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Phelps can play Hold'em

by Phil Hellmuth |  Published: Oct 21, '08

Posted: October 21, 2008 07:19 PM

Phelps can play Hold'em! (And is a great kid) six hours late, one outer by movie star and I'm eliminated!

I arrived in Vegas on Sunday and rushed right over to the stage to practice for opening night, where Daniel and I open Tuesday, and Doyle plays the winner of the show. At 5:30 I received a call that I couldn't answer as I was onstage. It was Lisa Wheeler leaving me a message that Phelps was in town and wanted to meet me. At 6:30 Kenna James told me that Phelps was in town and at the final table of a Caesar's Palace poker tournament. I said, "Kenna, can you please call Caesars right now and find out if he is still there?" No, he wasn't, so I called Todd Brunson who mentioned that Phelps was at the Palms playing poker as we spoke. Now Layne, Kenna, and I rushed over there and said hello. Only later, at midnight, did I get Wheeler's message to come to the Palms and meet Phelps! I must say that I do not chase any celebrity around, ever. But in this case, Phelps is near the top of my list of people to meet. Sunday night we hit "Tryst" at the Wynn with Phelps until about 3:00 am (that's when I left). Before I left I told Phelps and his crew to come by the $15,000 buy in Bellagio tournament the next day and I would walk him around the room and make sure he met all of the players that he wanted to meet. Phelps is a poker fan, which is cool because everyone in the world is a Phelps fan!

On Monday I woke up at 1:00 pm, and lounged around for an hour. Of course, the tournament that I was "Playing in" started at noon. At 2:00 pm I hit the gym for an hour, and then at 3:15 pm I went for coffee and to lie around the pool for twenty minutes. At 4:00 pm I decided that I needed a nap, and that's when Phelps called me. So I threw on shorts and walked him around the room for an hour. Phelps knew everyone! He really is a poker fan, and a good young player as well. On Sunday he final tabled the Caesar's $1,500 buy in and lost when he moved in $90,000 (blinds were $4,000 - $8,000) with Ah-Kh vs. his opponents K-J off suit, and a jack hit on the river. Of course, the whole poker room gave him a standing ovation! Just like when he walks into restaurants these days, a standing ovation from the patrons every time, and why we wouldn't he get one?

At 5:00 pm I was back in my room for a nap, and I finally arrived in the poker room (this time to actually play my first hand!) at 5:50 pm. I still had $39,000 out of $45,000, so being this late didn't hurt much. I won the very first hand dealt and I was at $42,000. With the blinds at $200 - $400 and a $50 a man ante two players limped, Alan Goehring opened for $1,200 in the seven seat, Jennifer Tilly called in the cutoff (8 seat), and I called on the button (9 seat) with Qs-10s, the other two players called and six of took a flop. FYI - I almost folded pre-flop, but decided to gamble and call. The flop was Qc-8d-4c, and everyone checked to me. I decided to bet $4,100, and everyone folded to Tilly who began to play with her chips. At this point I knew 100% that I had her as she called, because she would have bet a set, a queen, or a draw-know your player. The turn was the 6h, and she bet out $7,200 or so. I insta-called, the river was the 10d, and she bet out $12,000. I thought about raising, but decided within five seconds to just call, because she could have had a set. She flipped up 10-10, and I was frustrated! A one outer had taken over half of my chips! Still, I like Jennifer, and I respect Jennifer, so I didn't cry too much. [There were no turned over chairs, no berating, and no speeches!] An hour later-after interviews and stuff-I was playing Eli Elezra Chinese poker in "Bobby's Room" and that's when Doug Dalton (the card room manager and an executive at the Bellagio) came up to me and asked, "Phelp's is attracting a lot of attention up there playing no limit Hold'em." I said, "Why not move him to this legendary 'Booby's Room' then?" Dalton said, "We've never let a game that small into this room, but for that guy I will do it." I asked Mike if he wanted to switch and of course the whole table did. Mike asked the table first (a humble thing to do). Mike won over $5,000 in the game, and I won $17,500 playing Chinese, and then it was off to dinner at "Nove" at the Palms. Mike had a good line when he said, "Phil I'm impressed with your eleven bracelets, [I knew what was coming] but you know I have 14 Gold medals!" Mike is so humble that he couldn't finish the line without saying, "Don't take this wrong." Of course, I loved the line! In fact, I said the same thing to Michael Jordan last year. Jordan just started at me for a beat, then he started laughing and gave me a high five.

Other good lines throughout the two days, I told Mike, "You and I have something in common besides the fact we both love Hold'em. We both are trying to make history, but no one will ever catch you, I have to worry about Chan, Brunson, Seidel, Flack, Ivey, Ferguson, Cunningham, and Negreanu!" At dinner we had big name poker players including: Layne Flack, Antonio Esfandiari, Phil Laak, Gavin Smith, Yosh Nakano, and Shun. We also had some online poker legends with us, as well as a few of Phelps friends who were really great guys (like Jeff and and Mr Carr). Later we hit "Prive" for some dancing and drinks. I found Phelps to be humble, respectful, fun to hang out with, and someone that is enjoying the spotlight like a kid in a candy store. For myself, I strive to be like a kid in a candy store with the fame and fortune stuff as well…

It is now 4:00 pm Tuesday, and I have to bolt to the gym, and make the Grand Opening of the Real Deal at the Venetian by 5:00 pm. Red carpet is 6:00 pm, and I have committed to do both shows Wednesday night as well--co-starring with my pal Gavin Smith.

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

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