Saturday, June 7, 2014

Phil Helmuth, Approaching Another WSOP Final Table & Avoiding the Grinder’s Life (Day 13)

I’ll admit it, I’m pretty resistant to the mystique surrounding WSOP poker and bracelets, but I do find myself getting pumped up to see the final table of Event #15: No-Limit Hold'em Six Handed, which had a $3,000 buy-in and 810 runners. With 14 players left, we have a very tough field headlined by none other than the Poker Brat himself Phil Helmuth. Say what you want about Phil, but I have always been impressed by the level of analytic thinking he brings to the game and have modeled elements of my game on his. Sick reads trump math a lot of the time in live poker and he seems to have one of these intuitional feels for when players are bluffing and when he can get away with a move. 

Never one to shy away from hyperbole, Helmuth (with 13 WSOP gold bracelets under his belt) spoke with PokerNews right before the WSOP started this year, predicting that he would comfortably achieve 11 more bracelets in the course of his remaining years on the felt. One thing he said the interview resonated with my own experience, as an amateur who strictly plays tournaments and struck gold at the 49-hour APT Ironman in 2013. Hellmuth says that he is seated at a table “infrequently enough that I’m almost always looking forward to playing” and that he has never been part of the Las Vegas lifestyle. I absolutely agree with his perspective––poker is a lot more fun and fields more beatable, when it is not a grind. When not competing I am reviewing tourneys on a daily basis, studying player styles and strategy, but there is not the constant pressure of the grinder’s life. 

Notable players still in the tournament also include Davidi Kitai, who currently sits in second place with 815,000 in chips. A regular on the European Poker Tournament (EPT) circuit, he won WSOP Pot-Limit Hold'em events in 2008 and 2013. The Belgian also took home the 2012 EPT in Berlin. Also in the money, sitting in third with 760,000 in chips, is Pratyush Buddiga, a Canadian who was famously coached by Timex (Mike McDonald). Chip leader Heinz Kamutzki from Germany has 841,000 in chips. With few wins under his belt, he has consistently placed high in major EPT, Australia Millions, and WSOP fields over the past several years. A win would be a major breakthrough.

Helmuth moments away from a bust out against Gordon Vayo and Davidi Kitai (sunglasses), who would ultimately square off heads-up for the bracelet.

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