2006 World Series of Poker
Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino – Las Vegas
Official Results and Report
No-Limit Hold’em with Rebuys
Number of Entries: 754
Number of Rebuys: 1,691
Total Prize Money: $2,340,238
A Perfect “Ten”
Phil Hellmuth, Jr. Makes Poker History with Record-Tying Tenth Gold Bracelet
With victory, 1989 world champion joins illustrious ranks of Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan in all-time WSOP wins
Las Vegas, NV –Every World Series of Poker tournament has a special moment or two. This one had a dozen special moments that will linger on in the minds of everyone lucky enough to have been at the Rio on the night of July 25, 2006. Phil Hellmuth, Jr. finally broke down the barricade that had separated him from winning an elusive tenth World Series of Poker gold bracelet and sky rocketed to the top of the poker pyramid.
Money, fame, and glory are but a fickle reminiscence of what has already come and more often gone. But what captivates us most are -- the memories. Pick your favorite unforgettable moment: Before the start of the final table, Hellmuth warmly embracing his wife in the middle of the tournament floor for what seemed like minutes, oblivious to hundreds of onlookers; During a break, Hellmuth, the ticking human time-bomb, pacing the tournament hallways in isolation; Hellmuth catching a lucky life-saving card at a key moment to stay alive on his quest for win Number Ten; Hellmuth falling into his proud parents’ arms immediately after achieving victory; Hellmuth being mobbed by fellow poker pros Mike Matusow and John Bonetti; Hellmuth high-fiving the entire front row of the grandstand as he took a well-deserved victory lap; Hellmuth being an ultimate class-act by congratulating the runner-up Juha Helppi in a post-tournament celebration; and perhaps the greatest moment of all – Hellmuth himself officially being christened as a ten-time gold bracelet winner by WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack. Indeed, if Hellmuth’s poker triumph is ever to be set to music, it would take a symphony orchestra to provide the full sense of spectacle and historical relevance of the triumph. Beetoven may be famous for his Ninth. But Hellmuth will be celebrated for his Tenth.
The No-Limit Hold’em with Rebuys championship was played over a three-day period. There were 754 entries and 1,691 rebuys -- including a record “48” by Daniel Negreanu, believed to be the most of any major tournament in history. Negreanu’s heavy investment failed to pay off as he finished out of the money. It took two long days to eliminate Negreanu along with 745 players. The nine finalists returned to the Rio poker stage on Day Three. The final table consisted of several players with high-stakes experience, but only two former gold bracelet winners – Phil Hellmuth, Jr. with nine wins (coming in) and Ralph Perry, who won his first-ever gold bracelet last week. All eyes were on the combustible Hellmuth, who was making his sixth cash this year and third final table appearance. Alas, the third time would prove to be a charm.
Hellmuth, the early chip leader, lost 15 percent of his chips on the first hand of play. Then, Antanas Guoga (a.k.a. “Tony G”) lost 100 percent of his chips as the shortest stack. The Lithuanian-born poker pro, who won the European Poker Championship in 2005, busted out ninth and received $46,805.
This has been a fabulous week for Ralph Perry. The Russian-born poker pro won a WSOP gold bracelet just five days ago and was sitting at the final table competing for win Number Two. Perry’s dream of joining Bill Chen and Jeff Madsen as two-time winners in 2006 was shattered when his pocket nines were stomped by Phil Hellmuth’s pocket jacks. Perry added another $70,207 to his World Series winnings.
David Plastik is a extraordinary player who has been around for years. However, he has yet to win at the WSOP. Plastik, now with 21 lifetime cashes, came up short for the 21st time with a seventh-place finish. This time, pocket jacks were no good as Plastik’s J-J was battered by Hellmuth’s pocket aces. Plastik melted away and received $93,610.
Elio Cabrera has an interesting story. The Cuban-born poker player now living in Florida was making his first cash at the WSOP and was playing on poker’s grandest stage. Cabrera managed to survive with a short-stack for over two hours, but was ultimately knocked out when his straight was rivered by Phil Hellmuth’s diamond flush. Cabrera collected $117,012.
Terris Preston was the next player to go out. The Canadian moved all-in on a flush draw, but missed. Preston, an investment advisor from Toronto (13th in the Short-Handed championship held two weeks ago) earned $140,414 for fifth place.
