Phil Hellmuth Acts Like a Dick at WSOP, Makes Up for It
As the Earth rotates on its axis, Phil Hellmuth loses his shit in a major poker tournament. Back in the day, during the poker boom, Phil Hellmuth throwing tantrums at the poker table (or off, as it was often after he was eliminated) was kind of entertaining. I’ll admit, I enjoyed watching the train wrecks on ESPN. But now, eh…I think most of us just roll our eyes. Poker certainly needs characters – nine people sitting stoically around a poker table is not very compelling television – but outbursts like Hellmuth had over the weekend during the 2018 World Series of Poker Main Event get old after a while.
Here is what happened according to PokerNews.com and reports from players involved. Blinds and antes were 800/1,600/200 and Alex Kuzmin raised to 3,200 pre-flop (MP) with K♦-2♦. Hellmuth called with 7♥-7♣ (CO) and James Campbell, who was short-stacked, also called with A♦-9♦.
The flop was 4♦-3♦-T♠ and needless to say, there was probably going to be some action. Campbell checked with the nut flush draw and an overcard, Kuzmin bet 3,000, and then Hellmuth quickly raised to 6,000. Campbell shoved for 26,200, so the action was back to Kuzmin, who had the second nut flush draw, a backdoor flush draw, and an overcard to the board.
At that point, Hellmuth went on one of his trademark rants, berating Campbell.
“This motherfucking guy … fucking got away with murder all day against me. How in the fuck does this happen?”
After Hellmuth shut up, Kuzmin made the call. The turn was the 2♣ and the river was the 6♠, giving Kuzmin a pair of deuces to eliminate Campbell from the Main Event.
Hellmuth later “apologized” on Twitter, a sort of “sorry not sorry” message:
I apologize for swearing. It was a 3-way pot and I shouldn’t have lost it. It was the 15th time you moved all in on me, and my emotions got the better of me. But you were never winning that hand. You snap moved all in, and I was never folding 7-7 on draw heavy board of 10-4d-3d.
It’s What You Said, Not How You Said It
Players at the table, people involved in the live stream on PokerGO, and many in the poker community in general were livid with “The Poker Brat” (I don’t know what to think about that nickname for someone who is about to turn 54-years old) for his actions and it wasn’t because of his language.
The problem here is that Hellmuth spoke out of turn and therefore likely gave a big hint as to what he was holding or not holding.
Poker pro Shaun Deeb was one of the commentators during the PokerGo stream and explained the problem.
“This is so wrong by Phil,” he said. “This is where Phil deserves penalties. You cannot talk in a multi-way pot and give away your weakness with an opponent still to act. It’s so wrong he gets away with stuff like this. If I’m sitting with a king-high flush draw I know that Phil is not continuing if I call. That totally affects this action and totally hurts his opponent’s equity.”
He added on Twitter later, “Phil you’re always folding there please stop with that logic if you were calling you would have not swore so much as usual you use delusional logic after seeing his holding and the run off. Admit you fucked up and deserve a penalty at the minimum.”
Others felt the same way. Justin Bonomo, for instance, tweeted, “He didn’t like Camby and gave away the weakness of his hand to allow Kuzmin to call his all-in lighter than normal. This behavior is FAR beyond what is acceptable and he’s gotten enough warnings.”
“This plays into Hellmuth’s strategy in an unfair pattern we’ve seen for years He doesn’t like aggressive players after him (especially shortstacks who can move in on him) This isn’t an isolated accident He gains a huge edge by influencing action to bust the 3rd player.”
To further explain, by bitching and moaning while Kuzmin was pondering his action, Hellmuth indicated to Kuzmin that he wasn’t going to call Campbell’s all-in. Thus, Kuzmin could be confident – unless Hellmuth was somehow acting – that he would only be up against one opponent if he called instead of two. Plus depending on Hellmuth’s stack, Kuzmin could have been at risk of losing even more chips had both he and Hellmuth continued in the hand (I don’t know what their stacks looked like).
Kuzmin very well might have folded had Hellmuth stayed quiet and though Hellmuth said he wouldn’t have folded, Deeb, for one, doesn’t believe him. Campbell might still be in the tournament were it not for Hellmuth’s tantrum.
Campbell, a former online poker pro turned fire fighter, told PokerNews later that he was not at all happy with Hellmuth, echoing the sentiments of Deeb and others. He kept his mouth shut at the time because he didn’t want to be a poor sport.
Fortunately, this story of animosity has a somewhat happy ending. On Sunday, the day after the incident, Hellmuth extended an olive branch, offering to pay for Campbell’s entry into next year’s WSOP Main Event. He tweeted:
“I lost some sleep over my outburst. I believe you lose the hand anyway, but maybe I am wrong. You handled yourself well, and played well. As a gesture of goodwill, and because I respect policeman and firefighters: I’m going to buy you into 2019 $10,000 @WSOP Main Event”
Campbell accepted the apology and the offer, replying, “Prior to that one hand I really did enjoy my time at the table with @phil_hellmuth. I enjoyed the table talk and banter and we had a lot of fun throughout the day. @phil_hellmuth was very generous all day and now this. I’m already looking forward to 2019 WSOP Main Event!”