WSOP Flashback: The Beth Shak and Phil Hellmuth Idiocy of 2007

Back when the poker on television was something that people in United States still enjoyed, the World Series of Poker broadcasts on ESPN tended to focus on one of several things: famous poker pros or poker celebrities, outrageous characters, emotional back stories, and tear-filled bust-outs. In 2007, a year that fit squarely in the “we still watched poker on TV” timeframe, the final table of the $3,000 No-Limit Hold’em Event captured the first two of those characteristics in what is one of the stupidest hands in televised WSOP history.

The tournament was down to eight players and Brett Richey opened the pre-flop betting to 80,000 chips with two black Kings. It folded around to Beth Shak, who was technically a poker pro but more of a poker “celebrity,” who had two red Aces. She announced a raise and proceeded to wave her hands a couple times, making a motion like she was thinking, “Oh, I don’t know what I should raise to, this is such a tough decision.”

After counting out some chips and putting on more of that confused act, she moved all-in for about half a million, trying to make it look like she just didn’t really know what to do and this was the best move she could come up with. Really, it was quite apparent she was acting.

The action then moved to Phil Hellmuth, who was gunning for his 12th career WSOP bracelet (he now has 14). He just so happened to have the other two Aces. He bolted upright out of chair and yelled all-in. OH DEAR I WONDER WHAT YOUR HOLE CARDS MIGHT BE.

Hellmuth then turned to his rail and bragged that it only took him a quarter of a second to move all-in. SHIT HE MIGHT BE BLUFFING. MAYBE HE DOESN’T HAVE A MONSTER HAND LIKE POCKET ACES OR SOMETHING.

Beth Shak has over 1,200 pairs of shoes Image credit: NY Post / Chad Rachman

Beth Shak has over 1,200 pairs of shoes
Image credit: NY Post / Chad Rachman

Beth Shak, though, who greatly enjoyed the fame she was garnering for being a hot female who was fairly good at poker, was not going to come in second in the battle for the most transparent hand. While Brett Richey was figuring out what to do, she joined Hellmuth in his insta-call celebration and gave him a high five. She then turned to her cheering section, which included her then-husband Dan Shak, and did her own little “raise the roof” celebration.

To make matters BETTER (you thought I was going to say worse), she actually quietly chanted, “I got it, got it got it,” while she was dancing, finishing up by turning to face Richey – who was still agonizing over his action – and doing a final little dance. Her husband, meanwhile, was flashing a sign for Aces, asking her if she had Aces.

Let’s pause right here for a moment and reflect. Both Beth Shak and Phil Hellmuth moved all-in after Brett Richey raised pre-flop. Shak did a little “aw shucks, I dunno” act when she pushed her chips in, while Hellmuth jumped up like there was a tack on his seat. They both celebrated in front of the entire table, Shak even SAYING that she “got it.” If there was ever a pair of cellophane-transparent players, it was right then at that moment. Unless they decided to give some wildly obnoxious reverse tells, at least one of them had Aces and as rare as two people have Aces is, it should have been pretty apparent to everyone in the room that they both had rockets.

I’m all for character and personality, but they looked like assholes. Assholes who for some reason did not want their common opponent to call.

But Ritchey did call, which ratcheted the absurdity of this televised hand to unprecedented heights. Did he not SEE Shak and Hellmuth basically TELLING him they had four Aces between the two of them? Did the fact that they did not actually flip their cards over give him that bit of doubt he needed to make the call? What was he doing while Shak and Hellmuth were carrying on? Were his eyes closed? Did the stage lights blind him?

But call Ritchey did and naturally, Beth Shak had to make even more of a production out of her good fortune, picking her cards up, holding them up for the crowd to see, and dancing behind her seat before finally placing the cards on the table. I always thought that you weren’t allowed to take the cards off the table, but hey, I’ve never been at a WSOP final table, so what do I know (I almost didn’t include the “WSOP” there, but I HAVE made a poker final table, so there). Hellmuth had calmed down since his initial Hellmuthian display.

Of course, Ritchey was eliminated, ending one of the stupidest hands in televised WSOP history. At least he had outs?

Don’t believe that a hand really went down like that? Watch the circus for yourself!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbSspZVhxLo

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