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Hellmuth Busts, Quits in First Episode of High Stakes Poker

‘Poker Brat’ Decided He Had Enough


Phil Hellmuth had a frustrating day at the tables.Phil Hellmuth says he likes his chances in every poker game he plays. But that didn’t stop him from becoming the first casualty of High Stakes Poker’s sixth season on Game Show Network.

The Poker Brat didn’t make it out of the season premiere on Sunday, losing his initial $200,000 buy-in and declining to rebuy, instead opting to leave the televised cash game and open a seat at the decorated table.

“I came in with the intent of winning,” Hellmuth said, after his disappointing finish. “To me, it’s extraordinarily frustrating.”

In the hands that were shown on TV, Hellmuth started off tight. He folded the best hand preflop (A-Q) after the aggressive young pros at the table, Tom Dwan (with Q-J) and Dario Minieri (with K-10), each put in a raise before him.

Hellmuth folded the best hand again moments later after Phil Ivey double-barrel bluffed him with 10 high on the flop and the turn, correctly believing that he could get the 1989 main-event champion to lay down the better hand.

Phil Ivey was the big winner in the season premiere of High Stakes Poker.Hellmuth decided to take a stand against Ivey in their next confrontation, but this time Ivey had the goods. After Hellmuth opened to $4,000 with AClub Suit JHeart Suit, Ivey reraised to $15,000 with QDiamond Suit QClub Suit. Hellmuth then proceeded to four-bet to $55,000, only to fold after Ivey pushed all in.

Unfortunately for Hellmuth, the bleeding had just begun.

After seven players saw a flop of 7Diamond Suit 6Spade Suit 5Spade Suit, Dwan bet out for $3,800 with 7Heart Suit 4Diamond Suit. Antonio Esfandiari, who had just limped in preflop under the gun with ASpade Suit QSpade Suit, made the call, as did Hellmuth with KSpade Suit 2Spade Suit. Esfandiari made his flush on the turn and fired $11,100 into an $18,600 pot, causing Dwan to get out of the way, while Hellmuth elected to call with his worse flush.

Hellmuth, who wrote a column in the Feb. 16 issue of Card Player about the hand, admitted his turn call was perhaps a bit weak in retrospect.

“My call was actually a little weak. Most players would have raised with a king-high flush draw right then and there. I mean, what are the odds that your opponent has an ace-high flush? It is more likely he has a smaller flush, a straight, or even a set, and you want to extract more money out of one of those three hands,” Hellmuth wrote. “I mean, you could lose a lot of action if the last card is a spade or pairs the board (and you may even lose the pot with a paired board).”

Although he acknowledged afterward that raising was a better play most of the time there, Hellmuth just called and faced a $32,000 river bet from “The Magician” after an insignificant 10Heart Suit completed the board. By that point, warning bells had gone off in Hellmuth’s head, and fearing Esfandiari did indeed have a better flush, he decided to just call and seemingly only lost the minimum.

Antonio Esfandiari wishes he won more in his hand against Hellmuth.“I was extraordinarily unlucky,” Hellmuth told High Stakes Poker co-host Kara Scott after the hand. “Especially against Antonio, who has just completely run me over for a long time. I actually feel good that I didn’t lose more.”

Esfandiari admitted after the hand that he probably should have checked the river, because he put Hellmuth on a flush, and he probably would’ve bet the river with such a hand, allowing him to check-raise.

Hellmuth’s misfortunes on the show concluded after once again holding the worse end of a flush draw with JHeart Suit 5Heart Suit and deciding to push all in for his last $82,300 on the turn of a 6Diamond Suit 4Heart Suit 7Heart Suit KDiamond Suit board. His shove met a willing caller in Ivey, whose KHeart Suit 9Heart Suit was way ahead. Hellmuth didn’t hit any of his six outs, and he decided enough was enough.

He left the table, but said in an interview afterward that he expected to return the favor against Ivey in the future.

“When I have my day against him, I’m going to beat him for a million or two,” Hellmuth predicted. While he did give Ivey a ton of credit, he said it wasn’t just skill — even pointing out that Ivey has never won a no-limit hold’em WSOP bracelet. “He’s been very lucky against me, so far.”

Joining Hellmuth, Ivey, Dwan, Esfandiari, and Minieri in the season premiere was Gus Hansen, Daniel Negreanu, and High Stakes Poker newcomer Andreas Hoivold.

The Norwegian Hoivold did have one significant slip-up in the first episode as he unsuccessfully tried to bluff Ivey, who wasn’t going anywhere with a set. Hoivold talked to Card Player TV about his cash game experience during the filming of High Stakes Poker.

Stay tuned for more videos and recaps of this season of High Stakes Poker as the year progresses.

And for all you Ivey and Dwan fans out there, don’t worry — GSN has already promised that they would be on every episode this season.



13 years ago

Phil's loss was just pure GOLD...take that ego down a notch and learn to play with the big boys! Ivey is a much better poker player no matter the bracelets littl phil has won against lesser players.


13 years ago

Did Daniel cross-book him like on Poker After Dark? If so, the Brat owes Daniel 200k. That would be great if he's going broke twice as fast. The sooner he's broke, the sooner we don't have to watch him.


13 years ago

TXMaxx, don't be ignorant. As much as a lot of people don't like Helmuth he is a better poker player than Ivey. Saying bracelets don't matter is like saying Super Bowls don't matter for NFL teams or World Series rings for MLB teams. Ivey is a good player but poker players are measured by bracelets and titles.


13 years ago

Hellmuth is a great tournament player. Ivey is a great cash game. But if you put them heads up. Ivey will beat Hellmuth for most part. Plus, hellmuth doesnt know how to play anything but a tight game and pick his spot to bluff well, but not often enough. Sure, bracelets do matter, but Ivey is like what? 34? and he had 7 already. And Hellmuth won his main even bracelet back when the field was like 1,500 player or less. Now, it's over 5,000 annually.

Why did he flop pre-flop with A-Q? Well, there were 2 players who already raised, and re-raised before him. Although he had positions, I doubt he can out play them on the flop. Knowing how Dwan play, he'll probably going to raise regardless of the flop. He could be up against anything from pockets Aces, Kings, or any other pocket. Or may be A-K. regardless, Dario raised Tom, Hellmuth wasn't bad when he got out of the way. Sure he played tight, but that's his game. But if Hellmuth called, then Tom raised again and Dario re-raise again, what will Hellmuth do?

If it was Ivey or another loose aggressive, with A-Q instead of Hellmuth in the same positions then Ivey would probably called to see the flop. Who knows?