Phil Hellmuth Tournament Strategy

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Phil Hellmuth Poker Tournament Strategy

Love him or hate him, Phil Hellmuth aka the “poker brat” is one of the most gifted poker tournament players in the world.  He has won11 WSOP Bracelets – a record unlikely to ever be usurpassed, and in 1989 he became the youngest ever player to win the WSOP Main Event defeating two-time defending champion Johnny Chan in heads up. 

Hellmuth’s also had success in Heads Up Poker, winning the inaugural NBC National Heads Up Poker Championship in 2005.  And in 1996 Hellmuth’s professional poker colleagues voted him the best No-Limit Tournament Player in the world.

Phil Hellmuth’s Tournament Strategy 

Phil Hellmuth plays a very loose agressive strategy in touranments,  that contrasts heavily with tight players such as Harrington and Negreanu.  A LAG approach includes raising more from early position, limping into pots with more hands, and re-raising/stealing pots more.

The biggest reason Phil claims he win wins so many tournaments however is his extraordinary reading skills.

The ability to read players, come to terms with their betting patterns and understand who to avoid in complicated pots is what sets him apart.  This is also what makes him so successful Heads Up.

Hellmuths proven reading skills have been seen numerous times in his career.  At the 2003 $2500 WSOP Limit Holdem Event Hellmuth called with King High despite being check-raised on a ragged 2-4-7 flop.  Such were his primordial instincts reading Young Phan (even after a river card which completed a potential flush – Phan had actually busted a straight) that he managed to win the title there and then. 

“I am capable of raising 15 out of 20 hands or only one. I don’t play in a box. I know what other great players do well. Some of them do those things better than I do. But I just try to have all the gears and try to use them at the right time.”

Some of Phil Hellmuth’s Tournament Tips

  • Watch His/her Hands – Hellmuth tells us one of his secrets is to study opponents’ hands when they bet.  “A lot is revealed by players hands in poker”. To stop giving away tells you should have the same expression on your face on put chips in the pot the same way, regardless whether you’re weak or sitting on a monster.
  • Follow Your Opponents Betting Patters – Watch how your opponent plays when you’re out of the hand.  Pay attention and study his tactics – does he fold to re-steals easily or does he tighten up after the flop?  This prepares you for the next time you get involved with him. 
  • Physical Tells – Players in live games often slump their shoulders with poor hands but then seem very attentive sat erect with strong hands.  At least against new players these can be fairly accurate guides to go by.
  • How Long Does He Look at His Cards? – Watching your opponent look at his hole cards tells you so much, according to the 11 WSOP champion. “Many players can’t help staring at big hole cards, and their length of time peeking is likely to be longer”.  Conversely, a player looking to steal often look at the players to the left, and those with weak cards (on the SB/BB) will generally glance once at their cards if they’re bad.  This helps you making steals.
  • Weak is Strong, and Strong is Weak – Very often in poker opponents bluffing will over-compensate by raising their voice and attempting to appear confident or intimidating when they raise.   

Conclusion: Phil Hellmuth Tournament Strategy

Hellmuth doesn’t have a lucky “x-factor” or one-dimensionaly approach for playing games.  He is successful because he is receptive of his opponents and spots tells, weaknesses and betting patterns in opponents better than others.

Alot of online tournament players will tell you that knowing your table’s opening hand, positional and 3bet ranges gives you the advantage and wins you the final table.  His ability to mix his game up and make outrageous calls/folds against skilled players is probably his favourite bragging quality.  Phil has even managed to fold pocket-aces preflop in past tournaments.

Play Against Hellmuth at!

Phil Hellmuth exclusively plays all his online poker at Ultimate Bet, one of the fastest/biggest growing tournament rooms online.  Part of the UB Pro Team, if you manage to knock out Phil in the Sunday $200k Gtd (or any of his other team members including Lacey Jones) you’ll get $215 free.

You can sign up to Ultimate Bet  and get a $1100 Bonus now to play online against Hellmuth, or just watch the greatest tournament player in action!

2 Responses to “Phil Hellmuth Tournament Strategy”

  1. Lloyd Mcclain says:

    Phil Helmuth. The greatest. Hands down