Hellmuth stands alone

12 June 2007

The self-dubbed WSOP "Record Man" now stands alone atop the poker world.

Phil Hellmuth Jr., who before the series vowed to play well enough to break all of the major WSOP records, humbly accepted number bracelet No. 11 from Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan Monday night after winning Event #15, a $1,500 No Limit Hold'em event. The victory came just one year after he tied Brunson and Chan with ten WSOP titles.

The 1989 WSOP Main Event title was Hellmuth's largest victory in terms or prestige and money, but this last win was the personal mission of a player who wants to be remembered as one of the greatest of all time.

"This is the one I really wanted," Hellmuth said afterward in a post-tournament press conference. "I have so much respect for Doyle and Johnny. To now be at the top of the all-time (WSOP wins) list is really about as good a feeling as I have ever had."

The Record Man

Hellmuth vowed a rededication to tournament poker after going two years without winning a bracelet. His renewed focus paid off.

Hellmuth dominated at the 2006 WSOP, making four final tables in addition to winning his tenth bracelet. After the Series ended, Hellmuth shared the WSOP marks for most bracelets won and most cashes. He was also in the top six in WSOP career earnings and final table appearances.

Adding Monday's victory allows Hellmuth to share a position in poker akin to Hank Aaron in baseball. Much like the 755 home-run mark, the bracelet record is the most coveted in poker.

"Poker players everywhere measure themselves against each other by how many WSOP bracelets they have," Commissioner of the World Series of Poker Jeffrey Pollack said. "Now, all WSOP bracelet holders must measure themselves against Phil Hellmuth. He is a true sports champion."

One of those eleven titles is the 1989 Main Event Championship bracelet. Hellmuth won poker's greatest prize at the age of 24, still the youngest to do so. And the player he beat heads-up to win that distinction is the great Johnny Chan, who at the time was trying to win his third-straight Main Event.

The rest of Hellmuth's WSOP record is just impressive.

He had 57 cashes heading into 2007 WSOP, buoyed by an eight-cash performance in 2006 (also a record for a single series). Players who reach double-digit-cash figures are considered "players to note." Hellmuth has reached that total nearly six times over. His mark was three better than his next closest competitor Men "The Master" Nguyen. Hellmuth has added two more cashes this year, breaking his own record twice.

The WSOP-final-table-appearance record is also within Hellmuth's reach. TJ Cloutier held the record at the start of the 2007 WSOP with 39. Hellmuth was just two behind. His 2007 Event #15 performance puts him one behind.

The all-time money list is the least significant record because it's heavily tilted towards recent Main Event finishes, where massive participation inflated prize pools.

However, Hellmuth has quietly climbed this list and sits in fifth with $5,528,197 in winnings. His eleventh bracelet netted him $637k, enough to pass Greg Raymer's $5.43 million in all-time WSOP-money earned.

The only players above him are Jamie Gold ($12 million), Joe Hachem ($7.89 million), Allen Cunningham ($6.49 million) and Paul Wasicka ($6.16 million).

Of the four, Cunningham is the only player with an established WSOP record, winning his fifth bracelet this year. But even Cunningham's earnings have been inflated by a third-place finish in the 2006 Main Event, which paid more than a first-place finish in 2003. Hellmuth's standing on the list is all the more impressive when considering that his largest WSOP cash was the 1989 Main Event, where he collected $755k.

Hellmuth may already be the greatest WSOP player of all-time, but if he can find his way to another final table or grab himself another large chunk of change, he will have the type of statistical proof that holds its own weight.


Mucking McLane

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