Poker Brat, Phil Hellmuth’s autobiography is now available. An extract from the book is available below. You can get your copy from D&B Poker publishing.
Four WSOP 2006 Final Tables, With Huge Fields! And An All-Time Cash Lead
I had a monster 2006 WSOP! First, I passed Men “The Master” Nguyen for the all-time WSOP cashes (times in the money) lead, when I posted cash number 49. For the last ten years I have continued to build that lead up to my current 118 cashes (currently up to 126). Meanwhile, on July 6, 2006, in my third cash (number 51), in the $5,000 buy-in No Limit Hold ’Em tournament, with 622 players, I made it down to three-handed play with a massive chip lead.
I nearly had a chance to win the thing when I limped in with 5-5 on the button, and poker professional Jeff Cabanillas raised in the big blind. The flop was Q J 9, he checked, and I bet out 60,000. He called, and the next card was the 6. Jeff checked, I bet out 80,000, and he raised 100,000 more. Something told me that I had the best hand, so I called. The last card was the 7 (the flush draw hit), and Jeff moved all-in for around 560,000. I couldn’t beat much, so I folded, and he showed the A K! If I had called him there I would have been heads up, with 2 million in chips against an opponent with 350,000! Man, I smelled something on the turn when I called with pocket fives, if only I could have made that call.
When Jeff and I hit heads-up play, it seemed the whole room was full of people watching us play. Many of them were there to see me make history (or fail to make history). The atmosphere was electric! Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan were there, as well as the actress Shannon Elizabeth. And my friends Mike Matusow and John Bonetti were there. It was if there were a thousand people there watching, with standing room only, while ESPN taped the thing, in case I won my tenth bracelet. I recall how electric and festive it all was, along with the bad memory of losing the match, and failing to make history. My buddies Matusow and Bonetti shed tears for me later, which I really appreciated.
Not Done Yet!
Eleven days later, I fought my way through 352 players to reach another WSOP final table in Limit Omaha 8/b (High-Low Split, the O in HORSE), but I played badly and finished in sixth place. Eight days later, in a field of 754 players, and 1,600 rebuys, I made the final table in the $1,000 No Limit Hold ’Em with rebuys. And this time, under the bright lights, with ESPN recording, and with a huge audience watching, and my 16-year-old son Phillip watching (we snuck him in), I would not be denied! I won WSOP bracelet number 10! The all-time bracelet race looked like this: Johnny Chan ten, Doyle Brunson ten, Phil Hellmuth ten, and Johnny Moss nine.
Bracelets Number 10 and 11, and Player of the Year?
The rules for the 2006 WSOP Player of the Year were simple: most money won wins Player of the Year, excluding the main event. Going into the last WSOP tournament of the year, 494 players signed up for the $1,500 No Limit Hold ’Em tournament. At 3 a.m., when we hit the last 27, Doyle Brunson and I were chip leaders! Later that day (at 5 p.m.) the WSOP Final Table would be played, but what a story it would be if Doyle or I won WSOP bracelet number 11 at 7 a.m.! Doyle finished 21st, but I hit the final table with the chip lead. Eventually, I finished in third place, but my $53,945 pushed me over the top and I won the 2006 WSOP Player of the Year! Or did I? The press announced that Phil Hellmuth had won WSOP Player of the Year! But the WSOP said, “Hold the presses, the WSOP staff has to have a meeting to decide who the proper winner is.”
They had to decide whether I or Jeff Madsen was Player of the Year. Madsen was 22 years old, a newcomer, and he was a worthy candidate with two bracelets and two third-place finishes. But I had won by the rules they had posted! Finally, they decided to give it to Madsen, saying that the last tournaments, which began after the WSOP main event had started, although they did indeed count for bracelets, did not count for the Player of the Year race. Oh boy. I felt like 2006 WSOPPlayer of the Year had been taken away from me. But I would win a few Player of the Years in the years to come, right? Or would I finish second in the 2011 WSOP Player of the Year, and again, in 2012, to last-second charges by someone else? ♠