Note: Earlier this month, Phil Hellmuth won his record-tying 10th World Series of Poker title. Saturday night, he was stunned to get knocked out of the WSOP after just six hours. This column recounts the more successful of the two WSOP appearances.
After fighting hard here in Las Vegas for more than a month, and making it into the money in six tournaments, with three final tables, I won my coveted bracelet number 10! The money wasn't bad either - $630,000 for first place. But honestly, I would have paid at least that much (assuming that I had it!) to win another World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet and tie Johnny Chan and Doyle Brunson for the all-time bracelet lead. Fortunately, they paid me the money along with the bracelet. Winning WSOP bracelets and other history-making poker tournaments is the reason why I play the game. In fact, my passion for the game, and my level of play, are at a new high.
After a tough second-place finish a few weeks back, I believe that many in the poker world thought that I would not be back to the final table. After all, the fields are pretty massive, and it isn't easy to make it all the way to the final nine. But I came back to two more final tables, finally beating the other 1,600 players in the $1,000 buy-in - with rebuys - no limit Hold 'em to claim my 10th WSOP title. That tournament began Sunday, and I told my mother and father, "I don't think I have enough gas in the tank to win this thing. I have played until midnight or later in so many of these tournaments, under intense pressure, for 30 days now. If I win it, it will be purely by gutting it out." My mother then pretended to be a gas pump, and somehow it inspired me - she is a spiritual woman. I do not think that I would have won this event without my father watching all day long on Day 2 and Day 3, and my mother's inspiring presence. Thanks, folks!
At the final table, I caught a huge break when I lucked out to win the following pot. With the blinds at $8,000-$16,000, I called with Kd-5d, and the flop was Kh-Qd-9h. Elio Cabrera checked, Juha Helpi bet $45,000, and I made it $145,000 to go. Then Cabrera moved all-in instantly! Helpi studied for a while and folded, and I asked for a chip count. It turned out that Cabrera had only $135,000 more, and I knew from Day 2 that he can play a little crazy: he moved all-in on me on Day 2 with 4-2, I called with A-3 and I lost that pot. So I was thinking that my top pair could beat any drawing hand Cabrera might have had, like the Qh-10h, or something similar. Plus it was only $135,000 more to call in a pot that was already over $500,000. So I called the bet.
Cabrera then showed J-10 for a made straight! I could only win with perfect-perfect on the next two cards. As I stood there watching, I was resigned to losing the pot, even when the 2d came on the turn card to give me a flush draw. But, BOOM, there was the 7d on the end, and I had completed a diamond flush for the $650,000 pot. Wow! I was so shocked that I actually fell on the floor, and looked up at my wife and said, "Honey, I cannot believe it!" I then took the microphone and praised Cabrera and the way he played that pot.
Another key hand came up when Helpi raised it up to $90,000 to go, and I moved all-in with 5-5 for $480,000 more. Helpi decided to call with his Ah-6d, and for the first time in more than two days, I was all-in and called. In poker parlance it was a coin flip, meaning that it was about 50/50. The flop came down Kd-Jd-5d. I had flopped trips, but Helpi had a flush draw. The next card was the Qd to complete Helpi's flush, and he jumped about 3 feet into the air. I sat pretty still, while preparing to shake Helpi's hand and congratulate him on his victory. In fact, Helpi played great poker for three straight days. But still, I knew that I had 10 outs in the deck (three kings, three queens, three jacks and one five) that would win it for me. I also knew, as did Helpi, that he now had 34 winning cards. The river was the Qh, and I scooped the $1.2 million pot with a full house, and I made a little jump of my own.
After my pocket kings won a $2.2 million pot, I went on to win the tournament, and then UltimateBet.com bought 30 bottles of Dom Perignon for the audience!
A-6 vs. 5-5 is:
A) a coin flip
B) about even money
C) about 50/50
D) all of the above