Fearless! Jeff Cabanillas Wins the $5,000 No-Limit Hold'em Event

Jeff Cabanillas
Jeff Cabanillas shows off the hand that won him the $5,000 No-Limit Hold'em Event

Jeff Cabanillas has done the impossible, beating Phil Hellmuth heads-up in the $5,000 No-Limit Texas Hold'em event. A WSOP bracelet and $818,456 were up for grabs tonight and Cabanillas, the unknown from Los Angeles, claimed them both. Lasting over three hours, this heads-up match was one for the books. A David and Goliath story if there ever was one, the chip lead was traded back and forth many times before Cabanillas was able to topple the nine-time WSOP champion. I had the chance to find out firsthand how the action played out from both participants shortly after the victory was decided.

Congratulations Jeff, you've just had a huge win here tonight, how do you feel?

I feel great, it was really great playing against the world's best, Phil Hellmuth.

Jeff Cabanillas and friends

How do you feel about the way you played tonight?

I think I played really well. I got lucky in certain situations, but I played well when I had to. I was aggressive when I had to be. I pushed when I had to and the cards fell where they fell.

How was it playing against Phil Hellmuth in a heads-up match? Take us through the way you felt and what you were thinking.

Well I wasn't intimidated; $400,000's a pretty big payout already. This is my first event so I was pretty much fearless. I knew that Phil Hellmuth had a lot of pressure on him, it was his 10th bracelet, so I used that a little bit when I had to. I made some big raises. When I thought he was weak, I came over the top with marginal hands, because he had a lot on the line, I didn't think he'd call. I used that against him a little bit.

What do you think of Phil as a player?

He's a great player, he's actually an awesome player.

So where did you learn to play poker?

Well, I've been playing professionally for about a year. I used to own a cell phone business, but about eight months ago I just quit it because I was making more money playing poker. I play the $20/$40 No-Limit game at the Commerce Casino. I'll tell you something, the game at the Commerce is really tough - they're some of the world's best players. By playing in those games I think it helped me a lot in this tournament.

Just one last question, what are you going to do with your $800,000 to celebrate?

I don't know man. I guess go to Disneyland or something. (laughs)

Thanks a lot Jeff and congratulations again.

It's a well known fact that in the race for the most career World Series bracelets, Hellmuth trails Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan by only one. Tonight Phil's 10th was within his grasp, quite literally as pictured below, But in the end this was as close as Hellmuth would get to that elusive prize. Both Chan and Brunson were in attendance to find out if Phil would be joining the party of the few who are able to claim the record of WSOP wins, but unfortunately it was not to be. I spoke to Phil about how it went down and what stopped him from achieving his goal here tonight.

Phil Hellmuth

Well Phil, you didn't win the bracelet tonight. What do you think stopped you from accomplishing that today?

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.

What do you think of Jeff as a player, this being his first WSOP?

You know, in 22 years of playing poker I've seen them come and go, hundreds of them. He does have some natural instincts, but he's too aggressive to have made it all the way through the tournament like he did - he had to catch some breaks. He's going to have to cure that, but if he can, he has some talent so…

Did the fact that you were playing for your 10th bracelet with Chan and Doyle there affect the way you were playing?

Doyle Brunson, Shannon Elizabeth and Johnny Chan

S**t, it made me play better. The minute I saw them I said "These are champions, and I'm a champion - I'm going to knock it off now." The minute they showed up, the level of my game elevated, it gave me energy. I know Doyle came to see me win.

What about the Main Event? I know you've said you can win, but not that you're necessarily going to?

No, I'm not saying that I'm going to win the Main Event. I mean there's going to be 10,000 people. I'm saying that I could win it, because it's not that hard to beat that many people, I don't think. Annie [Duke] said I'm crazy. She said "Only Phil could say that it's not that hard to beat that many people." But it's not.

Thanks a lot Phil, and we hope to see you get that 10th bracelet this year.

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