A Victory for White Magic as Phil Hellmuth Wins His 17th WSOP Bracelet 

  • With 642 entries, it was the largest-ever $10,000 Super Turbo Bounty NLH event by 53%
  • Hellmuth has both the most total bracelets (17) and NLH Hold’em bracelets (10) in WSOP history
  • The all-time WSOP great needed his short-stack strategy, starting the final table with 13 big blinds
  • Hellmuth defeated Justin Zaki heads-up, winning $803,818 plus bounties
2023 WSOP Bracelet
Phil Hellmuth did it again, winning his record-extending 17th World Series of Poker gold bracelet. [Image: PokerGO.com]

White Magic

“Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
~ Roald Dahl

The inimitable Phil Hellmuth has done it again. Against a tough field in a high variance format, poker’s most famous exponent of “white magic” pulled off a record-extending 17th victory at the World Series of Poker in the $10,000 Super Turbo Bounty No-Limit Hold’em event. It is also his record-extending 10th win in WSOP No-Limit Hold’em events.

It was a bish, bash, bosh day at the felt for the self-styled “Poker Brat” in this rapid fire tournament as he at times cockroached and at other times bludgeoned his way through the 642-entrant field. That attendance was noteworthy, too, as it shattered the tournament’s previous record of 419 players.

his relevance as a force in the modern game is once again indubitable

Hellmuth has been astonishingly consistent at the WSOP since his breakout victory in the Main Event in 1989. He won five bracelets in the 1990s, five in the 2000s, four in the 2010s and now two in the 2020s. Occasionally maligned by his peers, he revels in proving his detractors wrong and with this result, his relevance as a force in the modern game is once again indubitable.

Short stack magic

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
~ W.B. Yeats

Hellmuth’s approach to short-stack play has always been somewhat “non-standard” as over the years, he went against the prevailing poker winds which advocated a clunkier all-in or fold approach to stacks of a certain shallowness. Modern solvers have actually proven sound many of his once thought to be unorthodox lines. There is also reason to believe that he understands the exploitative side of the game as it pertains to how people react to his presence at their table.

Hellmuth’s short-stack game was tested throughout yesterday’s tournament and, in particular, at a final table that included ten-time bracelet winner Phil Ivey. Hellmuth was in the middle of the pack with just 13 big blinds and an uphill climb before him as L.A. player Chris Savage sat with 66 big blinds, 40% of the chips in play.

Phil Ivey was eliminated in 6th place when he ran his King-Ten into Hellmuth’s pocket Aces. Then, having run pure up to that point, things went quickly south for Savage, who lost a series of pots before being eliminated with pocket Kings against Queen-Nine in an all-in pre-flop battle of the blinds. Brazilian pro Kelvin Kerber and German beast Tom Kunze bowed out in 4th and 3rd, respectively, leaving Justin Zaki to battle it out with Hellmuth for the $803,818 first prize and that all important piece of wrist candy.

A magic moment

“Magic persists without us no matter what we may do to try to spoil it.”
~ Charles Bukowski

On the very first hand of heads-up play, Zaki limped in with 7♠️6♠️ and Phil Hellmuth checked his option with 8♣️4♥️. The flop came K♣️8♠️4♠️ and Hellmuth led out, inducing the shove from Zaki, which he snapped off.

The cards went on their backs and it was Zaki at risk. His gut-shot straight flush draw meant he needed a five or spade to take the lead, but it was Hellmuth who hit the turn with the dealer producing the 4♦️. “Yes!” yelled a triumphant Helmuth, knowing he had to just fade one out” “Ok, no five of spades!”

The river came the K♠️ and Hellmuth punched the air in delight before running a brief victory lap of with his arms aloft, a magic moment savored by the small rail who had congregated despite the late hour.

Moments later, Hellmuth posted confirmation of the result to social media.

Almost like magic

“Magic happens when you do not give up, even though you want to. The universe always falls in love with a stubborn heart.”
~ J.M. Storm

The day had begun with another white magic disciple on a final table as Ireland’s winningest player Andy Black took his seat on the $1,000 Super Turbo Bounty event final table. Black is famously a believer in the same wizardly arts, likening them to a heightened awareness and receptiveness that helps with execution and with the interpersonal specifics of live poker.

Black was ultimately very unfortunate three-handed when he lost with Ace-King to King-Jack all-in pre-flop for the vast majority of the chips in play. As he was exiting the arena with a handsome $105,337 payday, the “white magic” torch was passed to Hellmuth, for whom the WSOP had been a frustrating experience so far this year.

After a valiant effort in the $10,000 HORSE tournament less than a week ago, the occasionally prophetic Hellmuth called his shot:

With the likely-to-be record-breaking WSOP Main Event just around the corner and Hellmuth still approaching life with his trademark “positivity,” the Breinfuel-fueled white magician will be hoping to fully manifest what he put out into the universe. After all, what is positivity if not hope and hope can be a powerful force. Even if there’s no such thing as magic, when you know what you hope for most, keeping it like a light within you, you can sometimes make things happen, almost like magic.

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