How to Avoid Receiving Penalties at the WSOP

Be Phil Hellmuth

by , Sep 23, 2008 | 10:10 pm

Doh, I gave away the secret in the title!

It seems that all one needs to do is be Phil Hellmuth, and no penalty will be given to you during a World Series of Poker tournament. And if the staff mistakenly decides to hold you to the same rules as they do every other player on the planet, if you argue that you are Phil Hellmuth, they will rescind it.

It seems that the WSOP and Harrah’s staff has learned that lesson. At the summer WSOP in Las Vegas, they attempted to give Hellmuth a penalty for berating a player, but when play resumed the next day, they took it back. It was noted that penalties are intended to correct inappropriate behavior, and WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack said at the time, “Phil has now been warned and put on notice in a way that he never has been.”

Oh, really? Following the coverage of the second day of the WSOPE HORSE event in London tonight, it seems that a certain organization has forgotten about said notice. According to official reports, Hellmuth continuously berated opponents and the dealer (making one of them cry), and threw his cards at the dealer. Reports described him as “furious” and “livid,” even going so far as to get a warning from the tournament director. *Oooooh*

Since rules don’t apply to Hellmuth, it seems that karma does. He was eliminated in 12th place.

Click below to see the live reports chronicling the final two hours of Hellmuth tirades.


Wed, 24 Sep 2008 02:15:57
Hellmuth Loses Pot, Loses His Rag

Sherkhan Farnood has set Phill Hellmuth a-ranting. He won a monster stud pot from him, resulting in Farnood now shifting up to the heady heights of 120,000, while Hellmuth is down to around 70,000. “Split sevens against my rolled up eights?” cries Hellmuth. “You’re the worst player I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t matter though, I’m going to get all those chips back off you.” Said a very jovial Farnood, “I would be glad to give these chips back to you.”

Wed, 24 Sep 2008 02:58:05
Hellmuth Again

Omaha 8: I catch the very end of the hand, as a very pleased-looking Sherkhan Farnood is raking in the chips while simultaneously enjoying a massage, his hand face up in front of him reading and the board reading . Phil Hellmuth is once again declaring him, “The worst player in the history of the world,” and reluctantly throws his cards down; they are . Now thoroughly furious, Hellmuth is demanding that TD Steve Frezer order the dealers to be more thorough with shuffling the cards. “It’s just that he was dealing me some weird cards. I just want procedure to be followed.”

Wed, 24 Sep 2008 03:20:59
…And Again For Gregorich

Razz: The very next hand, Hellmuth doubled up Gregorich again, putting him up to around 50,000. Hellmuth to the TD: “Can you make the dealer release the deck every hand?”

Wed, 24 Sep 2008 03:37:54
The Mouth On Hellmuth

Stud: Showing up, Hellmuth bet out. Mark Gregorich, showing , raised. Hellmuth, clearly furious, ripped out his iPod headphones and cursed most offensively and personally in a manner not reportable on Pokernews. “I might have to take you out for this,” he warned, and threw his cards back to the dealer. Gregorich couldn’t quite hide a little smirk as he raked the chips in.

Wed, 24 Sep 2008 03:55:45
Correct Procedure

After a series of disastrous hands, during which he has become increasingly worked up, Phil Hellmuth is down to 50,000 and it looks as though it might be approaching his bedtime. He has once again demanded that Steve Frezer instruct the dealers in how to do their job according to, “Correct procedure,” and has now wandered across to the other table to share his woe with Howard Lederer. “Might not make it 19 minutes, bud,” he laments.

Wed, 24 Sep 2008 04:11:00
Hellmuth Threatened With Penalty

Continuing the late-night disastrous run, Phil Hellmuth is down to just 25,000 and has made the dealer cry. The TD has come over and attempted to smooth things over, explaining that the dealer has been working for 14 hours and that it isn’t her fault, but the dealer is quite upset and Hellmuth is being threatened with a penalty for attacking the dealer if he doesn’t cool off soon. The dealer is now receiving a soothing massage from the TD, and with just three minutes left on the clock, it looks like things are going to be ok.

