The excitement was almost palpable in the Amazon Room on Tuesday afternoon. Four events (the first day of both the $1500 No Limit Hold 'Em and the two day $5000 Deuce to Seven Lowball with rebuys and day two of the $1000 Seven Card Hi-Lo and the $1500 Limit Hold 'Em Shootout) were all on the agenda, but the attention of the crowd was definitely centered on the main stage at the World Series on this day, which would bring us the final table of the $1000 (with rebuys) No-Limit Hold 'Em event.
734 players came to the line two days ago and the final table was as talent laden as you will see in a big tournament. Not only were there quality players from around the world present at the table, there was also one big name looking to make some history. The gentlemen who made up the table came to the felt in these positions:
Seat 1: Top professional Rafael "Ralph" Perry, 235K
Seat 2: Online player Terris Preston, 164K
Seat 3: Team PokerNews captain Tony G, short stacked at 77K
Seat 4: WSOP Circuit event champion John Spadavecchia, 122K
Seat 5: Elio Cabrera, 95K
Seat 6: Professional David "C4" Plastik, 121K
Seat 7: Finnish professional Juha Helppi, 436K
Seat 8: Chip leader Phil Hellmuth, 768K
Seat 9: Daryn Firicano, 450K
Of course, Hellmuth was here to complete his quest for his tenth bracelet. Out of the two other final tables he has made at the World Series, this seemed to be his best shot as he came in with the substantial chip lead. There was a wealth of talent that he would have to go through, however, as the event played out.
After the players burned off the rest of the twenty seven odd minutes left in the round from the night before, they took a ten minute break before the blinds went up to 6K/12K with a 2K ante. Once the table was reassembled, there was one player missing in the form of Ralph Perry. Perry did make it back to the table, but not until he had missed the small blind that he would have had. He complained some that he thought it was a full fifteen minute break but apparently didn't hear the tournament director's statement that it would only be a ten minute one (he was wearing earplugs). While this seems mild, it was a signal of some things to come at the final table.
Tony G came to the final table with the short stack and attempted to make a move on a couple of occasions by moving all in and not getting any action. On Hand 18, he made the move again from the cutoff position and this time got a caller out of the small blind in Elio Cabrera. From the start, it didn't look good for Tony; his attempted steal with Q-2 was thwarted by Cabrera's A-10 and, once the board came up empty for both, Tony G was out of the final table in ninth place.
As the action continued, Ralph Perry and Phil Hellmuth jawed at each other regarding Hellmuth's displaying of cards at the table. The floor informed Perry that Hellmuth had been warned regarding this matter, but it didn't seem to satisfy Ralph in the least. The two continued to discuss things as the button navigated the table and seemed to affect Ralph more than Phil.
Perhaps all of the discussion led to the confrontation that came up on Hand 37. Perry raised the bet to 42K and was answered by an all in move from Hellmuth in the small blind. Perry quickly called only to see that his pocket nines were covered by Hellmuth's pocket Jacks. A Jack on the flop virtually sealed the deal for Hellmuth and, once an unhelpful five came on the turn, Ralph Perry was drawing dead and left the tournament in eighth place.
A mere six hands later, Hellmuth claimed another scalp at the final table. David Plastik was in much the same position as Tony G earlier and moved all in from the cutoff, looking to double up and get back in the game. Hellmuth was more than happy to call his bet from the small blind and turned up pocket Aces, much to the dislike of Plastik with his pocket Jacks. When the board came down 3-3-Q-Q-5, Hellmuth knocked off another player and David Plastik was done for the night in seventh place.
After another break and a raise in the blinds to 8K/16K with a 2K ante, a three-way pot developed between an under the gun Hellmuth, the small blind Elio Cabrera and the big blind Juha Helppi. After Phil limped in and was looked up by the blinds, the threesome took a flop of 9-Qd-K. Cabrera checked his blind and Helppi fired 45K into the pot, only to have Hellmuth raise it up to 145K. With a trap laid perfectly, Cabrera moved all in over the top and Helppi folded. Hellmuth called, however, and turned up an innocent looking Kd-5d. Cabrera turned up the nuts with the J-10 for the straight. A two of diamonds came on the turn, opening more doors for Hellmuth, and the miracle runner runner flush came on the river with a seven of diamonds. Cabrera disgustedly tossed his chair to the floor as Hellmuth breathed a huge sigh of relief as the hard luck Elio Cabrera was eliminated in the sixth place position.
As Elio strode away from the table, Phil did something that you don't normally see on television. He asked for the microphone from the tournament director and said, "I just want everyone to know that Elio completely outplayed me on that hand. You deserved that one much more than I did. I got lucky." As he not only shook Elio's hand and clasped his shoulder, Hellmuth showed a side that is rarely seen in his television antics that seem to always make it.
