Phil Hellmuth Heads to WPT Legends Final Table with New Tactic

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Phil Hellmuth is back at a World Poker Tour final table for the first time since 2010. (WPT photos/Joe Giron)

It’s been over seven years since Phil Hellmuth last appeared at a World Poker Tour TV final table. His bustout from the 2010 Bay 101 Shooting Star event became one of those Phil Hellmuth moments that everybody remembers.

“I kind of blew that one,” said Hellmuth, who, despite all of his other success in poker, has never won a WPT title.

On Thursday, Hellmuth makes his long-awaited return to WPT TV when he brings the third biggest stack to the WPT Legends of Poker final table. He’s promising not to blow this one.

I’m thinking that the only thing that could stop me (Thursday) is either a super bad beat or I just get fatigued,” said Hellmuth. The 14-time WSOP bracelet winner admits that as he’s gotten older he’s recognized the long days at the table can wear on him and leave him fatigued. He’s got a strategy to deal with that though. It’s not White Magic though. It’s much simpler than that.

Naps.

“(The other players) fought for a 15 minute break. I went upstairs and took a nap,” said Hellmuth, who turned 53 in July. “That’s what I’m going to have to do the rest of my life. I’m older now. I have to take more naps and keep myself fresh. I swear to God, if we’re in the middle of the final table and somehow I get fatigued, I will leave for 15 minutes, rush up to my room or 20 minutes or half an hour and take a nap and ante off, because it’s worth it.”

Throughout the last three days of the Legends of Poker, Hellmuth has had the poker community buzzing a couple of times with unorthodox laydowns – the very type of thing that Hellmuth has developed a reputation for over the last ten years his career.

Late on Day 3, Hellmuth made a fold against chip leader Oddie Dardon that left his tablemates, and those following at home, shaking their heads. With the board showing 9s8dTh5h9d, Hellmuth bet 83,000. Dardon raised to 275,000, sending Hellmuth into the tank. After using two time banks, Hellmuth folded 9h7h face up. Dardon happily showed KdJc for a bluff.

For Hellmuth’s detractors – and even his fans – that was just the appetizer though. The main course and dessert came on Day 4.

Early on Day 4, Dardon and Hellmuth clashed again. After a flop of Kh9c4c, Dardon checked, Hellmuth bet 150,000, Adam Swan folded and Dardon called. The turn was the 5s and Dardon check-called Hellmuth’s bet of 350,000. The river was the Kd and Dardon used two time chips before moving all in. Hellmuth used up three time chips before folding KsQh face up. Dardon showed just the Qc. The best hand Dardon could have had would have resulted in a chopped pot.

“I felt in my mind like he could have king-queen of clubs, which I tied, king-jack of clubs, he could have queen-ten of clubs or queen-jack of clubs, which I have crushed,” said Hellmuth. “But I just didn’t think any sane person would put that much money into not having a full house. But I’m not sure how sane he was.”

A few hours later, with seven players remaining and the televised final table within reach for Hellmuth, he again made another face-up fold that most players simply couldn’t – or wouldn’t – make.

Art Papazyan opened to 130,000, Hellmuth raised to 250,000 from the button. Action folded back to Papazyan and he moved all in. Hellmuth folded QcQd face up. Papazyan happily showed the table – including Hellmuth – the 4d. A Poker Brat moment ensued, but afterwards he admitted that making the TV final table impacted his thinking.

“Yes, I can call 1.6 million here, or I can guarantee myself top six and maybe run into two or three million without ever taking any risk,” said Hellmuth. “I fold hands nobody else folds and a lot of times, a lot of times I’m wrong, in one sense – but I’m never all in.”