Phil Hellmuth’s WSOP Paradise entrance reignites familiar debate

Mo Afdhal
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Posted on: December 12, 2023 4:15 pm EST

Polarization.

It’s a concept in poker that most often applies to ranges, hand strength, or bet sizing. Occasionally, it applies to players, or, more specifically, their behavior.

If you need an example or two, think Martin Kabrhel’s antics on the $250,000 Super High Roller final table this summer. Or Nik Airball’s badgering of Matt Berkey on High Stakes Poker.

Phil Hellmuth’s tradition of a grand, themed entrance to the World Series of Poker Main Event stretches back to 2003 and doesn’t seem likely to end any time soon. As one of most recognizable faces in poker–plus Main Event champion, all-time leader in bracelets won–it makes sense for Hellmuth to serve as a sort of Master of Ceremonies for the WSOP Main Event.

Just because it makes sense, however, doesn’t mean everybody’s going to like it.

Hellmuth’s recent WSOP entrances

Paradise entrance polarizes

Hellmuth’s most recent entrance, at the WSOP Paradise Main Event, has again drawn both praise and ire from those within the community.

There are those, like Isaac Haxton, that see the entrances as obnoxious, loud, distracting, and indulgent. Their complaints are valid–it’s hard to deny they aren’t, especially considering the addition of a full-blown marching band accompaniment.

The other side of the coin, most notably defended this time around by Daniel Negreanu, argues that every year people take to social media to voice their gripes with Hellmuth’s without recognizing the benefit they receive from his publicity. Like it or not, they argue, Hellmuth, and others like him, bring newcomers to the game–and that benefits the entire community.

The threads on the posts below are both full of players, fans, and operators alike sounding off in the comments with opinions and thoughts.

Whether you fall to one side or the other, it’s hard to argue that Hellmuth’s showmanship adds a little bit of razzle-dazzle to what is otherwise not much of a spectator sport (livestreams aside). It’s fun, it’s kooky, it’s a little silly, sure, but mostly harmless. There’s something to be said, however, for interrupting on-going tournaments. Haxton, further down the thread, points out that the $100,000 Ultra High Roller he was partaking in didn’t pause the tournament clock for Hellmuth’s entrance.

The debate rages on today and likely will continue through the next few days. In Negreanu’s WSOP Paradise vlog posted today, he and Hellmuth address the complaints directly to the camera. Debating aside, it’s incredibly unlikely that this is the last Hellmuth entrance we’ll see. It’s a tradition, one that’s here to stay it seems.

In other words, embrace the White Magic–it’s not going anywhere soon.

Images Courtesy of Matthew Berglund/WSOP/PokerGO