A Chip And a Chair: Great Poker Comebacks
July 13, 2011, Posted by Pokerfarm
Phil Hellmuth is a great guy. If you don’t believe me, just ask Phil Hellmuth.
For some players, accidentally missing most of day two of the WSOP main event and having 40% of your stack blinded off would be embarrassing. For Phil Hellmuth, it’s testament to his giving personality: “the reason I’m late is because I did Phil Gordon’s Bad Beat for Cancer charity event, and I didn’t bail out, like 90% of the world would have done” he revealed in a post-tournament interview. “I sat there and I did the seminar, on three hours of sleep, just dead tired, and that’s why I wanted to play Sunday.”
Obviously, it’s wonderful that Phil is using his celebrity to help out a great cause. However, it you ask anyone else why Hellmuth was late on day two, they will tell you he mixed up his schedule and didn’t think he was playing until the next day, so was indulging in an extended nap. It was only after security guards broke into his room to inform him of his mistake that he woke up and made a mad dash for the casino and his dwindling supply of chips. This version might be unfair - it’s equally possible that Hellmuth is just so charitable that he wanted to donate his blinds to the rest of this table for a while, to even the playing field. Listening to him describe how he drove along side-streets at 75mph, through red lights, on his way to the tournament, it’s clear he also wanted to donate some serious bodily injuries to the general population of Las Vegas.
After arriving late, Hellmuth managed to run his ~7k stack up to ~65k, which Phil attributes to a combination of “karma [giving him] a nice kick in the butt. Upwards, I mean” and playing “as good as [he] can play poker”. He also gushed that he had managed to achieve this remarkable feat without ever being all in.
While “Giving To Charity and Being Late: Advanced Poker Strategy” is sure to be Hellmuth’s next best-selling instructional manual, his comeback is not the most remarkable we’ve heard about.
At the 1982 WSOP, Jack Strauss famously pushed his chips into the middle, was called, and lost, but later found he had a single chip left, hidden among his belongings. Because he had never used the phrase “all in”, tournament staff allowed him to continue, and he went on to win the main event in perhaps the most celebrated poker comeback of all time. If the same thing happened to Hellmuth, it would no doubt be a result of a grand strategy on his part: “I forgot about that last chip because I was exhausted from giving so much money to charity”, perhaps, or “with one chip left, I had the rest of the table right where I wanted them.”
Stu Ungar’s triumphant (but sadly short-lived) return to the WSOP in 1997 is also worthy of a mention when it comes to comebacks. After not winning a bracelet for 14 years, Ungar came out of nowhere to take down the main event for a cool million bucks. While it’s not hard to imagine Hellmuth winning yet another main event, the idea of Phil staying out of the poker limelight for over a decade is completely inconceivable - unless he takes a really long hotel-room nap.