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Phil Hellmuth Still Only Has 9 Bracelets

This one has gotta sting.

So close, yet so far away.

Jeff_cabanillasJeff Cabanillas, who before today was only known by family, friends, and perhaps a few acquaintances, will now be forever known by the world as the man who denied Phil Hellmuth his record-tying 10th bracelet.

Hellmuth had been dominating final table play, assuming the chip lead early, and like how a man who wants something really badly would hold on to something tightly, he held on to the chip lead tightly. Because he really wanted this bracelet. Badly.

However, the tides started to turn when play got three-handed. Cabanillas was heads-up in a pot with Hellmuth and moved all-in on the river with the board showing Qd-Jh-9d-7c-6d. Cabanillas was only holding A-Ko. Hellmuth ends up thinking for a moment, then mucks his hand.  When Cabanillas flashed his A-Ko, Hellmuth, as reported by Card Player, knocked "his chair over [and stood] up in shock.  The Cabanillas supporters in the crowd [went] wild and [erupted] in support, causing everyone in the Amazon Room to look over at the final table."

After Eugene Todd was eliminated in third, Hellmuth and Cabanillas began heads-up play about even stacked. Hellmuth surged to an early 2-to-1 chip lead, but Cabanillas started winning pot after pot.

While we "technically" were not "there" to see the rest of the action shakedown, we could sense, even though we were approximately 1967 miles away, that it was all slipping away from Hellmuth.

While Hellmuth was able to scrap back and survive some all-ins, Cabanillas had Hellmuth...hmmm...we'll go with a boxing analogy here...on the ropes.

Phil_hellmuth_1Then on the final hand, with a flop of 6d-4d-3h, Hellmuth moved all-in, and Cabanillas quickly made the call. Hellmuth held the 5h-4s, giving him middle pair and an open-ended straight draw, but Cabanillas was sitting a slight favorite with the 5d-3d, open-ended like Hellmuth but with a straight flush draw to boot. The turn, a 4c, gave Hellmuth trips. But the river spiked a Jd, giving Cabanillas the flush and the bracelet.

Of the other final table notables, Vinnie Vinh, who happened to hold a sizable chip lead going into the final table, was eliminated in eighth. Isabelle Mercier, who happens to be a woman, finished in fifth. Not too bad for a girl. And Marcel Luske finished fourth.

While we're sure this won't be Hellmuth's last chance to win his 10th bracelet--he's still got yeeeeeaaars of good poker left in him--this was one helluva chance. It will be interesting to see how he responds--and it may ultimately end up defining his legacy.

*Images from Poker Pages

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wait. how many cushions was Hachem sitting on. Two? No frickin way. Unbelievable.

Yes BJ it is all disappointing. Incredibly so.

BJ Nemeth

It was so painful for me to be at the Rio, but NOT at the final table. My WSOP job right now keeps me at a distance from the action. (Because of the idiotic exclusive deals.) And updates from this historical final table were few and far between.

I'd have covered the match similar to how I reported from the 2005 WSOP Tournament of Champions (for CardPlayer.com), or the heads-up match last year between Johnny Chan and Phil "Unabomber" Laak (also for CardPlayer.com), when Chan won his tenth. I would have definitely reported hand-for-hand, so the fans could witness everything from stealing the blinds to moving all in. There is no such thing as an "unimportant hand" at that point.

I also would have typed in as much of the table talk and mannerisms as possible. Not the silly stuff I see in some of the Day 1 updates lately ("Joe Hachem is sitting on two seat cushions"), but the psychological interactions between the players.

I was extremely disappointed with Card Player's coverage. Compounded by the fact that ESPN had a limited crew (I doubt we'll get a full episode out of it; probably just a montage of highlights), this is why exclusive online coverage is a very bad thing for the WSOP.

If it weren't for that deal, I'd have had 6-7 websites (even Wicked Chops Poker?) willing to credential me for that final table to do hand-for-hand coverage.

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