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Hellmuth extends WSOP bracelet record

12 July 2018

Phil Hellmuth

Phil Hellmuth (photo by WSOP)

Name: Phil Hellmuth
Nationality: American
Birthplace: Madison, WI
Current Residence: Palo Alto, CA
Age: 53
Profession: Poker pro
Number of WSOP Cashes: 134
Number of WSOP Final Table Appearances: 59
Number of WSOP Gold Bracelet Victories (with this tournament): 15
Best Previous WSOP Finish: 1st, 1989 WSOP $10,000 Main Event World Championship ($755,000)
Total WSOP Earnings: $14,555,566
Personal Facts: Hellmuth is the only person to have ever won both the WSOP Main Event (1989) and the WSOP Europe Main Event (2012). Hellmuth has won WSOP gold bracelets in four different decades – the 1980s (1), 1990s (5), the 2000s (5), and the 2010s (4). Hellmuth has also placed second in a WSOP bracelet event on 10 different occasions.

Phil Hellmuth, the World Series of Poker's all-time leading bracelet winner, has extended his own record by winning his 15th career bracelet in Event #71 of the 2018 WSOP, $5,000 No-Limit Hold'em (30 minute levels).

Hellmuth, 53, came from behind during heads-up action against eventual runner-up Steven Wolansky to post the 134th cash of his WSOP career, extending another record. Hellmuth's winner's payday of $485,082 swelled his lifetime earnings to $14,555,566.

The record 15th win for Hellmuth, of Palo Alto, CA, pushes him five clear of all other players in the WSOP's lifetime bracelet standings. Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan and Phil Ivey remain Hellmuth's closest competitors, with 10 event wins each. The cash was also the 134th of Hellmuth's WSOP career, extending another record.

Hellmuth's comeback prevented Wolansky, a native of Cleveland, Ohio, now living in Cooper City, Florida, from claiming his own third lifetime WSOP bracelet. Wolansky earned $299,807 for the runner-up effort. Wolansky moved just over $1 million in lifetime earnings with the big cash.

Third place in Event #71 went to North Bellmore, NY's Alan Sternberg. Sternberg's third-place $204,789 payday was nearly three times his previous lifetime WSOP earnings of $72,895.

Fourth place and $142,458 went to Belarus's Aliaksei Boika, while fifth-place money of $100,956 went to Lutz, FL's Ken Fishman.

Hellmuth's vast skills as a tournament pro are unquestioned, even if the ending to this bracelet win offered more fortune in the telling. He began heads-up play against Wolansky behind by more than 3:1, with Hellmuth holding 2.7 million in chips to Wolansky's 8.6 million. Hellmuth doubled up almost immediately in the duel's first all-in pre-flop hand, when his hand held up against Wolansky's as the board ranout.

Wolansky then won the larger share of a series of mostly smaller pots to again take a healthy lead, this time about a 2:1 edge. That brought on another all-in pre-flop hand, this time with Wolansky ahead against Hellmuth. In a dramatic runout, Hellmuth picked up a flush draw on the flop, the turn put a pair on the board but otherwise blanked, and Hellmuth spiked the river to double through to the lead.

The end came just seven hands later in a virtual race, when Wolansky moved all in for his last 3.65 million, and Hellmuth quickly called. The nine of spades appeared in the window to a cheer from Wolansky's rail, but when the full flop was spread, Hellmuth's large rail erupted. The turn sealed the hand and the win, and a meaningless river closed out the action.

When asked what extending the bracelet record meant, Hellmuth said, “[Number] thirteen in Europe was really humbling for me. So was fourteen. And so was fifteen. It's humbling. I haven't had a very good summer, but I've kept myself positive. . . . Every night I come back to the room, saying, 'Life is good, relax. Life is good, relax.' Part of me is like, 'Man! I haven't had any rushes in poker in like – thirty days,'” something that changed at an opportune time this night. “I had like one rush in forty days and even that was a short one. This doesn't make sense to me but I kept staying positive, kept staying positive.

“For me personally, I was forced to take more time off. I have a little atrial fibrillation which I went public with. It's not a big thing; 40% of people over sixty have it, but it made me take a lot more days off.”

Hellmuth fully credited Wolansky with excellent play throughout the final table, especially during heads-up play. "He wouldn't give an inch. I knew he wouldn't give an inch," said Hellmuth. "I had to start thinking, 'Alright, how do I want to handle this?' I'm going to have to steal more pots against him to give myself a chance, because he's just not giving a chip away, he's making it really tough and I can't blink first, either."

Hellmuth also freely talked about the incident during the WSOP Main Event a few days ago involving opponent James Campbell, wherein Hellmuth launched an outsized rant mid-hand that may or may not have affected later action. (Campbell busted in the hand, after a Hellmuth fold.) Social-media criticism led Hellmuth to reexamine the episode, and Hellmuth voluntarily put up the $10,000 to put Campbell into the 2019 Main Event.

“I was completely out of line,” Hellmuth acknowledged. “It was the second to last hand of the day, but that doesn't matter. But I was completely out of line; this guy had re-raised me like fifteen times. James Campbell – he and I had been texting back and forth! A lot! . . . When I went to be that night, I said, 'Let me take one more look at social media, and I realized I may have cost, may have affected his tournament. I was going to be, and instead I went to the couch, and I spent two hours on social media. I couldn't sleep, I felt so bad.

