Phil Hellmuth was in his element, soaking up all the attention when he started on a victory lap around the World Series of Poker’s main table.
For the next 15 minutes, Hellmuth mingled with the fans who stuck around the Amazon Room at the Rio Convention Center early Tuesday, shaking hands and posing for pictures.
He took a congratulatory phone call from one of his jet-setting friends.
And then Hellmuth started planning his schedule for the rest of the week so he can attend Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Sunday in Oakland, Calif.
Yep, the “Poker Brat” was back in the spotlight and loving every minute of it.
Hellmuth won the $10,000 buy-in Razz Championship late Monday at the Rio, extending his all-time record with his 14th career WSOP bracelet.
Hellmuth defeated Mike Gorodinsky of San Diego in a heads-up duel that lasted a little more than two hours.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Hellmuth said. “It’s one of those ones where I just kind of kept my head down the whole time. I tried to stay kind of detached from the result.
“I was just focusing on playing great, playing great, playing great. Too often in the past when I’m down here I’m like, ‘I need to win the bracelet. I need to win the bracelet.’ I said, you know what, I’m just going to keep my head down and play great till it’s over, then I can look up and celebrate and talk or whatever.”
Hellmuth collected $271,105 for his victory over 102 other players and his lifetime earnings at the WSOP are up to $12,783,905. Afterward, the resident of Palo Alto, Calif., dedicated the win to Silicon Valley entrepreneur Dave Goldberg, who died May 1 while on vacation in Mexico.
“He was just an amazing human being,” Hellmuth said. “I played poker with him. He left way too early at age 47. I’m going to give this (bracelet) to his wife and his kids. He was a regular in my poker game and just a great guy, very modest. The most modest guy ever considering, you know, what he achieved. So, this is for Dave Goldberg.”
Hellmuth is typically associated with No-limit Hold ‘em, but this is his second razz bracelet. He also won the $2,500 buy-in Seven-card Razz event in 2012.
“I think I figured something out about razz in maybe 2012,” Hellmuth said. “All of a sudden, there’s something about the game that just clicked and I was like, ‘Wow, this game just makes sense.’ “
Hellmuth was third in chips when play resumed with 12 players Monday afternoon, and he entered the eight-player final table as the chip leader.
Hellmuth finished second to Ted Forrest in last year’s $1,500 buy-in Seven-card Razz tournament after beginning heads-up play with approximately a 4-to-1 chip advantage.
“I think the experience helped me,” Hellmuth said. “I changed my strategy just a little bit. I also feel like I’m more clear-minded this year than I’ve been in the past. It’s really nice. I was just very calm, and, of course, whined way too much.”
Hellmuth was at a slight disadvantage when heads-up play started against Gorodinsky, who was looking for his second career WSOP bracelet. The three largest pots played during the first hour went Hellmuth’s way, giving him nearly a 4-to-1 chip lead.
Gorodinsky briefly came back to retake the lead, but Hellmuth quickly regained control when he made a 6-4-3-2-A to win a big pot and leave his opponent with only a few big bets remaining. Gorodinsky survived two all-ins before bowing out and earned $167,517.
“You probably also noticed this is the quietest heads-up I’ve ever been before,” Hellmuth said. “Mike is just really tough and I needed all my concentration to kind of like, you know, give myself the best chance to beat him. He played phenomenal poker.”
Hellmuth, who turns 51 next month, expects more bracelets in the future. His closest competitors on the all-time list are Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan and Phil Ivey, with 10 bracelets apiece.
“I’ve always said I was going to win 24 bracelets,” Hellmuth said. “I don’t know, that number just stuck in my mind from the minute I won three in 1993.”
1 Phil Hellmuth (Palo Alto, Calif.) $271,105
2 Mike Gorodinsky (San Diego) $167,517
3 Adam Owen (Folkestone, England) $104,914
4 Mike Leah (Toronto) $75,964
5 Thomas Keller (Chandler, Ariz.) $59,370
6 Jyri Merivirta (Helsinki, Finland) $47,344
7 Stephen Chidwick (Deal, England) $38,447
8 Brandon Shack-Harris (Chicago) $31,727