While two of the brightest minds in poker may share the same alias, at the 2012 World Series of Poker it’s likely that the goals of Phil Ivey and Phil Hellmuth were very distinct.
Phil Hellmuth has been dedicated to winning his 12th WSOP bracelet, and although there were several close encounters during the 2011 WSOP, up until now he’d been wrongfully denied on multiple occasions. But this year would be different, as Hellmuth finally secured one of his career-long goals; a 12th bracelet in Event #8 $2,500 Razz worth $182,793.
“This was the first time I’ve won a bracelet when I’ve had absolutely no idea what first place was worth,” Hellmuth added after the win. “I just wanted to win.”
It wouldn’t come as a surprise to most to hear that winning another bracelet has been Hellmuth’s primary aspiration over the past year — given his play during last year’s event was so superb. However, since the start of the 2011 WSOP, Hellmuth has received criticism over his inability to win and also regarding his depiction as a “one-trick pony” — or the proof that all of his 11 bracelets have only been awarded in No-Limit Hold’em.
Naysayers and veterans of the Twoplustwo.com community also refuse to ignore Hellmuth’s lack of consistent success in realm of ring games. While Hellmuth has played regularly in high-stakes cash games which typically include as many as 7-8 poker variations and left a winner, his drive to prove his critics wrong was near the forefront of his to-do list.
“After three second place finishes I don’t feel like people were bringing up the non-Hold’em thing quite as much,” Hellmuth claimed. “After knocking on the door, I’ve been waiting for this since ’07. Right now, the games just make sense to me.”
I’ll have to break out some new hats that say #12 on the side.”
When considering the field of 309 players that Hellmuth had to navigate through, it’s easy to be impressed by his win. Defeating a group of finalists that included Scott Fischman, Brandon Cantu and second-place finisher in the $1,500 Stud event Barry Greenstein, Hellmuth held focus throughout the event to claim the title.
Don Zewin, a worthy opponent Hellmuth previously final tabled with years ago, ended up as his heads-up nemesis and was resilient throughout the contest. Even going into heads-up play with a 5-to-1 chip disadvantage, Zewin crawled himself back to even with a style that at one point had Hellmuth stunned.
“You set yourself up to have the chip lead or not have the chip lead. Zewin’s a great player, he’s tough as nails, and he’s not going to give anything away.”
With this latest triumph, Hellmuth moves further ahead of Johnny Chan and Doyle Brunson — two legends of the World Series of Poker — who each have 10 career wins.
A player who is not far behind this collection of superstars, and whom many consider to be the best in the world, is Phil Ivey.
Mr. Ivey spent early Monday morning battling to win his 9th career bracelet at the WSOP in Event #17 $10,000 Pot-Limit Hold’em, against heads-up opponent Andy Frankenberger, who has a WSOP bracelet of his own.
But while Ivey certainly wanted to secure his place in poker history, it’s more probable that the newly-returned king of the game was more enthusiastic about his bracelet bets.
With Ivey being widely known as an extensive prop bettor, his return to the WSOP felt after a 2011 absence seemed to be enough motivation to focus on a bracelet win. Rumored to have long-standing bets with both Daniel Negreanu and Howard Lederer — which are estimated in the range of $250,000 and $5 million respectively – Ivey couldn’t ignore the pressure and unimaginable payday he would receive should he finish this event as a champion.
On the line was $445,899, and while the prize money was significant, his colleagues could be on the hook for millions should he end up sealing the deal.
But Frankenberger had other ideas, and needed to dig deep within his Hold’em repertoire in order to outplay the ingenious Ivey.
“He plays unlike anyone I’ve ever played,” Frankenberger told reporters after his win.
“My style is pretty unorthodox as well and I try to adjust to my opponents. The one thing I realized is that this min-raising the button thing wasn’t working. The one thing I had going for me was that he didn’t want to play big flips against me and I don’t blame him. He’s a better player than I am so why would he want to flip when he could play small pots.”
Frankenberger quickly adapted, and put pressure on Ivey with pot-sized bets that eventually worked in his favor.
He’s now the holder of two WSOP bracelets, one in $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em which he earned in 2011, and this year’s victory in the PLHE event.
But despite the heater Frankenberger has been on over the past two years, eyes continue to remain on Ivey and his progress through the fields at the WSOP.
Currently, Ivey’s one of the chip leaders in the $5,000 Omaha 8-or-better event, and reapplying pressure to all of those who decided to challenge his drive for more jewelry.
While Ivey has taken time away from the game, the man known to the poker community as the “Tiger Woods of Poker” hasn’t experienced quite the downturn that his golf counterpart has endured. Ivey is back and better than ever, and has made it known that his ultimate goal is to surpass Hellmuth’s bracelet count, and by a lot.
We can all hope that Ivey will continue to put on a show, and stun us all as he strives for glory.
Here are the final table payouts for each event:
Event #18: $2,500 Razz
Prize pool: $702,975
1. Phil Hellmuth — $182,793
2. Don Zewin — $113,024
3. Brandon Cantu — $74,269
4. Scott Fischman — $54,248
5. Brendan Taylor — $40,167
6. Barry Greenstein — $30,150
7. Michael Chow — $22,945
8. Jeff Mistiff — $17,693
9. David Rosenau — $13,827
Event #17: $10,000 Pot-Limit Hold’em
Prize pool: $1,682,600
1. Andy Frankenberger — $445,899
2. Phil Ivey — $275,559
3. Ali Eslami — $199,623
4. Alexander Venovski — $147,345
5. Manuel Bevand — $110,731
6. Shaun Deeb — 84,668
7. Matt Marafioti — $65,840
8. Daniel Weinman — $52,059
9. Hoyt Corkins — $41,829