Poker Legend and World Series of Poker Main Event Winner 1989
When it comes to the World Series of Poker, there is no one more successful than Phil Hellmuth. In his career he has amassed a total of 15 WSOP bracelets, which is five more than anyone else in the history of the event.
Nicknamed ‘The Poker Brat,’ his first bracelet at the event was the biggest of all, landing the Main Event in 1989. This page covers Hellmuth’s WSOP record, strategy, and outspoken style.
1988: An Unknown Makes The Money
Hellmuth headed to the 1988 World Series of Poker as a relative unknown. He made his first ever cash in the series in the Seven Card Stud Split, the sixth event of that year.
Having entered the Main Event, he would finish 33rd out of 167 entrants, eventually being dispatched by defending champion Johnny Chan - who would go on to win the event. While there wasn’t great success that year for Hellmuth, there were indicators for what was to come.
Hellmuth Defeats Johnny Chan in 1989
All of the talk heading into the main event in 1989 was about Johnny Chan. Could he become the first player in the history of the game to win three in a row? (Jonny Moss, Doyle Brunson and Stu Ungar had all won two in a row)
Heading to the final table, Chan had overcome a bad start to comeback and had a solid chip stack at the televised final nine stage. Others at the table included George Hardie, Mike Picow, Steve Lott, Noel Furlong, Lyle Berman, Don Zewin and the 24-year-old upstart that was Phil Hellmuth.
Much of the big action on that final table centred around Hellmuth, with one pivotal hand Hellmuth see off both Lott and Zewin in the same hand, when he spiked an Ace on the flop, holding A-10.
Heads Up Battle
That hand saw the final table go heads up and Hellmuth would find himself sat opposite Johnny Chan. The man who eliminated him the year before. Chan was one heads up win away from winning an incredible third straight WSOP Main Event.
Hellmuth held the chip lead at this point – 1.1 million chips to Chan’s 600,000 chips. The final hand of the event saw Hellmuth holding pocket nines and Chan held A7s. Both players ended up all-in and the board of K-K-10-Q-6 was kind to Hellmuth, seeing him become the World Series of Poker Main Event Champion.
Other Major Tournaments for Phil Hellmuth
Much of the success for Phil Hellmuth has come at the World Series of Poker. The Main Event win in 1989 opened the floodgates, with consistent wins spread out over the years ever since (his other fourteen wins have come between 1992 and 2018).
The 1993 series was an incredible one for Hellmuth, as he landed three bracelets in the $1,500 No Limit Hold’em, the $2,500 No Limit Hold’em and the $5,000 Limit Hold’em.
The single biggest win of his career in cash terms came in 2012, when the series hosted the one-off ‘The Big One for One Drop’. This event had a buy-in of $1 million, where the usual ‘rake’ in the buy-in went to the One Drop foundation. Forty-eight players entered and Phil Hellmuth would eventually finish fourth, pocketing more than $2.6 million.
Phil Hellmuth’s Poker Playing Style
You certainly can’t accuse Phil Hellmuth of being shy. There are few players who would make the claim that they are the ‘Best Player of All Time.’ You could also say that there are few players who could back it up in the way Hellmuth has.
Hellmuth’s key skill is that he adapts to the tables / opponent well. If the table is tight, he’ll be the one making moves. If the table is too loose, he’ll tighten up and wait to pounce. Phil has produced several books over the years. He pioneered thinking about opponents as different types of animal. These range from a timid mouse to a stubborn elephant.
Before and After WSOP Success
It was clear that Phil Hellmuth was all about poker from an early age. He was born in Madison, Wisconsin and had a troublesome adolescence. He did attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison for three years but dropped out to become a full-time poker pro. He moved to California in 1992, where he is now married and has two sons.
Hellmuth continues to play in the biggest events to this day, with a series of cashes in the pandemic affected 2021 Online World Series of Poker.
Can You Be the Next WSOP Champion?
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