Phil Galfond apologizes for underestimating Phil Hellmuth's game

Jon Pill
Posted on: October 08, 2020 01:48 PDT

Phil Galfond has some thoughts on Phil Hellmuth. Unlike most hot takes on Hellmuth, Galfond takes a positive tack.

He tweeted that, “We so often criticize the plays we see on TV from the comfort of our couches. I think it’s only fair to also give credit where credit is due.”

This served as a caption to a screenshotted essay — a personal assessment from Galfond of Hellmuth's recent heads up showdown with Antonio Esfandiari. He writes in the essay, “I’d like to formally apologize to PH for how long it took me to realize just how talented he is.”

Hellmuth and the haters

Hellmuth is an often ridiculed figure.

For example, he is someone who, without irony, can tweet about how he spent hours mulling over the insult of being called a “confirmed narcissist."

The insults often take the form of: He's overrated. He's a player whose skill is merely in beating the unskilled. He's more of a salesman than a poker player.

Against that, one can stack his WSOP bracelets 15 high. A world record that is unlikely ever to be beaten. The joint second record holds have just 10 bracelets each. And one of those players is almost 90. To top it off, Hellmuth isn't flagging. He continues to run deep and win titles. Last October, he took 2nd and 3rd in two WSOPE events.

But high-stakes mixed cash games are where you earn respect in poker, and Hellmuth hasn’t worn out much seat leather in Bobby's Room. He’s a tournament specialist. More specifically he is a large field, no-limit Holdem tournament specialist.

PokerGO, go, go

Galfond puts it thus, “for as long as I can remember, Phil’s abilities at the table haven’t had the respect of many in poker’s younger generations. I’m sure this is incredibly frustrating for Phil.”

Fedor Holz summed that consensus view in his reply to Galfond: “I think he’s a clear losing player in tougher lineups, and mostly plays a style that exploits vs. tighter weaker opponents and WSOP & old school player tendencies.”

But deep-stacked and heads up. Now, that’s a test of a player.

As Galfond put it, “I expected Antonio to be a decent favorite. I certainly had some respect for Phil’s game, bu deep HU NLG is much different than 9 handed MTTs [...] Heads up poker is where skill really shines through - there is nowhere to hide.”

But in Galfond’s view, Hellmuth weighed in and measured up. “What I saw wasn’t necessarily HUNL technical mastery,” Galfond wrote. “It was an uncanny ability to assess and adapt to every spot he found himself in. [...] Phil’s reads on each and every hand were incredible, and he chose lines that, while often unorthodox, intelligently capitalized on his (dead-on) read of each situation.”

Is there higher praise than that?

Featured image: Flickr used under CC license