BLOG – Is Phil Hellmuth adjusting to the modern poker game at last?

BLOG – Is Phil Hellmuth adjusting to the modern poker game at last?

Monday, 15 March 2010

There are few names in poker more controversial or debate-inducing than that of Phil Hellmuth. Well, obviously Russ Hamilton and Isildur1, but you get my point. The Poker Brat is the best NL tournament player that we’ve seen, with 11 WSOP bracelets and (when adjusted for inflation) almost $15m earned in live tournaments.

The only problem is, he thinks he’s still the best. This is like Pele or Maradona jogging out onto Old Trafford and trying to take on modern competition. You were the best; times have changed, write a book and move on.

There’s no denying that Hellmuth is the best NL tournament player that poker has seen. His record speaks for itself. However, in five or six years’ time we may well be handing that title to Bertrand Grospellier or Mike McDonald.

The fact is that Hellmuth has, since the 2003 poker boom, won just 13 tournaments. And 10 of those were televised single table events. If you count solely major tournaments, he has won just two – his most recent WSOP bracelets. And no, I am not counting the ridiculous coinflip masquerading as a legitimate show of skill that is the NBC Heads-Up Championship.

Hellmuth, in the 1980s and 1990s, was easily tournament poker’s best player. His tight style, excellent hand-reading skills and focus made him a tour d’force of poker tournaments. In this century, however, he fell behind.

He still gets results, because he’s really tight, and that means that he runs well in aggressive games. However, we’ve all seen him play cash games against the world’s best – he just can’t compete. I might as well sit down there.

However, I think he might have worked out that he needs to change his game. Two hands from the Bay 101 Shooting Stars championship that he finished 6th at caught my eye.

In the first, he was all-in on the Jd-Td-Xx flop with Ad-2d after check-raising then shoving. In the second, he 3-bet with Th-8h and then called a small 4-bet getting odds. Wow.

Seriously, this is the same man who folded QQ against a donkey online qualifier 15BBs deep on Poker After Dark. He might be finally realising that he needs to make some moves in order to compete in today’s games.

Let’s hope so – I’d love that ego to be justified. Anyway, I’m now off to watch the latest High Stakes Poker and then tell you all about it in the High Stakes Poker thread.

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