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Eleven Bracelets! Hellmuth in Heaven
Eighteen years ago Phil Hellmuth changed the course of poker history by beating Johnny Chan in heads-up play to win his first bracelet at the WSOP. Tonight the "Poker Brat" did it one more time. As of June 11, 2007 Phil Hellmuth is the first, and only, player to win 11 WSOP bracelets.
Hellmuth started his day as the second biggest stack at the final table of Event 15, No-Limit Hold'em. Throughout the course of the day he demolished his competition and at certain points he had more chips then the remaining players combined. There was no question about it. Tonight was the Poker Brat's night.
After winning Hellmuth was rushed to the final table where a mob of poker fans descended on the sometimes controversial poker star. In a heart-felt ceremony, Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan presented Hellmuth with the coveted bracelet. It seemed, in many ways, like the two experience poker professionals were passing the torch. The message of the night was clear, no matter how much you might like or dislike him, Hellmuth will go down as one of the greatest tournament No-Limit Hold'em players.
In a rare moment of humility, Hellmuth declared his respect for the two players and that he hoped they would challenge him to win even more bracelets.
After the ceremony a mob of poker fans descended on Hellmuth for autographs or just to congratulate him. Hellmuth happily signed autographs for a period of time, but then he was whisked away to a series of interviews. PokerListings.com was one of the few media sources that had the opportunity to speak to the first WSOP 11-bracelet-winner and this is what he had to say:
So Phil, how does that bracelet feel on your wrist?
It feels good but I'm not going to have it for long. It's going to my sister Molly in New York.
Is that a decision you made before you won?
Yeah, the order was my parents, my wife, my brothers, my other sister and now my youngest sister. I've just gone in descending order. I've sorta run out of people to give them to and I'm not sure who I will give my next one to, and I'm thinking it will just be one of my business partners. But this one will go to my sister, who was born 11/11/1971. I won it on June 11 so it's perfect. I'm just very pleased right now.
How does it feel to win considering you were short-stacked at certain points during the tournament?
I was short-stacked, and now that I think about it, at one point I had $1,200 of my $2,500 chips riding on 9♣ 10♣ against someone else's kings. I never do that of stuff, but because my family was in town I didn't mind playing a little bit faster that day. Even when I got back up to $3,000, I still wasn't safe. After that point I was just trying to go through the motions and play the best I could.
The next thing I knew, I won a big pot, and the next hand I picked up pocket 10s and I doubled up again. By then I had $10,000 or $12,000, and I know what to do when I have that many chips. I steadily built it the rest of that day to $76,000. When I came back for Day 2, I picked up two big hands and I doubled up again.
How did it feel to have Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan present you your bracelet?
Dolly and Chan are great guys. I have spent a lot of time and effort building a friendship with those guys. Chan and I are going to do some business together.
(Mike "The Mouth" Matusow interrupts the interview and congratulates Hellmuth on his victory. After awhile Hellmuth gets back to the interview and Matusow is shooed away. Hellmuth shouts, "Mikey we're having a party and you're invited!)
Phil do you mind walking us through that final table and what your feelings were while you were playing it?
Well, you come in and you don't know what to expect. I mean last night I had the chip lead until the last hand. I felt like I was the best player, but that doesn't mean anything. You come in and you think, 'I'm just going to let time pass and be patient.' Some people try to run over the table but I'm the sheriff, I mean that's what I do. I let them try to run over the table and I pounce on them. A lot of these really aggressive players come to my table showing deuce-seven and laughing and joking and getting the crowd into it, but my attitude is come back in two hours and see what's going on.
As time passed, people kept going broke and I was smoothly winning chips. Even when I had a chance to knock two players out in one hand but I ended up third at least I was thinking, 'OK, I've only lost $400,000, but it could have been worse.' The very next hand I hit a straight and won most of the chips back. I was just hanging in there. It was very smooth. I'm not saying it was easy but it looked easy. I played as good as I could. I never ran into any problems.
Were you disappointed winning your 11th bracelet with nobody watching? (The Final Table was sequestered)
I enjoy having a crowd I can talk to and interact with, but at the same time there's a million people that are going to watch this eventually. The people also got to see every hand I played. That's never happened before. Usually they just get to see the big plays but now they get to see the patience I have and the small moves I made. I feel like people are going to enjoy watching it.
How will this affect your legacy?
Well you know, I'm trying to win at least 24 bracelets in my life, and I've got 11 now so that's 13 more. If I hit 24 early, I'll aim for 30.
I just pulled a number out of the air. When I was young I just thought, 'I'd like to win 24 bracelets,' and I went with it. It's something to aspire to.
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With his 11th bracelet Hellmuth has, for better or worse, secured his legacy and will definitely go down in the annals of poker history. Now that the race to the 11th bracelet has been won it's time to concentrate on a new challenge. Perhaps Hellmuth will win his 12th bracelet this summer or maybe Brunson or Chan have enough in them for at least a couple more bracelets.
Who knows, maybe in the end it will be Phil Ivey or the Allen Cunningham's that have a legitimate chance to catch up with Hellmuth or perhaps catch him. Whatever happens it will sure be entertaining to see what unfolds over the next few years for Hellmuth now that he has his 11th.