Wed, 24 Sep 2008 04:18:54
Phil Helllmuth Eliminated In 12th Place (£6,188)

Hold’em: With 30 seconds left on the clock, Sherkhan Farnood raised, and a now thoroughly angry Hellmuth, forgetting that they were playing limit, announced that he was all in and threw all his chips in the middle. Farnood agreed to raise to cover Hellmuth, and it was a coinflip. Farnood: Hellmuth: Board: Thus our day three will most likely be quieter than it might otherwise have been, as a livid Hellmuth leaves the table to complain about Farnood and the dealer to a gentleman holding a video camera.

30 Comments to “How to Avoid Receiving Penalties at the WSOP ”

  1. luckydogruss

    From Hellmuth’s blog going into Day 2 action:

    “Feeling great is wonderful, but I need to keep focused tomorrow, and the next day (hopefully I’ll make the final table). My most recent third place finish in the WSOP HORSE is fresh in my mind, and that helps me tremendously. I want to win this more than ever. I truly believe this: ‘Great things always happen to me.’ ”

    So much for keeping focused. He was in good position to win the tournament and acted out again, earning another warning and an exit shy of the final table.

    That heavy-duty “notice” leveled by Pollack against Hellmuth must have been a doozy. They led us to believe he was put on a short leash. Perhaps the comish forgot to tell Hellmuth the warning applied to the WSOPE too.

    You got it right, Jen — using different sets of rules for the Hellmuths in the game has to stop. It undermines the integrity of the game by creating an uneven playing field. They might as well allow cheating — oh wait, they did already in the chip-dumping H.O.R.S.E. hand!

  2. Ed

    Some day my dream of sitting at a table with Phil will come true. Oh it will be a fun day for all when that happens.

  3. DanM

    Why is that, Ed? You looking to pull a Steve Danenenmann?

    I still really think they should put in an actual penalty box. It could even be the Milwaukee’s Best Light Penalty Box! Or the Bic Pen Pen? The ESPN Time Out Zone?

    Putting players in stocks would also probably be good for TV (and poker).

  4. Johnny Hughes

    Thanks, Jen. Keep this issue at the forefront. When you combine it with the lack of penalities for Scotty Baby….well.

    Phil Hellmuth’s behavior now is mild, horrible but mild compared to some of his previous behavior. Many years back, a couple of years after he won the main event for the first time, I saw Phil standing up yelling and berating an old man in the World Series at Binion’s. I had never seen anything like that at poker, even though it is common place. Binion’s encouraged good behavior with the fear of the backroom.

    Later that night, the announcer said there was one more hand. Later he came back with a few announcements. He said Phil had been knocked out on that hand. The whole casino exploded in sustained applause. This had never, ever happened. After Phil would get knocked out, he would become an announcer and stand near the final table. He appeared to be popular with most of the players.

    His Sarah Palin level of self-centeredness, self-unawareness is repulsive, but worth a laugh.

  5. Kevin Mathers

    It should be fun to see how Hellmuth’s antics are shown on TV that earned him a penalty (later to be rescinded), for the reaction from those that weren’t on the scene. Like I commented in the Pokernews updates, the tournament staff in Europe were as spineless as those in Vegas.

  6. Kevin Mathers

    Hellmuth’s blog after play yesterday.

  7. California Jen

    RE: Hellmuth’s blog… He needs to apologize so he’s going to bring the floor staff and dealers bottles of Dom today. What?! What immediately comes to mind is that Phil is the abusive boyfriend, and the WSOP is the woman who is just too scared to leave the relationship. He hits her repeatedly, then brings flowers the next day and all is well.

  8. Ed

    “Why is that, Ed? You looking to pull a Steve Danenenmann?”

