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Hellmuth lasts just six hours at WSOP main event

7/30/2006

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.

"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."

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.