American superstar Phil Hellmuth again fell just one place short in his attempt to pick up a record-breaking 12th World Series of Poker (WSOP) gold bracelet with his third runner-up spot of this summer’s series in the $50,000 Poker Players’ Championship in Las Vegas.
The 46-year-old from Wisconsin was beaten in heads-up play by fellow American Brian Rast to leave with a third second place – and $1,063,034 for his first seven-figure score – at this summer’s WSOP following his runner-up spots in the $10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi-Low Split-8 or Better Championship and the $10,000 2-7 Draw Lowball Championship (No-Limit).
Still, that’s $1,563,174 earned by The Poker Brat from those second places to take him to a series total of $1,591,004 from five cash finishes. Not that Hellmuth will be too happy – it’s all about securing that 12th bracelet at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino to him.
Hellmuth had outlasted 126 other entrants before getting to heads-up play with the Vegas-based Rast, but couldn’t quite get over the finish line in event #55 that possessed a prize pool of $6,144,000.
The Poker Players’ Championship is undoubtedly a severe test of any poker player’s all-round skills as it combines rounds of Limit Hold’em, Omaha Hi-Low Split-8 or Better, Seven-Card Razz, Seven-Card Stud, Seven-Card Stud Hi-Low Split-8 or Better, No-Limit Hold’em, Pot-Limit Omaha, and 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball.
But Hellmuth is now left with just one more opportunity this summer to secure that historic 12th bracelet as the $10,000 No-Limit Hold’em Championship main event kicks off today for the first of four day one sessions.
Having outlasted Vietnam’s Minh Ly (third for $665,763), who had started the day as chip leader, as well as fellow Americans Owais Ahmed (fourth for $482,058), Matt Glantz (fifth for $376,750), George Lind (sixth for $300,441), Scott Seiver (seventh for $243,978), Ben Lamb (eighth for $201,338) and Jason Lester (ninth for $168,529) to get to a heads-up clash with Rast, Hellmuth just couldn’t find a way to defeat the 29-year-old.
Rast was, in fact, collecting his second WSOP bracelet this summer following his success in the $1,500 Pot-Limit Hold’em event for $227,232. But the $1,720,328 he collected last night will surely be the highlight of his burgeoning poker career that began back in 2003 after he dropped out of Stanford University to go full-time.
The final two hands – in No-Limit Hold’em – of their heads-up clash were thrilling as the likes of Sorel Mizzi, Dan Fleyshman, Andrew Robl, Dan Bilzerian and Antonio Esfandiari sat alongside Rast’s parents.
Mike Carroll, Tom Dwan, Mike Matusow and Jean-Robert Bellande were also sitting close by as The Thunderdome was packed to see the outcome of this battle.
Rast had moved to chip leader on 10,455,000 while Hellmuth held 8,745,000 as hand #216 arrived. Just having Rast ahead seemed unlikely a short while before as Hellmuth had sat on 15,970,000 compared to his opponent’s 3,230,000.
Hand #216 saw Rast, on the button, raise to 240,000 and Hellmuth call. The flop came Q♠-7♥-8♥ and Hellmuth led out for 300,000. Rast called.
The 4♣ arrived on the turn and both players checked. The river was the 4♦ and Hellmuth led out for 300,000 for Rast to fold.
But hand #217 saw the conclusion of this epic battle as Hellmuth, on the button, raised to 400,000 for Rast to call. The dealer fanned out J♦ 9♦ 10♠ on the flop and Rast led out with 500,000, only for Hellmuth to move all-in.
Rast got out of his chair to declare: “I’m sorry Phil, I have the nuts – I call” and showed his K♣ Q♣ for a made straight.
Hellmuth held 8♦ 2♦ to have a flush draw and, although a red card arrived on the turn, it was the 5♥ to change nothing. The dealer prepared to show the river, but Hellmuth was unable to look while Rast had placed his head in his hands as an eerie silence fell on the room.
The 8♠ finished the board to end the tournament as Rast’s supporters flooded the stage, jumping about in celebration.
Once things had calmed down somewhat, Hellmuth shook hands with Rast, before suggesting that the winner should “tip that dealer a million”.
Incredibly, this is Hellmuth’s biggest every pay day at the WSOP, with his $1,063,034. Although he has won 11 WSOP gold bracelets, Hellmuth’s largest cash before last night had been the $755,000 he earned for taking the 1989 main event.
Three of his other cashes totalled over half-a-million, with $637,254 picked up for his $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em success in 2007, $631,863 for winning the 2006 $1,000 No-Limit Hold’em bracelet event, and the $500,000 he received for winning the NBC National Heads-Up Championship back in 2005.
Final placings and payouts from the WSOP 2011 $50,000 Poker Player’s’ Championship:
1. Brian Rast (USA) – $1,720,328
2. Phil Hellmuth (USA) – $1,063,034
3. Minh Ly (Vietnam) – $665,763
4. Owais Ahmed (USA) – $482,058
5. Matt Glantz (USA) – $376,750
6. George Lind (USA) – $300,441
7. Scott Seiver (USA) – $243,978
8. Ben Lamb (USA) – $201,338
9. Jason Lester (USA) – $168,529
10. Vladimir Shchemelev (Russia) – $168,529