What can you say about Phil Hellmuth that hasn’t already been said? The guy knows how to play poker. Hellmuth, already the most prolific World Series of Poker (WSOP) player of all time, won his record twelfth WSOP bracelet early Monday morning, defeating a strong group of competitors at the final table of Event #18: $2,500 Seven Card Razz.
“The Poker Brat” had already accumulated the more bracelets than any other poker player in history – eleven – going into the event, so this one served to distance himself from the competition. Both Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan are next in line with ten each, followed by Johnny Moss with nine. If anyone is going to catch Hellmuth, the best chance in the foreseeable future would have to go to Phil Ivey, who, at age 36, has already won eight of them. Erik Seidel, also with eight, may also have a shot, but really, “having a shot” is all relative.
This victory may have been more meaningful to Phil Hellmuth than some of his others because of what led up to it. His last WSOP bracelet was the record-breaking one, but that was back in 2007. From 2008 through 2010, the best he could do at the World Series of Poker was a third place finish. That’s fantastic for most players, but extremely disappointing to someone as accomplished as Hellmuth. Last year, he set another record, though it was a very painful one: he became the first player ever to finish runner-up in three tournaments in a single World Series. He could taste that twelfth bracelet three times, but it always fell just out of reach.
Additionally, this win is another sort of triumph for Hellmuth, as it is the first bracelet he has ever won in a non-Texas Hold’em event. Of his previous eleven bracelets, seven were in No-Limit Hold’em events, including his first, a win in the 1989 WSOP Main Event, where he beat Johnny Chan heads-up. He has won three others in Limit Hold’em events and one in Pot-Limit Hold’em.
Not that it matters compared to the bracelet count, but this was also Hellmuth’s 87th career WSOP cash, further extending his record in that category. Men “The Master” Nguyen is next with 75, followed by Erik Seidel with 70. He is remains in the eighth spot on the all-time WSOP money list with $7,832,465 in career earnings, behind only the last seven Main Event champs, who have certainly seen their places in the rankings boosted by the gigantic first place purse in that tournament.
As one might expect in a less popular, more “specialty” event like Razz, the final table was a tough one; Hellmuth certainly earned his victory. He had to stare down the likes of multi-bracelet winners Barry Greenstein, Scott Fischman, and Brandon Cantu, single bracelet winners Brendan Taylor and Michael Chow, and even the man who finished third to Hellmuth and Chan in the 1989 Main Event, Don Zewin.
It was Zewin who locked horns with Hellmuth heads-up this go-around. Hellmuth had a huge edge in chips, though, 1.9 million to 400,000. Zewin made a game of it at the start, climbing to 1 million, but he soon fell back and Hellmuth had command of the tournament. On the last hand, Zewin was showing a 6, so he brought it in. Hellmuth called with a 2 and followed with a bet on the turn. Zewin raised, saying, “Alright, let’s do it,” knowing that with just 5,000 chips remaining, he was committed. Hellmuth obliged by putting him all-in with a final raise.
At that point, Zewin held 3-9-6-K while Hellmuth had A-4-2-A. Both players received Jacks on fifth street; Zewin was technically in the lead with five unpaired cards, but Hellmuth’s hand had much better potential. On sixth street, Zewin paired his 3, while Hellmuth paired his 4. Hellmuth showed first on the river, revealing a 10, which gave him a hand of A-2-4-T-J. Zewin looked at his final card, saw a 9 which gave him 3-6-9-J-K, and told Hellmuth, “Go ahead, you got it.”
2012 WSOP Event #18: $2,500 Seven Card Razz – Final Table Results
1. Phil Hellmuth – $182,793
2. Don Zewin – $113,024
3. Brandon Cantu – $74,269
4. Scott Fischman – $54,248
5. Brendan Taylor – $40,167
6. Barry Greenstein – $30,150
7. Michael Chow – $22,945
8. Jeff Misteff – $17,693