Saturday, August 1, 2015

Phil Helmuth has a blindspot

I was just reading about the WSOP National Championship on the WSOP web site. This tournament is composed of players who have won a ring at the WSOP circuit main events in the previous year or were high in various player of the year rankings. They are also now allowing players to buy in directly for $10,000.

Loni Harwood is a favorite of mine, and I was pleased to see she won this event for her second bracelet. I was in New Orleans in 2012 when she won her first ring see here. I congratulated her and was impressed in that she was nice to a nobody like me. Some players aren't like that.

While reading the National Championship report, I ran across this:

It was no surprise to see numerous bracelet winners in this tough field, including the record holder for most career WSOP bracelets. Phil Hellmuth bought into this event, taking his seat just after dinner on Day 1. His stay was short lived, however, as he busted out just about two hours later.

Phil Hellmuth is a smart player, but I think he does one thing which is completely dumb. He likes to make his entrance into a tourament well after its start. His thinking, I believe, is that the pots aren't that big until after antes kick in. He calls it entering "fashionably late."

First of all, pots indeed can be big during the early portion. I've seem players spew off tons of chips with marginal hands. The flop is A 8 5, and they have big slick. They bet the flop, bet the turn and get raised and call. Then they call a big bet on the river and act surprised when the other player shows them a set of 8s.

The main thing, however, you give up when you enter late is watching the players at your table. How they bet, how they handle their chips, what cards they show in what situations, etc. There is a gold mine of information out there that Phil Hellmuth misses.

I don't get it.


  1. I've never quite understood it either. Just a little too much ego, I guess.

  2. Generally I think it's a mistake, too. Some other big name players used to do this, but many of them have come to the same conclusion as you Memphis; there's gold in the reads you pick up during those early blind rounds. Some tournaments are even starting to forbid late arrivals.

    Personally, I think PH does this primarily for the attention it shines on him. Look, it's Hellmuth coming in! Oooh. Oooh. The man has an ego the size of... well, himself.

  3. Some people have blind spots.

    But...having a bracelet doth not an important person make. Bracelet-less folks are just as important or maybe even more so than those dangling bracelets from their wrists! :)

  4. I hate coming in late to a tournament. I want to start the tournament with as many big blinds as possible.

    So I would tend to agree with you.

    But then, I think about Phil Jackson, former head coach of the Lakers and the Bulls. As a huge NBA fan, as a huge Lakers fan, I watched many a game that he coached where I was completely baffled by moves he would make during the games. And some of his post and pre-game comments would baffle me more. And I've always fancied myself as quite knowledgeable about the game.

    But then I would look at Phil Jackson's fingers (figuratively). When he retired, he had one less finger than he had NBA championship rings. More than anyone else in the history of the NBA.

    So I figured he might just know what the hell he was doing.

    I look at Helmuth's WSOP bracelets and see he has more than anyone else on the planet.


  5. I agree that the best way to be successful in a tournament is to start from the beginning and have the highest amount of chips to blinds. However, many of the pros look at the situation as a return on investment and how much their time is woth. They make much more money playing cash than they do in the early stages of a tournament and that is why they skip the early levels.

    Hellmuth is different though. I think it is all ego/image based.


  6. Great points. I see it happening a lot among the poker celebs - and I never understood their thought process either... it's like they're saying they're "too good" to be bothered getting in as many hands as possible...

  7. I think the argument for entering early is a rather easy one to make, so I'll go the other way.

    The most obvious answer was already mentioned, that it's a matter of return for time spent. If entering late allows them to squeeze in more hands in high stakes cash games the night before, then it just makes sense.

    One other thing is that Hellmuth's game is very unique. It is almost entirely read-based "at the moment", and that takes a lot of energy and concentration. He's not a math/odds guy. So he's on autopilot less than a lot of other players, and if the pots aren't big enough, it's not worth the energy expenditure. A large part of what makes him successful is not being the guy with the pocket 8s in your scenario milking some other guy, it's being the guy with the AK and hero-folding early enough in the hand.

  8. ive looked online for someone with similar ability and can not find much of anything, maby just not looking hard enough or wrong name for it. but, ever since i was young i can remember learning about blindspots and that there was a particular spot on your eye that was the blind spot.

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