Phil Hellmuth is one of the most exciting and entertaining players to watch at the tables because of his reputation and his “poker brat” personality. The poker brat has made a name for himself for winning the most number of WSOP gold bracelets (15), a record he holds to this day. His numerous accomplishments in the world of poker has earned him a spot in the prestigious Poker Hall of Fame back in 2007.
However, despite the massive success he has achieved throughout his career, Hellmuth rarely gets praises from fellow pros, especially from the younger generation of players, as far as his skills and abilities are concerned. This is mainly due to the fact that his strategy is widely considered as “old school” and exploitative, which no longer works today as most players are now focused on game theory optimal (GTO) strategy.
Galfond Impressed By Hellmuth’s Uncanny Abilities
Run It Once founder Phil Galfond recently penned a lengthy note commending Phil Hellmuth’s skills in high-stakes heads-up play which he shared on Twitter. Galfond wrote down his thoughts on the recently televised heads-up match between Hellmuth and Antonio Esfandiari and heaped praises on the poker brat.
Galfond admitted he wasn’t a fan of Hellmuth’s style and even confessed to having criticized his play privately, but he said everything changed dramatically after he watched the first episode of PokerGo’s new poker show High Stakes Duel, which featured Hellmuth and Esfandiari.
When the match started, Esfandiari was an early favorite, since he was a lot more experienced in heads-up NLHE compared to Hellmuth. However, Hellmuth put on a great show and won the first match. Esfandiari returned for a rematch, and for the second time, he was denied victory.
Galfond was impressed by how Hellmuth played the game, coming up with incredible reads on every hand, and he was able to do that by applying an unconventional strategy. The RIO founder said he wouldn’t call it technical mastery, but rather an “uncanny ability” to make the best decision in whatever situation he found himself in.
Galfond said what made Hellmuth’s performance more impressive was the fact that he was competing against an opponent who does not show that much tells at the table. Galfond thinks Hellmuth’s second match with Esfandiari is by far the “most impactful” achievement of his highly studded career. He ended up apologizing formally to Hellmuth for not being able to recognize his talents early on and ended by calling Hellmuth one of the greatest of all time.
Poker Community Reacts
Galfond’s Twitter post attracted a number of comments, with some supporting his views, but his opinion also drew scrutiny from some members of the high-stakes community. High-stakes regular Dan Smith said not everyone subscribes to the idea that Hellmuth is a poker GOAT. Dan Smith currently ranks 5th on Hendon Mob’s All-Time Money List with more than $36 in total live earnings. He said a number of players in the poker community would be willing to bet against Hellmuth’s GOAT status.
Fellow high-stakes crusher Fedor Holz also joined in on the discussion, saying Hellmuth struggles when faced with tougher opponents and his strategy would only work on weaker opponents.
But among the comments, it was Olivier Busquet’s words that attracted the most attention. The American poker pro labeled Galfond’s post as “silly” and “flat out wrong”. Busquet said Hellmuth is by far the most obnoxious disrespectful self-promoting ego maniac in the industry.
Busquet’s remarks irked Galfond’s wife Farah, who later posted her own tweet criticizing Busquet and defending her husband. Busquet was also criticized by some players for his unhinged response and lack of respect for poker veterans like Hellmuth. The social media debate on Hellmuth’s GOAT status suddenly became a debate between old school players and modern pros.
Hellmuth thanked Galfond for the nice words and said he is still wondering why he doesn’t receive the respect he deserves despite winning year after year.

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