So, what are we arguing about today in the poker world? Yes, the poker community loves a proper and heated argument. You can't really blame them because poker players are highly-competitive and opiniated people, especially when it comes to their superiority over inferior players. But when it comes to someone like Phil Hellmuth, most of the community generally has a low opinion of the one we call the Poker Brat. He's become a caricature of himself and a bit tone-deaf, but sorta funny in a lampoon kind of way (e.g. selling his house). Hellmuth won more WSOP bracelets than anyone in history. In one sense, for players that think the "bling" matters as a benchmark of awesomeness, their lies a bit of cognitive dissonance when it comes to Hellmuth. You can't say bracelets matter and then shit all over Hellmuth's game. Obviously, if you think bracelets used to be a hallmark of excellence, but has since been hijacked by corporate interests as the golden carrot stick in front of the donkey cart, then none of this matters.
The kids always think the old guard is overrated with their antiquated ways. This is no different in pro sports when the kids today think LeBron James is the GOAT compared to Michael Jordan. Then again you still have some elderly holdouts that think Wilt Chamberlin or Bill Russell is the greatest hoopster of all time. But let's be frank here... Hellmuth is not the GOAT in poker. That debate is for masses to argue about: Doyle Brunson vs Phil Ivey vs Fedor Holz.
But in poker right now, one of the most respected players in the game gave a public shoutout to Hellmuth. Phil Galfond is one of the nicer guys in the community and he's been trying to give back to the world by teaching pros to become highly-function stars, and he also teaches absolute fish how to improve their game.
Galfond admitted he never trashed the Poker Brat publicly, but privately, he had many conversations that Hellmuth was not as good as his resume. Galfond's initial sentiment matched those GTO-robots in hoodies that think the Poker Brat is overrated trash from what they've seen in the trenches playing against Hellmuth.
Galfond watched the last heads-up battle between Antonio Esfandiari and Hellmuth. Galfond wanted to share his come to Jesus moment... ho hum... his come to Hellmuth moment... when he realized that Hellmuth has a little bit of poker genius inside of him.
You cannot win 15 bracelets without some-sort of finishing skills, especially in the heads-up department. It takes a certain skill to navigate large-field events to get to a final table. At the final table, it's a whole other different skill set especially as players bustout and then it shrinks to short-handed action to eventually heads-up.
"What I saw wasn't HUNL technical mastery. It was an uncanny ability to assess and adapt to every spot he found himself in... he chose lines that, while often unorthodox, intelligently capitalized on his (dead-on)read of each situation."
Galfond gave Hellmuth props and formally apologized for taking over a decade or more to realize Hellmuth actually has a good game.
"I just recognized that I witness greatness, and that Phil Hellmuth knows something I don't."
Many of the high-stakes pros were ready to shit on Galfond's Come to Helmuth moment.
"He punted every 300k I've seen him play in so I don't share your view," said Fedor Holz. "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. I find it entertaining to play against him."
Dan Smith tweeted, "On your side of the argument, people have some nice things to say. The people on the other side of the argument are willing to bet *really* big. Hmm.... (thinking emoji)."
"Easily 1 of the silliest things I've ever read from someone I respect," said Olivier Busquet. "Misses the point or is flat out wrong on almost every substantive issue and an actual formal apology to the most obnoxious disrespectful, self promoting ego maniac in the industry. It's like Stockholm syndrome."
This reminds of a scene from the HBO show Band of Brothers, about WWII paratroopers fighting Nazis in Europe It's one of the earlier episodes when Easy Company boards a troop ship in NYC and is headed across the Atlantic to join the fight. Two soldiers argue about the competence, or lack thereof, of their command officers. The argument quickly turns when one solider makes a low-key anti-Semitic comment and another takes offense and the two try to fight each other. The rest of the company rushes in to break up the fight. Meanwhile, two soldiers ignore the hysterics and fight around them as they play cards against each other.
"Fighting over Sobel, thanks smart," quips the solider before drawing a card.
Which brings me back to this week's drama in the poker world. Fighting over Hellmuth? That's... smart, lulz.