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Poker Pro Phil Galfond Gives Phil Hellmuth Long Awaited Props From High-Stakes Community

Galfond Gave Credit To Hellmuth's Unorthodox Style In A Tuesday Evening Tweet That Drew Scrutiny From Several High Rollers


Phil Hellmuth is an all-time poker great. With just shy of $24 million in career earnings and a record 15 World Series of Poker bracelets, it is hard to argue that his career won’t be regarded as one of the best in history.

As more time elapses between the current environment and the Chris Moneymaker-inspired poker boom of 2003, however, his ability relative to the game’s best is a point of heated debate.

Given his age and background, high-stakes pro and poker site operator Phil Galfond, tweeted a somewhat controversial opinion of Hellmuth Tuesday evening.

In Galfond’s opinion, Hellmuth actually has some chops.

Before the Moneymaker boom there was less math used in developing strategies. Hellmuth was clearly one of the best in the world while using a much more exploitative, feel-based strategy than many top pros implement today. As the game evolved and high roller events emerged, it became clear that the players in those tournaments had much less respect for his game.

Galfond revealed four screenshots of his phone’s notepad, elaborating on his thoughts of Hellmuth’s recent heads-up play against Antonio Esfandiari on PokerGO’s “High Stakes Duel.” It is one of the rare times that a player of Galfond’s age and caliber has outwardly praised Hellmuth’s poker ability.

Many of the game’s best base their decisions off what is the correct Game Theory Optimal [GTO] play. GTO is heavily based in mathematics and requires lots of studying. Players who use this strategy generally end up with an understanding how often a certain hand should take specific actions and how to randomize play to prevent getting exploited by their opponents.

Hellmuth doesn’t really ascribe to that method. He’s still an old-school, feel player at his core. He infamously described his game as using “white magic” to pinpoint what his opponents’ hole cards were.

“What I saw wasn’t HUNL technical mastery,” wrote the three-time bracelet winner in one of his screenshots. “It was an uncanny ability to assess and adapt to every spot he found himself in. Specifically, in the second match, Phil’s reads on each and every hand were incredible, and he chose lines that, while often unorthodox, intelligently capitalized on his (dead-on) read of each situation.”

The 35-year-old went on to apologize for not recognizing Hellmuth’s game earlier and said that he would “promise” to respect his game moving forward.

“I just recognize that I witnessed greatness, and that Phil Hellmuth knows something I don’t,” Galfond said to close his thoughts.

Galfond is as close to universally loved and respected in the poker world as possible. He’s regarded as one of the best to ever play the game, has played the highest stakes cash games and tournaments in the world, and recently transitioned to the business side of the game, opening his own online poker site.

However, his tweet drew scrutiny from several high roller regulars.

According to the high-roller crowd, Hellmuth can’t beat those games, which means he can’t possibly be considered one of the best in the world.

Poker legend Doyle Brunson chimed in on the issue and said that they were right, but it was irrelevant given how much Hellmuth was able to win off of lesser players. Regardless of how Hellmuth won the money, it still ended up in his pocket. It was that skill set that allowed him to win a WSOP bracelet 15 times.

After seeing the pushback, Galfond clarified his thoughts Wednesday morning.