Hand of the Week: Hellmuth Stunts on River, Crashes Hard

The first-ever Poker Masters at the Aria Casino in Vegas was a highlight of the Fall so far.

Thirty-six of the game's best players joined in for the $100,000 finale and played for $1.5 million to the winner.

Neither of our two well-known contestants in this hand - Phil Hellmuth and Brian Rast - even made it to the money, but they sure did get a lot of attention. And deservedly so. 

Hellmuth Forced to Show

It's near the end of Day 1 of the $100k buy-in event with 17 players still in. Daniel Negreanu leads the chip counts with the blinds at 2k/4k plus a big blind ante of 4k.

Brian Rast has 715,000 chips (178 bb), which is also close to the top. Right now he’s sitting on the button with 5 spades 5 3 spades 3  

It’s folded to him so he raises it up to 10,000. Dan Shak folds the small blind but Hellmuth decides to 3-bet to 34,000.

At the beginning of the hand Hellmuth had a stack of 189,000 or 34 bb. Rast calls and there's 74,000 in the pot with Hellmuth having 151,000 left.

The flop is  8 diamonds 8 5 clubs 5 2 clubs 2

Both players check so effective stacks are still at 151,000. The turn is the 9 diamonds 9

Hellmuth bets 45,000 and Rast calls. The pot is now at 164,000 and effective stacks down to 106,000. The river is the 4 diamonds 4

Hellmuth bets 66,000 leaving him 40,000 chips behind. Rast uses two minutes of extra time to think about his decision and eventually calls with third pair.

Hellmuth is forced to show his bluff with  Q hearts Q 6 diamonds 6 . Sitting on just ten big blinds, Hellmuth didn’t last much longer and busted the tournament.

If you have PokerGo, you can watch the hand again on replay.

Hand Analysis

This is a rather strange hand where both players start off with pretty weak starting hands and still manage to build up a pretty sizeable pot of 74 big blinds.

Phil Hellmuth IMG 3916

What can he rep here?

How did this happen, you ask?

To understand the moves of the players and how Rast was able to make that river call, we’ll have to take it step by step.

When Dan Shak folds Hellmuth decides to go down an unconventional road with his rather small stack and raises.

Obviously, Rast has a very wide range. But you should still think twice before you take on a world-class player like Brian Rast with a hand like Q-6o out of position.

We’ll soon see why. Rast doesn’t budge at all. Instead, he just continues with his small one-gapper in position.

His hand is apparently behind Hellmuth’s range but he has a big stack and good players don’t like to fold.

What Does Hellmuth Represent?

On a flop with low cards and two clubs, Hellmuth clearly cuts his range down. Because who would check here with an overpair?

This could be a very tricky move but it looks much more like a hand with two high cards that hasn’t improved on the flop.

Rast has made a pair but it doesn’t really make much sense to bet as mostly better hands than his will call.

On the 9♦ turn Hellmuth decides to bet. Did the nine help him or did he already have it on the flop? Did he pick up a flush draw or a combo draw, or is he just making a move? 

Either way, his play looks a little inconsistent and doesn’t make too much sense. That’s why Rast feels good enough to call as not only might his hand still be best, he can also represent the flush draw if it hits the river.

A Stunt on the River

The river is another low card and a third diamond but Hellmuth hesitates a little (as you can see if you have the video at hand) before moving two thirds of his remaining stack into the middle.

Hellmuth bluffs


So, what does that bet mean? There are two main options.

Hellmuth’s hand is highly polarized and his play was overall inconsistent. But there is one type of hand that would suddenly connect all the dots – a runner-runner flush.

It’s possible that Hellmuth missed the flop, stepped on the brakes, but then semi-bluffed the turn and then bet again on the river to make more chips. But then why doesn’t he go all-in to maximize his profit?

Rast Considers, Strikes

Now, Brian Rast knows all of this. But it’s a hard thing to make a call with just a pair of fives.

What makes calling attractive is that Hellmuth also has hands like A-K and A-Q in his range. They make sense and lose to any pair.

You might want to add A-9 to Hellmuth’s range, but would he 3-bet that pre-flop? And would he barrel with it twice

Rast thinks


At the end of the day Rast has two good reasons for his call:

Also, Rast can actually afford losing this hand as he would still have a healthy stack.


Making a strong call versus a weak range, Rast delivers a fatal blow to the Poker Brat -- one that he wouldn’t recover from.

Maybe Hellmuth over-complicated things a bit. An all-in would have probably made Rast fold his hand.

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