BLUFF’s 2015 WSOP Countdown rolls on with the third in a a series of statistical breakdowns meant to determine the greatest years put together by some of the best tournament players of all time.
Over the course of the next few weeks five different poker legends will have their best individual years broken down and compared, and while there’s no single attribute that defines how well each performance is weighed against another, the arguments for each year will be made clear – and it’s up to you to decide.
Phil Hellmuth sits atop of the bracelet mountain with 13 and doesn’t want anyone to forget it; each hat he wears during play has the 13 embroidered in gold thread on the side. Hellmuth was the third player to ten bracelets and his first was the 1989 Main Event.
Hellmuth’s victory in the Main Event set the record for the youngest Main Event champion at 24-years old; which stood until 2008 when Peter Eastgate won at 22-years old. Hellmuth was well on his path to WSOP greatness through five years as a pro at the Series: 11 cashes, 9 final tables and two bracelet wins.
Hellmuth’s two campaigns came in two wildly different eras – in the early 90s poker was very much still played in the back, dimly lit smoke-filled rooms and by a small community. By the time 2012 arrived, poker had boomed, busted and rebuilt again with large fields and even larger prizepools.
WSOP Cashes: 4
WSOP Earnings: $544,900
WSOP Bracelets: 3
Hellmuth was already a top player in 1993, four years removed from his Main Event win and several final tables to his credit. He won three bracelets when the Series only offered 21 events in under three weeks.
Hellmuth cashed for over $500,000 on the Series when the Main Event champ, Jim Bechtel, earned $1 million, runner-up Glenn Cozen earned $420,000 and the largest prizepool outside of the Main Event was $432,500 (one of the events he won). In fact, Hellmuth won both events with the largest prizepools outside the Main Event.
He took down the $2,500 No Limit Hold’em event, the $1,500 NLH event and the $5,000 Limit Hold’em event. Incredibly, he nearly won a fourth bracelet (which would have been another record) – Hellmuth finished runner-up in the $5,000 No Limit Deuce to Seven event to Billy Baxter.
WSOP Cashes: 10
WSOP Earnings: $4,339,784
WSOP Bracelets: 2
Hellmuth’s 2012 WSOP campaign was one that most players would love to match in their career. He cashed in ten events, he won first non-Hold’em bracelet in Razz and topped it all off by winning the WSOP Europe Main Event – Hellmuth is the only person to have ever won Main Event titles on multiple continents.
Another first that came in 2012 was the $1 million buy-in Big One for One Drop charity event. It was the largest-known tournament in history with a $42 million prizepool. Fans remember Antonio Esfandiari and Sam Trickett playing for the title, but Hellmuth took fourth place for $2.645 million.
His first bracelet of the year came in the $2,500 Razz and after that he final tabled the $10,000 HORSE event for a fourth place finish. WSOP Europe only held seven bracelet events in 2012 and Hellmuth cashed in four of them.
While 1993 and 2012 saw Hellmuth win multiple bracelets, the sheer amount of money he cashed for in 2012 has to get the nod as the better performance. Hellmuth got the non-Hold’em monkey off his back, won another Main Event bracelet and finished in fourth place in the richest tournament in history. Hellmuth’s career has spanned four decades and the veteran seems to be getting better.
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