Hellmuth lasts just six hours at WSOP main event

Updated: July 30, 2006, 5:43 PM ET
Associated Press

LAS VEGAS -- Phil Hellmuth made his traditional grand entrance into the main event -- late, of course, and with lots of fanfare. Not long after sitting down, though, the 10-time winner at the World Series of Poker was back on his way out.

At a glance
Day: 2 (officially, Day 1B)

Big news: Phil Hellmuth Jr., who owns a record 10 World Series bracelets and is widely considered the best poker player in the world, was eliminated after about six hours of action. His A-Q lost to pocket 7s. Legend Doyle Brunson, honored for being in his 30th WSOP, also exited early.

Studs of the day: Poker pros Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, Phil Ivey and Howard Lederer had all more than doubled their chip stacks and were almost guaranteed to make it through to the next round.

Busted out: Hellmuth, Brunson, Gavin Smith, Tiffany Williamson, Paul Darden.

Celebrity update: Model and actress Shannon Elizabeth was eliminated, to the dismay of many, as was comedian Brad Garrett and porn star Ron Jeremy. Golf pro Paul Azinger was holding steady at about 15,000 chips heading into the dinner break.

Up next: On Sunday, more of the same. The third field of more than 2,000 players will play down to 900 players or fewer. Included in Sunday's field are 2004 champion Greg Raymer and Mike "The Mouth" Matusow. On Monday, the fourth field will play, completing the first round.

Quote of the day: "Doyle, can you turn your oxygen machine down?" -- Comedian Brad Garrett, yelling in the direction of Doyle Brunson when a fire alarm went off in the casino. It was a false alarm. A bit later, Brunson's grandson Jeff Veach eliminated Garrett.

-- The Associated Press

"Horrendous, horrendous luck," Hellmuth said Saturday after stunningly being knocked out of the world's richest poker tournament in only six hours. "I'm still half in shock."

Also out of the running for the estimated $11 million grand prize: longtime poker great Doyle Brunson, who lasted about five hours longer than Hellmuth, but lost when he went all-in on a pair of 9s and got beaten by three 10s.

"It never feels good to go out," said Brunson, who shares the record with Hellmuth and Johnny Chan as a 10-time WSOP winner. "But at some point, you've got to try to win some pots. If you don't, you're just wasting your time, so that's what I did."

Hellmuth had lost about one-tenth of his 10,000 chips before he ever saw a card, the result of his penchant for showing up fashionably late. Players not at the table still have to chip in their "blinds" to the kitty, the forced bets each player must make twice every 10-15 minutes or so in Texas Hold 'em.

Once he got to the table, however, "I kept thinking I wished I'd shown up earlier or much, much later."

He was victimized as much by bad luck as by the aggressive and unpredictable style of amateur players who fill the field in an event boasting more than 8,600 entrants.

"Some guys are so bad, it's not even Texas Hold 'em," Hellmuth said. "I think I'm the best hold 'em player in history."

It's hard to argue that. Hellmuth won his record-tying 10th WSOP bracelet earlier this month in a preliminary event against a field of 1,690 players. He holds the record for cashing at the WSOP (54 times) and has finished in the top 10 in 36 WSOP tournaments.

Still, it's much harder to wade through a field of this size. And when bad luck kicks in, even a player as good as Hellmuth can fall victim.

After only two hands, he had lost significant chunks of his stack when his pair of jacks got beaten by two queens, then when a pair of kings lost to two aces. Players weren't willing to simply fold and move on when Hellmuth made raises -- the way many pros do -- and he was forced to alter his game plan.

He lost on the same hand that knocked him out last year. He went all in with an A-Q against an opponent holding a pair of 7s. It's about a 50-50 bet as to who will win, and Hellmuth lost.

"I feel like I'm at the top of my game," Hellmuth said. "When I come into one of these tournaments, I'm not even looking for average luck. I'm looking for a little below-average luck. Today, it was just horrendous luck."

ESPN Poker Club
• Actress Shannon Elizabeth grew up playing poker, but it took time for her to warm to Texas Hold 'em, Steve Rosenbloom writes.

Because of the record number of players, the field has been divided into four, with more than 2,000 playing their opening round each day, beginning Friday. As the numbers dwindle, the fields will be combined until only nine players remain for the final table, scheduled for Aug. 10.

Group "1B" began play at noon, right after the 72-year-old Brunson was honored for playing in his 30th World Series of Poker. Entering the poker room, he was applauded and serenaded by a recording of "Thanks For the Memories." He then took the microphone to give the cue to the dealers to "Shuffle up and deal."

At about 9:30 p.m., Brunson received a standing ovation after he was eliminated.

Other poker greats receiving cards on a tough day in the tournament were Phil Ivey, Howard Lederer, Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, Annie Duke and 21-year-old Jeff Madsen, who has won two tournaments in the six week's worth of WSOP action leading to the main event.

There were other stars, too.

Golf pro Paul Azinger took his seat at Table 86 and said all the years of competing against full fields on the PGA Tour hadn't quite prepared him for this.

"It's pretty intimidating," he said, as he scanned the room. "I'm intimidated. I just have to look at it as, I'm going to try to win my table, not the entire tournament."

At the 10-hour mark, he was doing fine -- winning a few hands, folding a lot more, to maintain a chip count of about 15,000.

Other stars in the field Saturday included actress and model Shannon Elizabeth and Brad Garrett from "Everyone Loves Raymond." Adult film star Ron Jeremy played, as did Dax Shepard of MTV's "Punk'd."

Shepard offered up arguably the best moment of the day when he drew to a royal flush -- the best hand in poker -- and let loose with a loud and jubilant expletive after his big win. The expletive cost him a 10-minute penalty that is meted out to anyone who uses foul language.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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