“I didn't know how to handle it. I went to bed and I woke up the next day, and I think I hurt myself in the Main Event because I couldn't sleep because I felt so bad about what happened.” All that led to Hellmuth's decision to fund Campbell's 2019 Main Event.

As is normal with Hellmuth, he'll be giving away the bracelet to someone close. “This bracelet is going to one of my best friends, Bill Lee. Bill Lee is the best angel investor in history; he's Elon Musk's best friend. So when Elon travels around the world to do climate conferences, it's Bill on the job half the time.

“I promised him I would win him a bracelet. But I promised it a long time ago. I told him he has to fly here to collect the thing! I said, 'I want you to be here when I win it!' He's not here.

Thirty-nine players returned on Wednesday for Day 2 in this fast-paced, 30-minute-level event, which played down to an official final table in just four hours of play. Ninth and tenth spots were decided in the same hand, when El Segundo, CA's Eric Hicks (ninth, $30,881) and London, England's Paul Fontan (10th, $24,147) busted. Belarus's Aliaksei Boika opened to 80,000 and Hicks then moved all in for $575,000. Fontan pondered at length before calling in for less, about 175,000, before Boika called as well. Boika had the best of it with pocket kings, leading Hicks' pocket queens and Fontan's K-J. Fontan paired his jack on the turn of an otherwise dry board, given Boika the twin knockouts.

A short-stacked Ralph Wong busted next. Wong, from West Chester, PA, was down to his last 290,000 when he moved all in from the button. Wolansky called from the big blind and the board ran out, sealing Wong's $40,309 eighth-place payday.

Following a hand in which Matt Glantz doubled through 2015 Little One For One Drop champ Paul Hoefer, Hoefer lost a race, again facing Glantz, to bust in seventh. Glantz hit his set on the flop, with the nine of diamonds turn and seven of clubs river ending Hoefer's run. The German-born pro, now a resident of Vienna, Austria, collected $53,682.

Glantz's newfound chips didn't last long, however, and he exited just two hands later. This bustout hand saw action folded on the button to Boika, who opened to 200,000. Glantz called from the big blind and the two saw the flop. Glantz checked, Boika bet 125,000, Glantz check-raised all in, for a little over one million, and Boika eventually called with middle pair. Glantz was on the flush draw, and he never filled the flush as the turn and river completed the board. Glantz, the veteran pro and Philadelphia native, earned $72,911 for sixth.

Lutz, FL's Ken Fishman took fifth for $100,956 about a half hour later. Fishman lost most of his chips in an all-in pot against Wolansky a few minutes before he pushed his last 400,000 in against an all-in Boika shove. Fishman had a modest hand but was drawing live against Boika's. The board, though, ran out to end Fishman's day.

Boika had the lead at this point, but he was on the rail just four hands later. First, Wolansky made trip aces to take down a middle-sized pot, and then Sternberg doubled through to the lead when his pocket nines held against Boika's A-9. Boika then found A/K the next hand and open-shoved for 2.05 million, but Wolansky found K/K in the big blind and called. Wolansky's kings held up on the runout, meaning Boika finished fourth for $204,789.

Hellmuth looked destined for a third-place finish, as he started play well behind both Wolansky and Sternberg until an unusual hand sent Sternberg to the rail in third. Hellmuth opened the action in the bustout hand by betting 300,000, and Sternberg, who had doubled Hellmuth up just moments earlier, responding by moving all in for 3.3 million. Wolansky, still to act, moved all in over the top. Hellmuth folded out of the hand and let the two bigger stacks collide. Sternberg hit the flop to move ahead, but the turn put Wolansky back ahead, and the river sealed Sternberg's third-place fate.

That brought on the duel between Wolansky and Hellmuth, with Wolansky well ahead but Hellmuth destined to pull out his 15th career WSOP win.

Event #71, $5,000 No-Limit Hold'em 30-Minute Levels, pulled in 452 entries, building a prize pool of $2,101,800. 68 players made the money, with a min-cash worth $7,453.

Other notables
Among those cashing in Event #71 were Jeremy Ausmus (12th, $24,147), Griffin Benger (15th, $19,280), Chance Kornuth (18th, $15,726), arly Day 2 leader Jonathan Abdellatif (20th, $13,110), Darryll Fish (23rd, $13,110), Koray Aldemir (24th, $13,110), Antoine Saout (30th, $11,176), Liv Boeree (31st, $11,176), Davidi Kitai (36th, $11,176), Anthony Zinno (37th, $9,747), Greg Merson (41st, $9,747), and Cliff Josephy (45th, $9,747).

Final table payouts (POY points in parentheses)
1st: Phil Hellmuth, $485,082 (1,09730)
2nd: Steven Wolansky, $299,807 (548.65)
3rd: Alan Sternberg, $204,789 (493.78)
4th: Aliaksei Boika, $142,458 (438.92)
5th: Ken Fishman, $100,956 (411.49)
6th: Matt Glantz, $72,911 (384.05)
7th: Paul Hoefer, $53,682 (329.19)
8th: Ralph Wong, $40,309 (301.76)
9th: Eric Hicks, $30,881 (274.32)

(Article courtesy of World Series of Poker)

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