Top Stories of 2021, #3: The Incredible Year of Phil Hellmuth

Phil Hellmuth

PokerNews continues its countdown of the ten biggest and most popular stories of 2021 with the incredible year of the one and only Phil Hellmuth Jr, who comes in at number three.

There are few poker players who divide opinion as much as the polarizing character that his Phil Hellmuth. The man affectionately known as "The Poker Brat" is equally as well-known for his tantrums at the tables, his sky-high self-confidence and belief, and his unorthodox playing style as he is for winning more than $26.1 million and a record 16 World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelets.

Hellmuth let his poker do the talking throughout 2021, with the exception of threatening to burn down the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino that is.

Is Phil Hellmuth the Best Poker Player of All Time?

Hellmuth Sweeps Negreanu in the High Stakes Duel

Phil Hellmuth
Phil Hellmuth sweeps Daniel Negreanu

Inaugural Big One for One Drop champion Antonio Esfandiari and Hellmuth squared off in the PokerGO High Stakes Duel towards the back end of 2020. Hellmuth ended up defeating "The Magician" in a best of three format and walked away as a $400,000 victor.

We were only four months into the current year when Hellmuth took on his friend and long-time poker foe Daniel Negreanu in a $100,000 heads-up No-Limit Hold’em match. It took six hours to crown the winner with Negreanu holding a four-to-one chip lead at one stage, much to the annoyance of The Poker Brat who let fly with a tirade of F-bombs. Hellmuth staged an epic comeback, but the match-up was that entertaining a rematch was always going to happen.


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And happen it did only a month after the first heads-up sit & go. Negreanu doubled his buy-in to $100,000 but the increased stakes did not work in his favor with Hellmuth again emerging victoriously. Hellmuth was now 5-0 in High Stakes Duel games, and was about to improve to a 6-0 record.

After sweeping Esfandiari 3-0 in High Stakes Duel I, Hellmuth did the exact same to Negreanu in High Stakes Duel II. There were far fewer expletives during this final clash, with Hellmuth even turning on the charm and complementing Negreanu by saying, "You played well, Daniel. I think you are one of the all-time greats."

New Challengers Take on the Champion

Now on something of a heater, Hellmuth welcomed new challengers for his High Stakes Duel crown. He faced off against Nick Wright in High Stakes Duel III Round 1, where he again came from behind to beat Wright and go 7-0 in the format.

Online poker cash game legend Tom "durrrr" Dwan was next in line. The pair clashed some 13 years earlier at the 2008 NBC Heads-Up Poker Championship. On that occasion, Dwan cracked Hellmuth’s aces to proceed. The very same thing happened in this match, slowplaying aces for his last five big blinds and losing to the nine-trey of Dwan, which turned two pair. Hellmuth challenged Dwan to a rematch, but there has been no date set for when it will take place.

Hellmuth Wins His 16th WSOP Bracelet

Phil Hellmuth
Phil Hellmuth wins his 16th WSOP bracelet

Say what you will about Hellmuth but there is no denying he knows his way around a WSOP tournament. The Wisconsin native has 15 gold WSOP bracelets going into the 2021 WSOP, only Doyle Brunson and Phil Ivey, with ten each, were anywhere close to matching Hellmuth’s total.

Hellmuth started the series like a man possessed, entering the biggest buy-in non-hold’em events as he went in search of his 16th WSOP bracelet. He had already reached three final tables in the $25,000 H.O.R.S.E. (6th), $10,000 Omaha Hi-Lo Championship (5th), and the $10,000 Seven Card Stud Championship (4th) by the time he entered Event #31: $1,500 No-Limit 2-7 Lowball Draw.


Top Stories of 2021, #5: Multiple WSOP Bracelet Winners


Three days later, Hellmuth found himself heads-up against Jake Schwartz for the title and that elusive 16th bracelet. Hellmuth defeated Schwartz to secure the bracelet he had always wanted to win.

“I’ve wanted a deuce-to-seven bracelet ever since the 1980’s because it was the coolest bracelet to win. It’s the one tournament that Chip, Doyle, and all the big named poker players showed up for. I’ve been fighting so hard for this bracelet for so long, and my game has gotten better and better. I’ve worked really hard at it and I know all these tricks because I’ve been playing since the eighties. It feels really good."

Phil Hellmuth's WSOP Bracelet Wins

YearEventPrize
1989$10,000 WSOP Main Event$755,000
1992Event #8: $5,000 Limit Hold'em$188,000
1993Event #7: $2,500 No-Limit Hold'em$173,000
1993Event #8: $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em$161,400
1993Event #9: $5,000 Limit Hold'em$138,000
1997Event #15: $3,000 Pot-Limit Hold'em$204,000
2001Event #3: $2,000 No-Limit Hold'em$316,550
2003Event #12: $2,500 Limit Hold'em$171,400
2003Event #32: $3,000 No-Limit Hold'em$410,860
2006Event #34: $1,000 No-Limit Hold'em$631,863
2007Event #15: $1,500 No Limit Hold'em$637,25
2012Event #18: $2,500 Seven Card Razz$182,793
2012WSOPE €10,000 Main Event€1,022,376 ($1,333,841)
2015Event #17: $10,000 Razz Championship$271,105
2018Event #71: $5,000 No Limit Hold’em$485,082
2021Event #31: $1,500 No-Limit 2-7 Lowball Draw$84,851

Hellmuth was far more composed at this final table than he had been at others earlier in the series, especially in the $10,000 Seven Card Stud where he "jokingly" threatened to burn down the casino. Hellmuth’s tirade in that event saw many players call for his disqualification.

Phil "Gandalf" Hellmuth Makes Grand Entrance in 2021 WSOP Main Event

$800K Profit and a New Final Table Record

The now 16-time WSOP bracelet winner was playing with even more confidence than ever before, and went on to reach a further three final tables, for a total of seven for the series.


Top Stories of 2021, #7: Return of Live Poker & Looking Ahead to 2022


He finished as runner-up to Adam Friedman in the $10,000 Dealers Choice Championship (Friedman won the event for the third straight year), eighth in the $10,000 Razz Championship, and second to Jeremy Ausmus in the $50,000 Pot-Limit Omaha High Roller.

Event #TournamentPlacePrize
2$25,000 H.O.R.S.E.6th$95,329
9$10,000 Omaha Hi Lo Championship5th$80,894
19$10,000 Seven Card Stud Championship4th$54,730
31$1,500 No-Limit 2-7 Lowball Draw1st$84,951
36$10,000 Dealers Choice Championship2nd$153,493
78$10,000 Razz Championship8th$31,411
84$50,000 Pot-Limit Omaha High Roller2nd$734,807

Hellmuth’s seven final tables broke the 28-year record of An Tran, who final tabled six events in 1993.

Negreanu is well-known for publishing his results regardless of he wins a bunch or endures a losing year. Hellmuth is more reserved on that front, but was obviously proud of his 2021 WSOP achievements because he tweeted a computer print-out of his WSOP events.

In total, Hellmuth entered 34 events, including the $1,979 Hall of Fame tournament that he never played a hand in because he was deep in the Razz Championship. Of those 34 entries, Hellmuth cashed in ten, reached the final table of seven, and won one. He earned $1,248,860, spent $448,379 on tournament fees, for an $800,481 profit.

The Poker Brat may have been grinding WSOP events since 1988, but he still has the skills to pay the bills judging on his incredible 2021 showing.

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