    Because I would have a lot of fun. People like him…make it too easy to do what I do. Just ask Tim sometime. It drives him nuts here at the office.

  9. on tilt

    So, lets assume for a minute that i’m playing in a WSOP event and in the money already. I go off on someone and get a penalty. Hellmuth does the same(with a very well publicized history) and recieves no penalty.

    Any chance that I might have a lawsuit on my hand for discrimination?

    Granted, I would be up against extremely well funded lawyers. But when you consider the amount of potential money on the line, the WSOP ought to do more to ensure a level playing field.

  10. Kevin Mathers

    It seems there’s some mitigating circumstances that put things in Phil’s favor. Such as having dealers who got exactly 1 hour of training in HORSE. The thread in NVG on 2+2 has players talking about players dealing flops in stud games, releasing the deck early, and other dealer calamities.

  11. California Jen

    In my humble opinion, no amount of dealer mistakes justifies Hellmuth acting in such an outrageous and abusive manner. If there were dealer problems, those could’ve been addressed in calm talks with the tournament staff and even with other players. If there was a reasonable consensus, they might have been able to ask for a dealer change…

    All I know is that no other player at the final two tables acted like a nut about it; somehow they were able to handle the situation without hurting people’s feelings and abusing others.

  12. Kevin Mathers

    From what I’m reading in the thread, none of the dealers had ever dealt a poker tournament before (I’d assume some had dealt the first event) and that few had ever done the Omaha or Stud games. I’d assume there’s not as extensive a tournament dealer group that goes from tournament to tournament like what happens in the States. I agree that Hellmuth has no right to take it out on individual dealers, but you’d hope for some level of competence when participating in a tournament that you’ve spent over $5,000 US to be a part of

  13. DanM

    ***none of the dealers had ever dealt a poker tournament before***

    If that’s true — and I suspect it is in spirit, but not to the letter — then Hellmuth shoulda taken his frustrations out on the tourney-ops big-whigs he previously appealed to to get decisions reversed.

    I gotta say, I can’t help but wonder if he was simply in super-PokerBrat mode for the sake of reaching a new TV audience.

  14. Mike G

    Oh good lord it’s obviously all done for entertainment value…

    Hellmuth throws temper tantrums because that’s his schtick, that’s what he’s known for. If your skin is so thin that you care what some arrogant wheezing jerk at the table thinks about you, you don’t belong in the game.

  15. Jason B

    I firmly believe in the case of Phil Hellmuth and being berated, every player should take the “Sam Grizzle” approach, and knock him on his ass. It wont shut him up all the time, but I just say if they’re not going to penalize him equally, then earn a orbit penalty and punch him in the mouth. Yeah, there’s going to be security but I’m sure you can talk to the TD and just say “Hey, I gave him a warning, and he continued so he got a real penalty.” You know any poker player would enjoy posting bail for the person who actually does it if he pressed charges!!!!

  16. Johnny Hughes

    Jen is sure on target comparing Phil to an abusive boyfriend. Harrah’s and the WSOP allow him to embarrass their managment over and over. What if everyone decided to arrive late with a self-serving entourage? What if everyone insulted new and younger players? As a corporation, someone at Harrah’s must realize when this hits TV, it makes them appear as stupid. Big corporate suits hate appearing this stupid.

  17. TDSteve

    Hi Everyone, this is Steve Frezer, I was once again in the middle of the Phil Sh*t. As you might or might not know I was the floor who gave Phil the penalty at the series and I was there for the horse. We did warn Phil for calling the player the worst player in the world. He did NOT make a dealer cry. He did NOT throw his cards at a dealer. He DID act like a brat which is not a penalty. The dealers here are inexperienced and some players (besides phil) are getting frustrated as well as the floors. We attempted to bring dealers with us but were rebuffed by the property here who promised us that they had an experienced staff. Back to Phil. If he does anything to deserve a penalty you can bet your life that I WILL give him the penalty. This time he didnt deserve it. Some reporters are overblowing the situation because it is Phil. He did attempt to bring us some bottles of Cristal and some cigars for being a pain in the ass. We gave them back to him. Love Steve

  18. DanM

    ***Jen is sure on target comparing Phil to an abusive boyfriend.***

    but the sex is so good! let’s give him another chance!

