit. They truly had outplayed me many times that day. But those were all border skirmishes (small pots), and I was out to win the war, not all the battles. When I hit the final table that day, I was the chip leader. I know what you're asking yourself: how could Phil have let Deeb and Luske bluff him 17 times in one day and still make the final table; and how could he still be holding the chip lead? Well, it was because my letting them win so many of the small pots gave them confidence that they could outplay me this way all day long. Finally, when I did have the goods, I picked off a Luske bluff to double up, and in one stroke I had won back all of the money he had bluffed me out of.

Though the rest of the world hates to be outplayed and bluffed, I don't much mind that, for two reasons. First, I'm looking to put my chips into the pot when I'm super strong, and because that doesn't happen very often, I'm forced to fold a lot of hands while waiting for the strong ones. Second, by folding a lot of hands I give the other players the illusion that I'm a "weak player," one who folds a lot, one they can bluff a lot. Then, when I do have the hand that I've been waiting for, I check to my now empowered opponents, who then take their usual "I can bluff Phil out of the pot" stance and make their big bluffs. But this time I called them down and hauled in a huge pot. In essence, this strategy allows me to wait for strong hands without losing too many chips, and then double up when I do have a strong hand. Too many players don't want to "go home wondering" if they had folded their best chance, or they feel it is an insult to their manhood if someone bluffs them out of a pot. So they make calls with marginal hands and put their whole tournament at risk.

Having offered you that dazzling strategy tip, I'll now tell you of a time when I employed exactly the opposite strategy! On Thursday, December 13, I entered the Bellagio's World Poker Tour $15,000 buy-in "Doyle Brunson" classic, along with 700 other players (first place was $2.5 million). I found Deeb to my right, and I just wasn't in the mood to let him bluff me this time. I told him, "Don't try to bluff me today. I'm calling you, baby." Deeb had heard that from me before, only to find that he could bluff me at will. With the blinds at $100-$200, two players--including Deeb--called $200, and I made it $1,200 to go with K-J. The big blind called, as did the first player, and then Deeb announced that he was going to raise it up $4,000 more. I quickly counted my chips and saw that I had $12,450. If I moved all in, then Deeb would certainly call me, since it would be only $8,450 more for him to make the call. So folding was the obvious and easy choice for me to make. I mean why put in $14,000 with K-J when the blinds were only $100-$200? But my instincts were screaming at me! Deeb was bluffing me once again! In fact, I kept imagining that I was going to fold, and that Deeb was going to show me another bluff and laugh about it. Finally, I decided to trust my instincts, and I moved all in. The other two players folded, but Deeb called me with K-9. I was right, and I won the pot when the board came all low cards.

A few hours later, with the blinds at $300-$600 and an ante of $75 a man, Deeb opened for $1,800, and I called on the button with 10s-9s. The flop was Js-7s-2c, and Deeb bet out $4,000. At this point I had two options. I could call the bet, or I could move all in for around $35,000 or so. Even though most of the world would raise it up here at least 80% of the time, I prefer just calling in this circumstance 90% of the time. I mean why risk my whole tournament on a draw, even if it is a straight flush draw? Once again, however, I felt that Deeb could easily be holding a super weak hand, and that I could win this pot more often than not by moving all in. So I pulled the trigger, moving all in. Deeb then folded, showing the 6d-4d, and I took down the pot. I did make it past day one, but I continued to play this more reckless game, and eventually, on day two, the 10-9's and the K-J's caught up with me and I was eliminated. This time I won the battles, but lost the war.

On day two, after I basically blew off all of my chips through reckless play, Doyle convinced me to play in "Bobby's Room" by taking 50% of my action, thus I hopped into a $4,000 a point Chinese poker game. This was not a good move. I only had around $150,000 left in town--in cash-and that was certainly all at risk. Before I knew it, I was losing $160,000, and then Doyle hopped into the room and joined me. Things got worse, as he and I traded playing the hands trying to shake things up. When I hit close to $500,000 loser, I know owed Doyle $100,000, I had lost all of my cash, and I was getting short on chips. Finally, I caught a run. But right then, Ralph Perry and Doyle got into it big time. First, Ralph said, "Doyle, I never beat you, you're my nemesis!" Then Ralph made royalties, and we (Doyle and I) paid him $28,000. Then Ralph told Doyle the same thing, and we lost again. Then Ralph said it again, and we paid him again. It was getting old quickly, and Doyle and I were both annoyed. Beat us, take our money if you can, but don't mouth off when you're winning! Then Johnny Chan told me that he had watched someone lose $1.2 million at that limit playing Chinese poker, and Ralph overheard it. Now Ralph said, "Phil, let's kick it down to $1,000 a point. I don't want to lose a million." This set Doyle off big time. Here we were over $400,000 loser, and now Ralph had the nerve to ask us to kick it down! Doyle was pissed, and so was I, but I didn't have to show it because Doyle went off on Ralph a bit. And rightfully so. To his credit, Ralph eventually apologized, but Doyle was steaming, and he went back out to the tournament and sailed off his last $80,000 in the tournament. Now Doyle was really steamed, and it didn't get any better for us.

