Tuesday, June 20, 2006


For the four years I’ve been involved in the game, there’s been one player, one poker ‘star’, that’s always amazed me, and that man is none other than the self-acclaimed Poker Brat himself, Mr Phil Hellmuth.

Annoying, irritating, rude, obnoxious, arrogant, whiney, childish, immature, all these terms have been used to describe the nine-time bracelet winner at one point or another, but, there’s one word that critics often forget to mention – ‘entertaining’.

He might be a right pain in the exit hole, but he ain’t half an entertaining one. If I hear Phil’s playing on TV, I’ll tune in, if I know he’ll be having one of his now infamous temper tantrums too, then I’ll definitely tune in. Whether we like it or not, Hellmuth is good for the game, perhaps not technically, but in terms of promotion, having these characters is key to us moving forward. Would football have been the same without Cantona? Snooker without Higgins? Boxing without Naseem?

And it was for these reasons, that I was thoroughly looking forward to witnessing Phil’s antics for myself, as the WPT took it’s next stop in France for the Paris Grand Prix.

At first, I couldn’t find him but, after poking Jen several times, she eventually informed me that he was seated right behind our press table with his back facing the window. Now, it wasn’t until I actually saw Phil in the flesh that I was actually convinced he existed. Part of me still thought that no man could surely be like this and that he just had to be a projection of some sort.

I stepped into the cardroom and took a quick glance, and there he was. He was real, but no wonder I couldn’t find him as quickly as expected, the guy was as silent as a mouse! Arms crossed, blank expression, cap and shades hiding his face, if he wasn’t ten feet tall you’d have barely have known he was there.

I watched on, patiently waiting for him to do something out of the ordinary, but nothing, he just played his cards and kept stum. Even some of the onlookers that flooded his table seemed to be frustrated with his lack of Hellmuthism. It was then that I began to think that perhaps it was all an act, merely a way of promoting himself. Director says ‘Action’ and away goes Phil, merely playing up to the cameras and audience in an attempt to market himself as something he’s not. Well, that was my initial thought, until…

Day 2, we’re half way through the session and I begin to hear the tender tones of Hellmuth. As I draw closer to table, those tender tones gradually form the familiar sounds of the Hellmuth moan. Moan moan moan, whinge whinge whinge, waaaaaaaaaaaa. The Poker Brat had risen from his slumber!!

What was he blowing his top at this time? Well, Christer Johansen, one of the nicest guys in the building, had returned to his seat whilst his cards were being dealt. Phil raises, and Christer sticks in a chunky reraise. In full moaning mode, Phil begins to complain that Christer’s hand should be dead as he arrived a second after the cards were dealt. What followed was more whinging, more whining, and more moaning. No one dared to mention that Phil had only started complaining about this issue after his bet had been reraised. Would he have been so rattled if the table had folded? The word ‘fickle’ springs to mind.

Anyhow, it was clear that the Phil I new, loved, and despised was back in his element, braced for an onslaught of Hellmuth whinging, and he didn’t let me down either. Comments like ‘Let me just check, I think I have the nuts here, buddy. Yep, I call’ and ‘This is a joke. I can’t believe your luck tonight’ were not uncommon at all. And, as we moved into Day 3 of the Event, the following Hellmuthism took place…

A few players see a flop of 8-Q-3, all check round to Phil who bets 15k, only to find Christer (again!) checkraising for 100k, a hefty bet indeed. Phil rises from his seat in disgust and, in a matter of minutes, manages to squeeze in the following rants:

“All those hands he’s been lucky.”
“Still doesn’t matter, we’ll get him later.”
“There’s a long way to go yet, my friend.”
“You’ve got away with murder so far, absolute murder.”

Surprisingly, Phil opted for the fold.

Not too long after, Phil eventually fell with just the two tables remaining. And I couldn’t help but snigger, it was an outdraw! Hehe. A-T v Zuo Ping Angelo Yu’s (what a name!) A-5 of diamonds. Two diamonds on the flop, and then one on the river.

You have to laugh, especially when your opponent bangs the table and shouts ‘I killed you!’. Boy, ol’ Phil must have been well chuffed about that one. And guess what, the ranting doesn’t stop at the bar, I must have heard Phil go through the same ‘Can you believe this guy, how lucky can he be?’ spiel about three times. Once at the press desk, then at the cashier, and finally at the bar. Crikey, this guy could moan for his country!

But, you know what, through all his whinging, I still love the big guy. He makes poker interesting, and, for most, he injects a lot of fun into what could be a potentially dull game. We need characters like this and, whether they are top guys or complete baboons (I’ll let you categorise Phil yourself), they’re good to watch.

I rarely approach players. I'm not one to pester the good guys and I prefer not to massage the egos of the bad ones. However, I’ve recently decided to form a unique pack of cards, one in which is to be signed by 54 of my favourite poker players. Phil will undoubtedly be one of those guys. He may be disliked by many, but he’s an entertainer, and a pretty good one too! And for that, I give the guy a certain level of respect.

He’ll still be signing my joker card though…


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