Two more hours passed before “The Marble King” hit a wall of stone. John Spadavecchia, who made his fortune selling marble for homes of the rich and famous in south Florida, was severely short-stacked. He went out in fourth place. The silk-shirted, gold chain festooned Spadavecchia, so eloquently described by British author Tony Holden as “looking as though he stepped right off the set of ‘Goodfellas,” was whacked as the fourth-place finisher. Spadavecchia’s take amounted to $163,817.
Daryn Firicano could very well have been the headline of this event. He played remarkable poker over three days. In fact, Firicano had the chip lead when play was three-handed before taking a fall. The 25-year-old Boston poker pro gave both of his opponents a scare before ultimately busting out in third place, which paid $187,219.
Great final tables require monumental gladiators. This one had at least two. Juha Helppi, who has emerged within just three years as one of the world best tournament players, has won just about everything except a WSOP bracelet. Sitting on the opposite end of the table was Phil Hellmuth, the nine-time gold bracelet winner and captivating character study of all that makes poker so compelling to watch.
Hellmuth had already made it to two final tables this year. Both times, he came up short. The first setback came when the largest gallery in WSOP history left stunned after seeing Hellmuth finish second to Jeff Cabanillas. A week later, in the Omaha High-Low championship, Hellmuth finished a disappointing sixth.
But this time, Hellmuth would get the intangible breaks that had shattered him in the past. One of the most dramatic hands of the entire year took place when Hellmuth was dealt pocket fives and flopped a five – making a set. The trouble was – there were three diamonds on board. An amazing turn of events ensued when a fourth diamond fell on the turn, to match Helppi’s lone fifth diamond. Helppi, holding a flush, was one blank on the river away from winning his first WSOP title. But the board paired on the final card and Hellmuth made a full house.
The look of anguish on Hellpi’s face afterward was worth a thousand words. Picture getting hit in the stomach with a sledgehammer. Hellpi could not believe his eyes and could not disregard the crowd’s roar for Hellmuth. If there was a turning point, this was it.
A short time later, Hellmuth regained the chip lead when he called Hellpi’s all-in raise holding pocket kings. Hellpi tabled an ace-ten. An ace failed to appear for Hellpi, which only added to the proverbial prairie fire that would engulf the final table and result in Hellmuth’s explosive victory.
The final hand of the tournament came when Hellmuth (with ace-jack) called Hellpi (with ace-nine) after the Finn made an all-in pre-flop re-raise. Neither player made a pair, so the ace-jack played and Hellmuth won the championship. That set off a half-hour celebration that rocked the Rio tournament area to its core.
Lost in the great storyline that was Hellmuth’s victory was the supporting cast, led by Juha Hellpi. The Finnish poker pro, who has won more money in Europe than any other player over the last three years, collected $331,144 for second place.
As the boisterous crowd flooded onto the stage and began to chant, “Ten! Ten! Ten!” in unison, Hellmuth basked in the glow of what was perhaps his most satisfying poker victory. The 1989 WSOP certainly came to define Phil Hellmuth as a world champion. But wining gold bracelet Number Ten now establishes Hellmuth as a bona fide living legend.
With the victory, his first at the World Series in over two years, Hellmuth joined his fellow poker legends Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan, who have already won ten gold bracelets each. Brunson and Chan both won their tenth titles last year, leaving Hellmuth behind to simmer over the last 13 months. Now, the three-way race to win gold bracelet Number Eleven is on.
“I honestly would have paid a million dollars for this moment,” Hellmuth told a cheering crowd afterward. “I know it’s my time. I don’t play this well every World Series…this year is my time. I’m maybe the best hold’em player in the world, at the top of my game and I felt it would be a shame if I didn’t win the bracelet. Nothing else matters from here, but I do anticipate a successful run in the championship event (next week). I really feel like I can win it.”
Anyone who still doubts that this poker victory meant everything to Phil Hellmuth, Jr. would be advised to reflect upon his final question whispered in the most straightforward manner possible to the Tournament Director as he walked away from the Rio poker stage. “So, how much money did I win?” Hellmuth asked.
by Nolan Dalla
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