Phil Hellmuth is determined to win his 10th bracelet and advance to the same level as the legendary Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan. In an interview with PokerListings.com, Hellmuth said he has put business interests and family aside to make sure he gets what he wants. But so far, things just haven't gone his way at the 2006 WSOP.
Today, in the $1,000 No-Limit Hold'em tournament, Hellmuth was eliminated on a bad beat. He was short-stacked and forced to move all-in with A♠ 8♠. When an opponent holding A♥ 6♦ called, Hellmuth was a big favorite to double up and get back into the game. However, another 6 came on the flop, and even though Hellmuth flopped the nut flush draw, it wasn't enough. No help came on the turn or river and Hellmuth had been knocked out - again.
Don't get me wrong - Phil Hellmuth is playing some great poker this year, and three in the money finishes so far is very impressive. But the bad beat from today's tournament shows how difficult it is to make your way in WSOP tournaments these days. The starting fields are getting bigger and bigger, and there are traps like that to fall in everywhere. The question is whether Hellmuth has got what it takes to win under these circumstances.
"The Poker Brat" has won nine WSOP titles and the biggest starting field in any of those was 441 players (the $2,000 No-Limit Hold'em in 2001). When you consider the fact that Hellmuth has won all his bracelets in Hold'em events, the task becomes even more difficult. Hold'em is by far the most popular game and thus attracts the most players. On the other hand, a majority of the tournaments played at the World Series of Poker are Hold'em events, which means that Hellmuth will have lots of chances to tie Chan and Brunson's record wins.
Hellmuth might well succeed, but I think he missed his golden opportunity when he lost the $5,000 No-Limit Hold'em title to Jeff Cabanillas. That was the first time Hellmuth reached heads-up play in a WSOP event since his lastvictory in 2003. He failed to beat his much less experienced opponent, and I don't think he will get another chance like that in 2006. Hellmuth himself was very disappointed after the tournament:
"I had the guy nailed - I had him. There was one hand he called $150,000 with an Ace-Five, and the board was four, six, jack, king. All I had was the 3♦ 4♦ but I knew I had him beat, and I knew he called me to bluff me all-in on the river. That was his plan, he had $700,000 left. I would have called him with bottom pair, tournament over. The American public would have gone crazy, but he caught a five. That was a big beat, I thought the tournament was over then and there," Hellmuth told PokerListings.com
Brunson and Chan sat and watched as Hellmuth lost to Cabanillas. Hellmuth claimed afterwards that their presence made him play better, but I think the pressure is getting to "The Poker Brat." There is so much focus on him, and even though he likes to be the centre of attention, that's got to affect his game.
Hellmuth is still confident that he will win a WSOP event in 2006, but I'm not so sure. I think it will take at least a couple of years before he makes it to number 10, and by then Brunson may have won twelve.
Phil Hellmuth's WSOP victories:
$2,500 Limit Hold'em - 194 entries
$3,000 No-Limit Hold'em - 398 entries
$2,000 No-Limit Hold'em - 441 entries
$3,000 Pot-Limit Hold'em - 170 entries
$1,500 No-Limit Hold'em - 284 entries
$2,500 No-Limit Hold'em - 173 entries
$5,000 Limit Hold'em - 69 entries
$5,000 Limit Hold'em - 84 entries
$10,000 No-Limit Hold'em World Championship - 178 entries