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


Poker Training

Newsletter and Magazine

Sign Up

Find Your Local

Card Room


The Ups and Downs of Poker

by Phil Hellmuth |  Published: May 15, '07


The game featured Sammy Farha, Daniel Negreanu, Jennifer Harmon, Eli Elezra, "Silent Mark," Bob Sufai, Jamie Gold, and I with appearances by Brandon Adams, and another young internet player ("omgclayaiken"). As I mentioned before, I was doing some soul searching Saturday night. I loved the way I played poker on Sat, but I lost $105,000. Should I change tactics? No way! Yesterday I lost (but played well enough to win big), and today I won big. The difference was that I made some hands today. I bought in for $100,000, and the very second hand dealt, I called $1,200 (everyone was putting the live blind on today) with 4-4, Sammy Farha called, and then Silent Mark raised it up to $6,000 more to go. I called, and Sammy called. The flop was 10h-5h-4d, I checked, Sammy checked, and Mark bet $30,000. I srudied for a moment, then I made it $60,000 to go. Sammy studied a long while with top pair, and he folded. Then Mark moved all-in, and I insta-called. Turned out Mark had 3c-2c, and was drawing live with an open ended straight draw (he needed an ace or a six). I asked Elezra for insurance, and we settled on three-to-one for $30,000. After all I only had $100,000 more to risk, and didn't want to lose half of my bank roll (for this game) on the second hand.

Insurance means that if I lost the pot, Elezra would have paid me $90,000, and if I won the pot I pay him $30,000. So I would end up with either $180,000 in chips, or $90,000. I won the pot, and the match was on! I was lucky in that I picked up aces kings, and queens multiple times, and won almost every pot.

My hand of the year came up when Daniel raised it up to $4,000 to go, I called, Jennifer called, and then Sammy made it $20,000 more to go. Daniel folded, and I had a sense that Sammy had A-K. I called, the flop was 6c-3c-2d, and I checked. Sammy bet out $40,000, and I called. The turn card was the 4d, I checked, Sammy bet out $70,000, and I studied for several minutes, before the other players at the table asked if they could call a clock on me. I looked at Daniel and said, "I haven't taken that long, have I?" Daniel said that I had taken five minutes, which seemed hard for to believe, but it may have been true. I couldn't get over the fact that I had Sammy beat. All I could beat was a bluff, and I kept thinking that, at least on the surface, it was an easy fold for me. But my instincts said I needed to move all-in, sigh. Sammy had $110,000 more, and I knew that I would be sick to my stomach if I was wrong. I mean, I come all the way to "High Stakes Poker," play in front of the whole world, and then put $180,000 into the pot with 9-9 on a 6-5-3-2 board? I would look like an idiot if I was wrong!

I counted out the raise, and then that's when the clock comments came up. I didn't want to do it, but I steeled my nerves to make the play that I thought deep in my heart was the right play. I raised $110,000, and as I did Sammy feigned that he was calling, and froze me for one more second. Then I shoved it all in, and Sammy started to talk. But it was a weak sounding talk. Finally, I realized that I was right (unless he had queens, tens, or jacks), but I was till sweating until he folded his hand. He later said that he had exactly A-K. I had passed the test! I was now up over $300,000, and my game plan was tough for anyone to beat. When the smoke cleared I was up $402,600! Later on, I figured out that I owed $12,000 to Brandon ($10,000) and Sammy ($2,000), because they insured the very last hand of the night. By the way, Brandon doesn't even know that I owe him $10,000, because I decided that I owe him after the fact! He will be pleasantly surprised, that's for sure. That made my two day total +285,000 ($402,600 - $12,000 - $105,500 = +285,000). I sold 40% of myself, because I didn't have enough cash in Vegas, so I actually won $174,000 for the HSN two full days of taping.

After we quit at 8:00 pm or so, I went to the Bellagio and played $2,000-$4,000 limit, and won another $40,000 or so, although all of that was due to having 1/3 of Mike Matusow, who won $270,000. Mike beat me plenty of pots, but at least when he beat me, I got a 33% refund! At 9:00 am, I finally hit the sack, and four hours later I had to film for the WSOP PS3 game. We filmed for several hours at a Palazzo Suite at the Rio Hotel, showing the game buyers what the "Top of the Mark" in hotel suites looks like. Then we filmed the "Play the Brat" segment where I transition from Phil Hellmuth in a white "Poker Brat Clothing Company" T-shirt to the "Poker Brat" dressed in black. The gamers will see this right before they play me heads up in the game.

The BIG Loss

Was I smart enough to go and get some rest afterward shooting all day Monday? Nope, I met up with Russ Hamilton for dinner at the Bellagio. Russ made it through day 1 of the World Series of Golf Monday (as did Phil Ivey), and now we had a nice dinner together along with World Blackjack Champion Ken Einiger (who caddied for Russ). There were 15 players left in the WSOG, and Russ was ready to skate by his threesome the next day, and go right into the finals on NBC. Meanwhile, after dinner, I went to play in the $1,500-$3,000 limit mixed game at the Bellagio. It was brutal.

In the last 100 hands dealt of Deuce-to-seven triple draw, and Badugi, I may have won one. I did not win a single hand of Badugi (maybe an ante or two) all night long! I was frustrated as I hit $100,000 loser. I was shocked, how could poker be so cruel and how could I run that bad? I quit that game (good management), but started playing Chinese poker for $1,000 a point. Pretty soon I was only $20,000 loser for the day!! Then I went on a bad run where I lost for hours until Barry Greenstein quit; I wound up losing $214,000 or so! I was sick to my stomach. Now I could sleep another five hours, and then shoot for Activision all day long!! Why hadn't I been smart and left $100,000 loser? Why didn't I quit when I came back to only $20,000 loser? Why didn't I just get some damn sleep and skip the game altogether?

Looking back at my Chinese poker losses (a game which if a computer program tracked me, I would play at least 99 hands out of 100 right [I've been tracked before]) for the year, I have lost $536,000 (to Ivey), $110,000 (to Elezra), and $114,000 or so to Greenstein and Negreanu. $760,000 in three plays, and I haven't had a session that I won $60,000 or more all year. Why am I risking so much money at this game? Regular poker has been very very good to me all of my life.

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