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Sleepless in Fulham: Rambling and gambling by David Young
Sunday, 20 July 2008
Hellmuth rants.
Topic: Poker

I realise that 'Hellmuth Rants' must be the 'Dog bites Man' headline of poker journalism, but bear with me on this. I've met Phil a couple of times and he was very polite on both occasions. He's not always like that however, mainly because he has unrealistic expectations of how consistently he can win in a game where luck is a big factor. He seems to have a deep-seated insecurity about how he's perceived, which leads to a constant need for acclaim. He likes to suggest that his antics are for show, but I'm not convinced that this is the case. More likely is that he's making virtue of necessity. I don't think he can stop.

In a recent posting he relates how brilliantly he played in the Main Event of this year's WSOP and deserved better than to finished 45th:

This earns the usual opprobrium that he always attracts, with some extra added for his continued involvement with the scandal-hit Ultimatebet. I doubt that any of this will hurt his feelings, nor lower his standing among those who do rate him. To pick on someone's known weaknesses achieves little if you're determined to damage their reputation. What hurts more is attacking their strengths. If you can prove that someone's chief strength isn't really that good, you've swept the rug from under their feet. That was why revelations of George W. Bush's drink-driving conviction and the fact that he didn't serve in Vietnam didn't stop him winning two elections. Everyone knew those were his weakneses. But when John Kerry 'reported for duty' at the Democrat's Convention in 2004, the Swift Boat Veterans were able to derail his bid for Commander-in-Chief by undermining his strength: the fact that he had three purple hearts from his service in Vietnam.

Hellmuth's chief claim to fame is that he is the 1989 World Champion. It surprises me then that none of his many detractors point out that along the way he benefited from precisely the same luck that he berates others for receiving. This YouTube clip from the action on the final table that year shows two hands:

The first shows him claiming to have folded a pair of tens (spades and clubs) pre-flop in a three-way pot against Johnny Chan (99) and Don Zewin (AJ). He's folded by far the best hand here, hardly something to be proud of (you can see the hand start at the end of part two of the series). Against those hands, with no further betting, he would have had an equity of roughly 44 per cent. Bizarrely the commentator says 'And Phil Hellmuth is delighted to be out of this one!'. Heaven knows why. A jack and an ace win the hand for Zewin and this brings us to the second hand, where Zewin skillfully makes a sort of anti-squeeze play to get all his chips in holding tens against Phil's ace-ten and a pair of twos held by a short-stack. Phil gets lucky and catches an ace on the flop to eliminate two opponents and get heads-up with Chan.

Zewin's equity was over 50 per cent against both opponents ... and he could have survived a loss to the twos. Hellmuth got lucky here. Don't let him forget it. Next time he charges off about how unlucky he is in the WSOP, remind him how Zewin outplayed him.

_ DY at 9:46 PM BST
Updated: Monday, 21 July 2008 1:22 PM BST
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