John Spadavecchia decided now was the time to make a move and he did so. He first doubled up through Hellmuth then, on Hand 57, he entered a three-way pot with Hellmuth and Terris Preston. After a flop of Q-5-4, Preston checked and Spadavecchia bet out 50K. This was enough to move Phil off his hand, but Terris moved all in over the top and a willing John called with only a Q-7. It was enough, as Terris only had K-J to go to war with and, after a second Queen on the turn had him drawing dead, Terris Preston left the Rio with the fifth place position.
To give you a demonstration of how deliberate the final four players were, there were another twenty eight hands played before the group went on a dinner break at a surprisingly early 6:30. They then came back and played an entire level with the blinds at 10K/20K (and a 3K ante) with no significant action. This was a total of seventy five hands of action without significant movement in the chip stacks of any of the players, but the tension was building among the audience who crowded around the final table to await the slightest change at the table.
After the blinds went up to 12K/24K with a 4K ante, it only took three hands for our fourth place finisher to be determined. A short stacked John Spadavecchia moved all in from the button and found Phil Hellmuth waiting in the big blind, who called. Spadavecchia's blind steal of Q-8 was dominated by Hellmuth's A-10 and the flop delivered the knockout blow for Phil when it came A-6-A. John Spadavecchia was drawing dead from that point and was ushered out of the tournament in fourth place.
Down to three handed play, the stacks shaped up like this:
The excitement wasn't over, however. Hellmuth doubled up Firicano, then Firicano did the same for Helppi as the action reached a frantic pace. Firicano frustrated Hellmuth as he utilized the "Kill Phil" techniques to a tee and kept both professionals off balance with his actions. After the dust had settled from the level, Juha Helppi found himself in the lead, but just barely (900K) over both Hellmuth and Firicano (both around 800K).
With the blinds moved up to 15K/30K and a 5K ante, Helppi finally found a hand to take against the strategy of Firicano. After Juha had raised, Daryn made what had become an expected all in move and Juha looked him up. Helppi had chosen well, as his A-8 was a slight favorite over the K-Q of Firicano. Once the board blanked off, a valiant Daryn Firicano was dismissed from the final table in third place.
Down to two players, it didn't look good for #10 for Phil as the chip stacks looked roughly like this:
Helppi chipped Hellmuth down quite a bit to what looked like the end. On Hand 203, Helppi raised the pot to 90K and Hellmuth moved all in, which Helppi called. Phil's pocket fives were a slight favorite over Juha's A-6d but the flop helped them both. A diamond flop of 5-K-J gave Hellmuth the set, but also gave Helppi the outs to the flush. The flush came home for the Finnish poker great when a Queen of diamonds landed. Now Hellmuth needed the board to pair on the river and…it did, when the Queen of hearts came and granted a reprieve for Hellmuth, drawing the two almost even in the chip count.
After twenty five more hands of action, the two were nearly dead even in chips when they decided to push the action. Hellmuth raised off the button and Helppi wasted no time going all in. Almost as fast, Hellmuth called and turned up pocket Kings to Helppi's A-10. There was no Ace that came to rescue Juha and Phil took a commanding lead in the event by winning the hand.
By this point, the crowd was almost in frenzy as it began to look like history would be made again at the World Series. Only six hands later, the end came as the two got all the chips to the center of the table. Helppi's A-9 paled in comparison to Hellmuth's A-J and another blank board gave the championship to Phil Hellmuth as the crowd erupted in cheers!
1. Phil Hellmuth, $631,863
2. Juha Helppi, $331,144
3. Daryn Firicano, $187,219
4. John Spadavecchia, $163,817
5. Terris Preston, $140,414
6. Elio Cabrera, $117,012
7. David Plastik, $93,610
8. Rafael "Ralph" Perry, $70,207
9. Tony G, $46,805
After the event was over, an ecstatic Phil Hellmuth lapped the final table, slapping hands with all the fans and stopping to enjoy the moment (for a longer time) with his wife, mother and father tableside. John Bonetti hugged his longtime friend and Mike Matusow even joined into the celebration as Phil enjoyed the moment. "I said I would give a million dollars to win another one of these and now it has happened," he exuded as he collapsed in a chair at the table. "It's real, isn't it?" Yes, Phil, it's very real as he rejoins the echelon of World Series of Poker greats at ten bracelets with Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan!
Ed note: Phil shows off his ten bracelets at the Ultimate Bet booth every day. Doesn't that sounds nice.