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Rast overcomes massive deficit to defeat Hellmuth, win WSOP $50K

7 July 2011

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Wednesday was supposed to be Phil Hellmuith’s day. It was supposed to be the day Hellmuth answered critics who said he wasn’t one of the greats anymore -- that he couldn’t hack it in non-Hold’em events.

And for most of Wednesday (and early Thursday morning), Hellmuth looked to be firmly in control of his quest to win the World Series of Poker’s $50,000 Poker Player’s Championship. He held a 5-to-1 chip advantage in heads-up play over Brian Rast and it looked inevitable that he would capture his 12th gold bracelet, and his first bracelet in a non-Hold’em event.

But in an incredible 30-minute span, Hellmuth missed on three flush draws to lose both his chip advantage and the tournament. The sudden finish was jarring to everyone who packed the Amazon Room at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino.

Hellmuth has finished in second place three times in this year’s WSOP.

“I think I put on a spectacular performance at the Series so far,” he said. “But I'd trade three seconds for a first any day.

“To have a massive chip lead here and in deuce to seven and not win is just brutal, just brutal,” he added. “But give full credit to [Rast]. I have a lot of respect for him. He's one of the nicest guys in poker and I've never heard anyone say one bad thing about him.”

And Rast certainly put on a terrific performance at the final table. The 29-year-old California native outlasted 128 players to win the Chip Reese Memorial Trophy and a cool $1,720,328. He said he wouldn’t have even entered the event had he not won his first gold bracelet a few weeks earlier.
Brian Rast won his second WSOP gold bracelet in 2011 after taking down the $50,000 Poker Player

Brian Rast won his second WSOP gold bracelet in 2011 after taking down the $50,000 Poker Player's Championship. (photo by Vin Narayanan)

“Winning the other event [$1,500 Pot-Limit Hold'em] allowed me to buy into this event,” he said. “I think I'm positive EV for this tournament, but not by much. That's why I sold some of my action. The presence of Hold'em and PLO makes this a good tournament for me, because I'm not the best mixed-games player.”

The tournament’s final hand stunned the crowd in the Amazon Room, and is sure to be one of the most talked-about hands in this year’s Series. With Rast holding a very slight chip advantage after surviving two all-ins, Hellmuth moved all-in after the flop with the board reading Jd-9d-10s. Rast snap-called and showed Kc-Qc for a straight. Hellmuth turned over 8d-2d for a flush draw. Rast was able to fade a diamond to take down the pot and the tournament.

Rast said Hellmuth’s all-in move was a shock to him.

“The first thing that’s going through my head is ‘I can’t believe he just moved all in,’ really," Rast said. “It’s just such a strange play ... I thought he played really well the whole tournament, but I don’t really like that play. He’s risking nine million to win like one million that’s in the pot, and every time he gets called, he’s in really bad shape.”

Rast entered the final table second in chips behind Minh Ly. But it was Hellmuth who was in control of the table for much of the day, as he was the first player to crack the seven million, eight million, nine million and 10 million chip mark. However, he began to lose some of his momentum (and his cool) on a hand right before the dinner break.

He and Rast were heads-up on the river when Rast raised him to 470,000. Hellmuth tanked for more than five minutes before making the call. When Rast showed a full house, Hellmuth was furious. According to PokerNews, he told Rast that he “hadn’t re-raised [him] one f---ing time. That's all going to change after the break.”

Hellmuth lost the chip lead to Ly after the dinner break, and the atmosphere seemed ripe for one of his classic blowups. You couldn’t have scripted a better scene for such a blowup after he called an all-in from Owais Ahmed. Hellmuth showed Ad-Jd and had Ahmed’s Kh-10s dominated. Hellmuth left his seat and went to the rail to put his head down despite the fact he was a heavy favorite and had Ahmed.

You know what happens next. A king hit on the flop, and all of a sudden Ahmed was the heavy favorite. The turn was a blank and Hellmuth needed an ace on the river to knock out Ahmed. A major meltdown seemed imminent.
Phil Hellmuth could only stare into the distance and wonder what might have been.

Phil Hellmuth could only stare into the distance and wonder what might have been. (photo by Vin Narayanan)

But wait! An ace hit on a river, and the standing-room-only crowd exploded. All of a sudden the table was down to three. Hellmuth celebrated by giving fans high-fives and jumping up and down.

His fans, including Mike “the Mouth” Matasow, had even more reason to cheer when he knocked out Ly shortly after midnight. Hellmuth hugged Matasow after the elimination, and heads-up play began with Hellmuth holding a slight chip lead over Rast.

But it was not to be for the “Poker Brat.” And this one will sting for awhile.

"This is the number-one bracelet I wanted,” he said. “This and the Main Event. So to come this close and tasting it and then fall short..."

In typical Hellmuth fashion, however, he made sure to compliment his sterling play over the course of the last five days.

“To lose 98 out of 100 hands [earlier in the tournament] and eventually build myself up to the chip lead says a lot about my poker game,” he said. “I was playing great poker.”

A packed house witnessed firsthand Hellmuth’s “great poker.” It was standing room only at the World Series of Poker Thunderdome and the final table felt like a major sporting event. In fact, it resembled a basketball arena. ESPN and the WSOP went the whole nine yards on the setup, complete with pumped-in fog, at least nine television cameras, flat-screen TVs, advertisements and a tunnel where players entered and exited. Banners surrounded the final table with the names of past WSOP Main Event Champions.

The fans did their part, making the arena feel alive by cheering loudly for their main guy. Rast’s section, led by Antonio Esfandiari, was especially vocal. Anytime Rast won a major pot, his rail would stomp their feet and cheer out, “We will, we will, Rast you!” That cheer continued well past the final hand.

The table began nine-handed and didn’t switch to strictly No Limit Hold’em until Jason Lester was eliminated in ninth place.

Ben Lamb, who entered the final table ranked first in the World Series of Poker “Player of the Year” standings, exited next in 8th place and took home $201,338. Former WSOP bracelet winner Scott Seiver finished seventh and walked away with $243,978. George Lind’s sixth-place finish earned him $300,441 and Matt Glantz earned $376,750 for finishing in fifth place.

Hellmuth is expected to gain significant ground on Lamb in the “Player of the Year” race with his second-place finish and $1,063,034 payday.
Rast overcomes massive deficit to defeat Hellmuth, win WSOP $50K is republished from