Phil Hellmuth once again failed at the death to win his first WSOP bracelet since 2007, when finishing second to Brian Rast in the Poker Player´s Championship (Event 55) at the 42nd World Series of Poker (WSOP).
Rast overcame a major chip deficit in a Heads Up session that Hellmuth had totally dominated, with a series of incredible double-ups in an electrifying burst of play in front of a packed Amazon Room.
Rast, who also won a WSOP Pot Limit Hold´em bracelet at the beginning of June, was at one stage looking at a 5:1 chip deficit against Hellmuth. But in only 20 minutes of play, he doubled up three times and then crushed Hellmuth when hitting a straight on the flop. Rast collected $1,720,328 for his victory, while Hellmuth settled for second place for the third time in this series and $1,063,034 – incredibly, Hellmuth´s first ever seven figure pay day.
Day 5 Begins …
It was always going to be a difficult day for the nine players that remained in the championship. After a physically gruelling and emotionally exhausting Day 4 (which went on until 5.40am), the final day was always going to be about who was mentally the strongest as much as who was the best poker player. Not surprisingly, the players who extended their stay the longest at the final table where those with the greatest experience.
Jason Lester was the first to go after 30 minutes. We thought that Jason would shine in the NLHE climax – if he got that far – but the table was still playing 8 Game Mix (Limit Hold´em) when his A♥ K♦ was spiked on the turn by Minh Ly´s A♦ 8♠, finding a pair and sending Jason to the rail. Ben Lamb was the next to depart in the 14th hand of the finale. His A♦ 2♠ was dominated by Scott Seiver´s A♥ J♠, although Seiver himself was soon eliminated when his pocket eights ran into the aces of Brian Rast.
Meanwhile Phil Hellmuth was developing a major chip lead. In one dramatic hand he had risked his tournament life with J♣ J♠ against Brian Rast´s 7♦ 5♦. The flop came down Q♦ J♦ 5♠, giving Rast nine outs against Hellmuth´s set. The 7♥ on the turn and 7♣ on the river also gave Rast a set, but Hellmuth took the hand with a boat and ran over to his wife on the rail practically in tears.
Eliminations followed at a regular – almost hourly – pace thereafter, with George Lind finishing in sixth, Matt Glantz fifth, and Owais Ahmed in fourth. Just before Owais Ahmed´s departure, Brian Rast had taken the chip advantage away from Hellmuth by doubling up through Minh Ly, and as the final three players sat back down to battle out the final stages, the chip count looked like this:-
- Brian Rast – 8,925,000
- Phil Hellmuth – 8,120,000
- Minh Ly – 2,155,000
Into the Heads Up
Ly was the first to crack, the diminutive man shoving his diminishing stack into the middle when holding K♣ 5♣. Phil Hellmuth went on a long walk before deciding to call with his A♦ 6♦. The full house were on their feet as the flop revealed 9♠ 7♠ 6♥ – Giving Phil a pair and Ly the opportunity of a gutshot straight. The atmosphere intensified as the 5♦ appeared on the turn, but the river card – 3♠ – could not give Ly his second pair and he was eliminated in third.
That win gave Phil Hellmuth a slight chip advantage against Brian Rast, and the 11 times WSOP Bracelet winner chipped away at Rast´s stack – including one major pot where Rast was not prepared to risk his tournament life on a 6 million chip pot. As his chip advantage extended to 16.3 million v 2.9 million, it seemed like it was only a question of time before Hellmuth would win his first bracelet in four years.
The Comeback of All Comebacks
Somehow Rast turned it all round in an amazing period of play. First, his A♦ K♥ held off Hellmuth´s 9♥ 6♥ and, three hands later, his K♠ found two fellow kings on the board to give him trips. Within two further hands Brian Rast was level. Holding Q♠ 4♠, Rast called Hellmuth´s raise on a K♦ 4♣ 2♠ flop and checked through the 3♠ turn card. The river produced a J♠, on which Rast bet 400,000 with his spade flush and Hellmuth called – and lost.
In just two hands more it was all over. Hellmuth, holding 8♦ 2♦ moved all-in on a J♦ 9♦ T♠ flop. Rast called with K♣ Q♣ and, without a diamond on the turn or river to save Hellmuth´s life, Rast had become the Poker Player´s Champion.
Phil Hellmuth has the consolation that his third second place finish in the 42nd Annual World series of Poker will put him firmly on top of the Player of the Year leaderboard but, for now, the congratulations go to Brian Rast.