Possessing a Tight Image the Essential to Phil Hellmuth’s Achievement (Op-Ed)
5 Min read
Phil Hellmuth plays too tight to win heads-up. He limps buttons and folds also numerous pairs, both poor plays in this format of poker. Or, at least that’s what pros such as Daniel Negreanu, Doug Polk, and other individuals say. But are they basically underestimating the “Poker Brat’s” game?
Hellmuth defeated Negreanu for the third consecutive time Wednesday on PokerGO’s High Stakes Duel II show. In doing so, he wrapped up his sixth win in as a lot of matches on the heads-up poker show — the 1st three have been against Antonio Esfandiari in 2020. The WSOP bracelet record holder will quickly face Tom “durrrr” Dwan in what must be a an epic battle of legendary pros.
In total, Hellmuth has 15 WSOP bracelets, more than $24 million in live tournament cashes, a 2005 NBC Heads-Up Poker Championship title (runner-up finish to Mike Matusow in 2013), and now six straight wins on Higher Stakes Duel. Regardless of that impeccable resume, several inside the poker community, largely younger pros, repeatedly criticize his game. In 2020, poker podcaster Joey Ingram known as Hellmuth “one of the most underrated poker players of all-time,” which is wild to feel it could be feasible thinking about the aforementioned resume full of outstanding benefits.
Phil Galfond praised the Poker Hall of Famer’s game in October following getting watched his match against Esfandiari. In undertaking so, the Run it After poker site founder took some heat from higher rollers such as Olivier Busquet and Fedor Holz for having the audacity to compliment the “Poker Brat.”
“I feel he’s a clear losing player in tougher lineups and mostly plays a style that exploits vs. tighter weaker opponents,” Holz wrote in response to Galfond’s tweet.
But that claim is not completely correct as the current results recommend. Negreanu and Esfandiari are far from “tighter” players, but Hellmuth was in a position to exploit them with well-timed enormous bluffs. The Poker Hall of Famer has a tight image amongst the prime pros, partly due to his style of play.
Arsenal of Bluffs
He doesn’t play a conventional heads-up style, frequently limping buttons and producing unusual folds in conditions that solvers would virtually assuredly disagree with. In a single pot on Wednesday, he limped pre-flop on the button with A-J suited, and then folded to a four-raise of four occasions the huge blind (Negreanu had A-Q). The play confused PokerGO commentators Ali Nejad and Maria Ho, and probably most watching the match at residence.
There’s clearly a technique to his madness, nevertheless. You do not win 15 WSOP bracelets on accident, or twice operate your way to the finals of a 64-player heads-up tournament, and then dump two achieved pros (Negreanu, Esfandiari) heads-up in six straight matches on accident. He won those matches by pulling off some of the most impressive bluffs you’ll see all year on PokerGO, a poker app that televises several of the toughest higher roller events.
In Round 2 against Negreanu, on the second to final hand, he put his whole stack on the line with 10-high on the river (missed flush draw). If his opponent had named with a pair of nines, the match would have been more than. Rather, he folded and Hellmuth took down the greatest pot of the day on a stone-cold bluff.
Last night, he fired out several three-bets pre-flop with marginal hands such as J-five off-suit and Q-3 off-suit, and he played a 45,000 chip pot (much more than 10% of all chips in play) with pocket 3’s on an A-K-9 board. On best of that, the “Poker Brat” pulled off numerous crucial bluffs, taking down a number of sizable pots with squadoosh.
In the first match against Esfandiari, Hellmuth forced his opponent off trips with a tiny pair. He verify-raised Esfandiari on the river, risking most of his stack and leaving himself in almost a 10-1 hole if he got known as.
The bluff got through, nevertheless, and it place Hellmuth in a position to come from behind to at some point win the match. That is been the common theme of his six High Stakes Duel victories — a essential bluff (or two) that gets through to scoop a enormous pot. Does that sound like the style of play from an overly tight player?
Doesn’t Occur by Accident
Hellmuth tends to make unconventional plays that would quick circuit a GTO robot. But he continually utilizes his tight image to pull off quite a few impressive bluffs. He did so against Esfandiari and Negreanu, and he’s utilised the bluff to his advantage for the duration of his 15 World Series of Poker title runs.
Some may argue that High Stakes Duel is a sit-n-go format, which implies variance is the biggest contributing aspect. In fact, Doug Polk mentioned as significantly to CardsChat News final month. But at what point do we cease attributing luck to Hellmuth’s wins?
He’s been extremely profitable in this heads-up format for years, getting won six straight on Higher Stakes Duel, six straight at the 2005 NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship, and five of six matches in the 2013 NBC tournament. Moreover, he beat Polk and Dan “Jungleman” Cates back-to-back in 2017 on Poker Night in America in a related sit-n-go heads-up format.
Get in touch with it a small sample size or downplay the talent involved in the Higher Stakes Duel matches (players start off 500 massive blinds deep) all you want. But there’s clearly a method to Hellmuth’s madness in these matches, and that is to use his tight table image to his benefit. These enormous bluffs he’s gotten by way of look to operate nearly each and every time, and that can’t be just a coincidence. Possibly “white magic” is not just a silly meme. The results seem to recommend there’s much more to it.