Eventually Doyle jumped into the game himself, and one memorable hand (but one that I'd like to forget), I was dealt two hands, and Meng La was dealt quads, and Doyle was dealt a straight flush. I paid 5 points and 5 points to Meng, and 6 points and 6 points to Doyle; or 22 points times $4,000 a point meant that I lost $88,000 in one hand of Chinese poker! Sick, sick, sick! Lyle Berman, Johnny Chan, and quite a few others were waiting to play poker, and eventually Doyle quit the Chinese poker and I said, "This aint right!" To which Doyle said, "We lost $420,000 Phil, and now it's time to play poker." Then I said, "Please loan me $50,000, to make our total $100,000 (I had paid him back some when I was winning)." And he agreed. Then I hopped into a $1,000 a point Chinese game, where I spent most of the first six hours eating dinner and having drinks with Scott Ian and Pearl Aday. We drank at "Petrossian" and talked about music, life, poker, and a lot of other fun stuff. By 12:30 am, I was back in the Chinese game, and at 9:00 am (Saturday morning) I caught a rush. I won about $80,000 or so, to cut my $210,000 loss to a more manageable $130,000. Then I disappeared into my room for 36 hours.

Another all nighter straight into a pilot for my new show.

Saturday morning I had a major cold sore that I suspected was there because I was running myself ragged. Not enough sleep, too much travel, too much work, etc…I slept, woke up and watched television, then I slept again, and hopped into the UBOC Tournament Finale at I showed up two hours late (Sunday at 3:50 pm), which was better than the 3:20 minutes that I showed up to the Bellagio $15,000 buy in event on Thursday, and soon had my chips way up there. I lost two coin flips, and was eliminated at around 7:30. Off to the Bellagio I went, knowing that I had to shoot a pilot for my new reality show ("I'll Take that bet with Phil Hellmuth") for Tru TV (formerly Court TV-90 million viewers) at 9:00 am Monday morning. My cold sore was worse than ever (thank god I don't have to worry about sexually transmitted diseases!), as I stayed up all night playing Chinese, and went right into in all day long shoot for the reality show. I should have quit at 4:00 am when I was nearly $100,000 winner for the day, but instead I played right until the last minute and booked a $25,000 win. This cut my loss for the trip down to around $100,000, not too mention the $15,000 buy in to the tournament, and the $33,000 that I lost staking someone else for the month.

The reality show shoot was terrific. Layne Flack, Gavin Smith, Erica Shoenberg, Hollywood Dave, Mike "The mouth" Matusow, Evelyn Eng, Brian "the man with the $100,000 breasts," all showed up to shoot the pilot. I think that we'll have a great show. My favorite bets were: Gavin firing tennis balls over the house onto the small basketball court for his reality show life (he had to make 4 out of 12); Evelyn running out 5 balls in pool (I won $6,000 in real money); and the three point shooting of Matusow (he had to hit 4 out of 11 to win $5,000). I think that this show will be a hit. We also had putting bets, Frisbee bets, pool bets, and a "Borrow a cell phone from a stranger bet" (who could secure a strangers phone and use it for 2 minutes?).

Bye bye girl, Phil the single dad

My wife left Wednesday morning, meaning that I'm playing single dad for four days. I have to get up every day this week at 6:45 am! To tell you the truth, I haven't seen 6:45 am in a year, other than when I stay up all night. But I love this job! To many parents, dropping the kids at school, picking them up, running them to tutors, personal trainers, and other appointments is a hassle, but to me it is a welcome change of pace! In fact, I insist on picking my kids up from school on every single day that I'm home throughout the year. But this taking them to school is another story (I hate getting up early!).

On Tuesday night I lost $14,000 playing no limit at UB, including the fact that I lost three out of three coin flips: a $10,000 coin flip (my 8-8 vs. their A-K), then a $10,000 coin flip (my A-K vs. their Q-Q), and finally a roughly $7,000 flip (my A-K vs. their Q-Q). I did win a $19,000 pot when my 2-2 held up after a Qc-4c-2s flop where I was all in vs. the Ac-3c. I did win $3,000 in the day before the 14k loss, so 11k down for the day. On Wednesday I wrote my article (see above) and stayed on the phone from 9:30 am ("Phil's House Publishing" business) until 2:00 pm. I talked about the new clothing line (, then click "Store" tab and watch the video), Club Hellmuth (my new fan club), designs for a new book cover, Mike "The mouth" Matusow's new auto-biography (I want to publish it), designs for a new t-shirt ("I can dodge bullets baby"), and designs for a few other things to be named later. FYI - my new fan club has now been officially open for one week.

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
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