    ***He did attempt to bring us some bottles of Cristal and some cigars for being a pain in the ass.***

    See … That’s what a good abusive boyfriend does.

  19. DanM

    TD Steve, thanks for commenting to clarify and correct the record. I really do see WSOP tourney directors as similar to soccer referees. And in that sport, sometimes you get a guy who will “let’em play”, and other times you get a guy that’s quick to go the red card, letting other players know no shenanigans will be even close to tolerated, lest a riot breaks out. But you don’t really know what you’re dealing with until the game starts.

    P.S. If a dealer were to cry … I really think that says more about the dealer than any player that caused it. Good dealers need thick skin. If getting berated by Hellmuth hurts your feelings, seriously, you’re not really cut out for the job … because assholes at the table are a mathematical certainty in poker.

  20. Kevin Mathers

    Wouldn’t a previous history of a player’s actions give you an idea of what to expect, and to encourage them to not try it on their watch?

  21. DanM

    That’s exactly what I mean. In soccer, where there are really heated games, aggressive player rivalries, fans ready to kill each other, whatever … often the ref in those games will jump out with a card very early, at the first sign of a foul — letting everyone know that if there’s a coinflip decision, he’ll err on the side of a booking.

    I can only imagine what it would be like if guys like Steve Frezer could make productions of their penalties:

  22. luckydogruss

    I like it! Let’s get TD Steve some soccer shorts, a referee’s shirt and promise him whatever he wants if he’ll dance and prance and throw the red flag on the Brat at the next opportunity — which probably will be today or tomorrow, given his behavioral track record… 😉

  23. California Jen

    Thanks for clearing the air, Steve! Since I’m unable to be in London (boo-hoo for me), I can only depend on the official reports. But direct comments from you are about as official as we can get.

    It’s good to know that you’re not taken in by Phil’s sweet talk and gifts. 😉

    Seriously, though, I’m happy to know that the staff refused his gifts. It really does go to my theory that he’s like a verbally abusive boyfriend who tries to make everything right the next day, thinking it somehow erases the venom he spewed and the nastiness he spread. Sure, there are people in poker who don’t know how to handle themselves, and Phil may do some of it as a schtick, but it is just too over-the-top and ridiculous that he treats others with such disdain.

  24. DanM

    ***But direct comments from you are about as official as we can get.***

    Jen, you are far too trusting. I need video proof.

  25. TDSteve

    Yes! I would love to have those short shorts and knee high socks and prance around a poker tourney. You should trust me Dan, remember I know your secret. Pauly told me. I have a question, would it be bad if one of those bottles got lost on its way back?
    To belabour Dan’s point a bit, I dont think referees should influence the action in any way, they shouldn’t make themselves the reason that there is hoopla. Nobody reported that the player he was ranting on also shot back, something to the effect of come and get my chips, they are all yours anyway. I never want to make it so that what I am doing has an effect on the tourney if i give a penalty its because of something that a player did to negatively affect the tourney. Just some random comments thrown together. Cheers, Steve

  26. DanM

    ***Nobody reported that the player he was ranting on also shot back, something to the effect of come and get my chips, they are all yours anyway.***

    Kinda like offsetting penalties in the NFL?

  27. TDSteve

    neither was a penalty just a little “stop it kiddies” suffices

  28. Pauly

    Wait, which secret did I tell? Was it the one where Dan is actually a chupacabra?

  29. DanM

    Funny, I actually had to look up chupacabra.

    (TD Steve, don’t answer Pauly’s question. It’s a trap!)

  30. Ed

    “Funny, I actually had to look up chupacabra.”

    WTF? What rock did you just crawl out from under?