Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Tuesday Night on ESPN

I watched the $3000 WSOP no limit hold em event Tuesday night on ESPN.

Final tables usually start out with 9 players but Harrahs let 10 people sit down for the ESPN cameras because the small stack in 10th place just happened to be a guy named Phil Hellmuth.

If they're going to make this kind of exception for Phil then perhaps I shouldn't complain when he repays them the favor by embarrassing himself as a human being. Thus providing what he thinks is good television.

Hey I'm a performer. In a theatrical sense I'm just as entertained by Phil's antics as the next guy. But what Phil does at the table isn't poker. It's not always about him getting a read.

Way too often it's just straight up taunting. If poker was the NFL or NBA he'd be punished.

But poker has no organization. No commissioner. No players union. The whole thing is the wild west. Even the actual rules vary by casino and players try to get away with whatever they can.

I thought this particular episode really exposed Hellmuth for the bully he is.

Anytime he gets reraised he has to criticize the other player for making a move and not respecting him before he can fold.

Men the Master pulled this same crap with me when I sat next to him at a WSOP event in 2006 and it's just so bush league.

Hey Phil, you just raised with jack 2 off.

You got reraised.

You were trying to steal.

You got caught.

Just fold your cards.

I'm genuinely shocked how polite the other players at the table are to him.

He doesn't deserve their respect.

In one hand Phil raised with pocket 9's and another player came over the top with a raise. Perry Friedman was talking to the player next to him and Phil chastised him for it. Twice.

This is because when Phil has to make a big decision he needs complete silence at the table.

Yet in the very same episode when Phil went all in with aces, he had no problem jumping out of his seat and running his mouth off while his opponent struggled to decide whether to call or fold pocket kings.

You can't have it both ways. If you want quiet then give silence. If you're gonna talk then don't complain when others do.

Phil doesn't afford others the same respect he wants for himself.

Yes he is interesting to watch.

But then again so was this:

Highlighting this sort of behavior makes poker good television in the same way that Jerry Springer was a good talk show.

Are we saying that poker isn't interesting enough to watch without someone acting like a spoiled child?

I'd love to watch Allen Cunningham, Phil Ivey, and Barry Greenstein play 3 handed. And if they never spoke once that would be fine. Their bets and folds would say everything.

Golf looks boring on television to the non-player. But it's not like we need Happy Gilmore to make the sport better for golf fans.

Meanwhile the reason I'm writing about Hellmuth isn't so much to discuss his tactics.

No. What shocked me so much more was his lack of basic math skills.

How do you win 11 bracelets and not know the correct showdown percentages for competing hands?

I'm talking specifically about his insurance bets with Phil Ivey.

If you didn't see the episode, anytime Hellmuth was "all in" he would walk over to Phil Ivey who was watching the final table sitting in the audience. Each time Hellmuth asked Ivey to give him insurance on his hand in case it lost.

So Ivey would take Hellmuth's hand and Hellmuth took his opponents. If Hellmuth got knocked out Ivey would pay him money. But if Hellmuth's hand held up then Ivey got paid.

But the thing was, each time Ivey offered Phil odds that weren't true.

If Phil was in there with a hand that was an obvious 4 to 1 to win, Ivey would give him 3 to 1.

And each time Hellmuth took it.

These odds were so obviously bad that Andy Bloch magically appeared to also offer Hellmuth insurance in case Ivey decided he'd had enough.

But Ivey never left. Why would he? He was making too much money.

Now at first I was thinking Hellmuth didn't mind taking the worst of it in these bets because if he could survive and win another (12th) bracelet it would be worth so much more to him (in future endorsements) than whatever cash he loses to Ivey.

But as the night went on it genuinely appeared that Hellmuth had no clue what the odds should be. Maybe that's because he always thinks he's the favorite in every hand he plays.

In the end Hellmuth got knocked out in 6th place and made $74,000 from the tournament.

This money almost covered the $109,000 he lost to Ivey in insurance bets.

But I guess Hellmuth still won.

Cause here I am writing about him.

1 comment:

dave said...

I have to agree, his lack of knowing what the actual odds were is pretty shocking. As was his trusting Ivey, THE GUY HE IS BETTING AGAINST, to tell him the truth. I think my favorite part was when Ivey said "I am not trying to rip you off Phil. OK, well I am trying to rip you off a little".

I think he lives though on really, REALLY good reading skills, and generally the ability to just play very disciplined poker. When you think of how good he is commentating when there aren't hole card cams, it shows he just has an uncanny knack to know exactly what the other person has.

Well, except donking off his remaining stack with middle pair to get knocked out of this tournament.