Over the past few weeks in the world of poker, there has been a lot of talk about the impressive run that Phil Hellmuth has perpetrated in the early stages of the World Series of Poker.
Hellmuth, fresh off an impressive stretch of head-to-head play, hit the ground running with two final tables in the first two weeks of action.
Phil Goes Off
What’s been equally impressive has been the fact that his success in the WSOP so far has come in poker variations a little off the beaten path. For a guy known primarily for his brilliance in Texas Hold’em, it’s been a great reminder of how versatile the Poker Brat can be in terms of his skill set.
But Hellmuth is known by the casual fan as much for his sometimes colorful—to put it kindly—personality. You know the saying that someone’s reputation precedes them? Well, in Hellmuth’s case, it can sometimes not only precede him but also overshadow his undeniable, all-time poker excellence.
That side of the equation showed up this past week as Hellmuth was in the middle of another excellent WSOP performance, hitting a final table yet again. This time around the event was a $10,000 buy-in round of Seven-Card Stud, with 62 entrants taking to the tables at the Rio.
That’s when the pyrotechnics came in the form of a string of expletives from Hellmuth. Although we won’t get into the specific of his tantrum, we can say that one of his more memorable exhortations was that he was going to burn down the casino.
As is often the case with Hellmuth’s tirades, it came on a hand where he felt he had outplayed his foe and that luck had been his nemesis. Whenever that’s the case, it means that he not only is challenging the boundaries of table decorum, but he is also insulting his opponent in the case.
Although Hellmuth has done this a million times before, this particular outburst caught the attention of Norman Chad, who was commentating on the live stream. Chad has seen it all in covering the WSOP for several decades and certainly knows better than anybody about Hellmuth’s antics.
But rather than shrug this off, Chad called Hellmuth out for his display. That was a precursor of what was to follow, as Phil’s blowup has been the topic of many poker articles and has also been on the minds of many players and poker experts in their social media feeds.
To his credit, Hellmuth did apologize on social media and congratulated Zinno, with whom he actual has a cordial relationship and who did end up winning the event. Zinno didn’t take offense to it either, taking the stance that many players do, that it’s like a badge of honor to be cursed out by Hellmuth.
For Hellmuth, it’s also all part of the brand. But the consensus was that this time out, he went maybe a little too far. And it’s also been a popular opinion that WSOP officials need to do a better job of stepping in when things go too far and making sure that there are consequences for Hellmuth or anybody else who behaves like that.
Ultimately, what’s most unfortunate about it is that most of the press and social media chatter was focused on Hellmuth’s mouth rather than his excellent play (he finished 4th.) And even more unfortunate is that even fewer people were talking about a milestone win in Anthony Zinno’s career. That’s where the outbursts do the most damage.
Leave it to Dan Blizerian to find a way to temporarily upstage the action at the World Series of Poker without actually playing. Bilzerian can certainly play the game, but he also has a knack for showmanship that manages to get him into the news, much to the dismay of his detractors. And his item this week was a doozy.
The early word that filtered out on a podcast interview done by Bilzerian is that he will meet head-to-head with Alec Gores, a billionaire who has a history playing cash games with Bilzerian. Normally, such a match wouldn’t be a big deal, as it’s just two rich guys settling a grudge at the poker table.
The story goes that Bilzerian claimed in his book that he has made the bulk of his vast poker fortune by beating Gores. Gores didn’t think that claim was accurate and took umbrage. Hence, they decided to prove once and for all who was better, and throw a lot of money around in the process.
On the one hand, while Bilzerian is a well-known name in the poker community, Gores is not someone who poker fans might readily recognize. That might mean that the interest to watch something like this might not be the same as if you had two big-name players involved.
But another way to look at it is that you might never see that kind of money on the line in a poker match again, or at least not for a long time. Bilzerian floated the possibility that he might seek pay-per-view avenues to help publicize the game between he and Goyer.
As of right now, there is no hard and fast certainty that this match is for sure going to happen. Maybe cold feet will enter into the picture with one of these guys. But the odd spectacle of it all figures to pretty hard to pass up if it does transpire.
Lazrus for a Cool Mil
Well, it wasn’t $100 million, but it’s doubtful that Daniel Lazrus was complaining about his score earlier this week, one of the biggest in the 2021 World Series of Poker to date. Lazrus ended up conquering the $1,500 buy-in Millionaire Maker tourney, a no-limit Texas Hold’em event featuring a robust 5,330 players entered.
For Lazrus, it was the continuation of his breakout poker season. He got it done earlier this year in an online WSOP event for his first-ever gold bracelet. But the stakes were much higher in this one, and Lazrus was able to corral the predetermined winner’s share of $1 million.
It’s been an impressive ascent for Lazrus, who hasn’t taken a long time to reach this level of poker, as he admitted in interviews after the win. He claimed that he had only begun playing within the last four years and he had only reached the level where he was serious in the last few years.
Considering the winnings up for grabs, it was a predictably solid field. Among the players that Lazrus vanquished was Michael Gathy, the Belgian pro who has won several bracelets over the years. In the head-to-head at the end, Lazrus took out Darryl Ronconi, who settled for the runners-up prize of $500,000.
What was impressive was how Lazrus really controlled the final table, coming into it with the lead and never really having to deal with any major threats. It was a solid victory from a guy who likely will be heard from in the WSOP and many other big events going forward.
Poker as Business Tool
Several articles in business publication websites over the last week have put the spotlight on a new training course being pitched to woman professionals that centers on poker. It’s another way that the game of poker is being used as for some aspect of life outside the felt.
Teachers in the course teach lessons in different aspects of the game, such as knowing when to fold and when to go all-in. Specifically, the course is meant to lure in those who wish to be money managers. You can see how those skills would come into play.
The analogies between money management and poker aren’t perfect, of course. The information about where to steer clients and their money is a bit more solid than what you have at the poker table. And the psychology of dealing with the money of other people is different than when you’re dealing with your own stakes.
But it’s still a fascinating initiative, one that shines a light on the game as a positive influence. Don’t be surprised if you see more of that coming from other business leaders in the near future.