Phil Hellmuth Wants Ike Haxton to Take Off the Facemask: "This Isn't Online Poker"
Phil Hellmuth's had enough of Isaac Haxton wearing a facemask at the poker table, and the "Poker Brat" called out his fellow high-stakes pro, arguing that "no one should be able to cover their face," except for rare instances.
The 17-time World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet winner spoke with poker journalist Craig Tapscott of PokerOrg in a two-hour interview about a variety of topics, one of them being facemasks. He then retweeted a short from content creator "Casino King," and further explained why facemasks don't belong in live poker.
"NO ONE should be able to cover their face, unless you use your own hands to do it. This isn’t online poker. “Tells” matter in live poker: it is a skill to hide your tells and another skill to read your opponent’s tells," Hellmuth wrote.
Should Facemasks Be Permitted at the Poker Table?
During the early days of COVID-19, facemasks were required in many poker rooms. Since then, most have taken the masks off, but there are still more who wear them than pre-coronavirus. The issue of wearing facemasks in public was initially a health matter, but it quickly devolved into a Conservative (anti-mask) versus Liberal (pro-mask) issue, with most taking a side.
Haxton, a liberal-leaning poker pro, has chosen to wear his mask at the poker table for health reasons. After winning a $25,000 buy-in U.S. Poker Open event for $432,000 in March 2023, he proudly wore his facemask in the winner photo, and then proceeded to taunt the "biggest dips***s on Twitter" who get triggered over his mask-wearing decision.
As Hellmuth explained to Tapscott, his issue isn't political, but has more to do with a potential advantage gained from wearing a facemask.
"That's just a tactic and a strategy, that's not good for poker," Hellmuth said.
He then admitted that Haxton, who has over $47 million in live tournament cashes, is "one of the best in the world right now, but he has to take that white mask off." Hellmuth claims that the 2023 World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet winner is using the facemask to "give himself an advantage" in poker tournaments.
"When there's six people left in a tournament, you don't have any real concerns of COVID," Hellmuth continued.
As expected, Hellmuth's tweet sparked a heated debate on facemasks, as if the issue wasn't beaten to death three years ago. But there were some interesting arguments made, including Shaun Deeb, who referred to Hellmuth's comments as "one of your worst takes" and then sarcastically called for banning (sic) "hoody's" and sunglasses.
But, perhaps the most creative response goes to Lewis Spencer, who wrote: I've always thought we need less people in masks and more people entering the tournament area dressed as Poseidon with a marching band during day 2 of a $100k." Touche.