The Ego has Landed

June 13, 2011, Posted by Ali.Masterman

The Ego has Landed

It's been a flying start to the WSOP so far. We've had our own success with a couple of bracelets and a runner up spot. There’s been the scandal of Iveygate and the absurd ongoing situation at Full Tilt HQ. We’ve seen tantrums and blowups, raucous railbirds and even prohibition at final tables.

This week’s hot topic has been a certain Mr Phil Hellmuth Jr. The Poker Brat narrowly missed out on record 12th bracelet in the $10k 2-7 lowball championship, coming 2nd to a resurgent John Juanda. Remarkably this would have been Hellmuth’s first non-holdem bracelet. Even more remarkable is the fact that Hellmuth didn’t provoke the discussion by way of a hissy fit.

One poster on the 2+2 forums started a thread suggesting that Hellmuth was past it, having cashed for a mere $20,000 in the whole of the last year. Another on Blondepoker questioned his ethics regarding the Ultimate Bet fiasco. One thing’s for sure, when Hellmuth makes a final table, people talk about it.

Whichever way you look at it, Phil Hellmuth has been one of the most important characters in the history of the game. His appetite for self promotion is unparalleled; love him or hate him, if there’s poker on television, you can almost guarantee he’ll be there, cursing ‘idiots from Northern Europe’ who ‘can’t even spell poker’. Sadly these days Phil Hellmuth is renowned more for greasing the wheels of his publicity bandwagon than actually playing poker, but maybe this year’s WSOP will provide him the springboard he needs for recognition as a poker player.

We have become accustomed to groaning at the Hellmuth show over the last few years, mainly due to Ultimate Bet’s desperate attempts to drum up PR. Maybe this year will be different. Maybe a sponsorless Hellmuth is here to play and win without the hysteria.

An ever-present at the World Series of Poker, Hellmuth holds the record for 80 WSOP cashes, and 11 bracelets. He is undoubtedly the most successful player in the history of the WSOP, yet few would name him in their top ten or twenty players in the world. It’s bizarre to imagine that people still don’t rate him as a poker player. I’ve been told on numerous occasions about how bad he plays and it seems fairly obvious that he is the mark in many a cash game. So how does he do it?

Well, theories differ greatly. One such theory is that Hellmuth is an average poker player at best, but he is an expert at beating large fields of inexperienced players. This is surely a contradiction in itself, as Hellmuth has a poker career spanning over 25 years. In the early days, there were no large fields. Sure, poker has evolved at an astonishing pace, but Hellmuth has consistently torn apart tournament poker over 3 decades and shows no sign of letting up now.

Another baffling theory is that players freeze when they’re in the presence of Hellmuth. His temperament is explosive and his antics are childish, but this is all part of the Hellmuth act, and poker is a deeply psychological game. Surely a few rubdowns and histrionics at the table aren’t enough to carry Hellmuth alone? The man definitely has game, and anyone who argues against this is incredibly ignorant. You may not like him, but you have to respect his results and what he has achieved in poker.

I say congratulations to Phil on his second placed finish this week, and I also say watch out for Hellmuth at this year’s WSOP. There’s life in the old dog yet and the poker world would be a quieter place without him.



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