Las Vegas – As the field of 2,378 players at Day 2B of the World Series of Poker Main Event dwindled to 855 Wednesday, players like Raja Kattamuri, Alexander Kostristyn and Victor Ramdin climbed their way up the leaderboard. But by the sheer force of their personalities, two players with fewer chips stole the show with a drama of their own.
Phil Hellmuth, playing Phil Hellmuth, was the lead character. Ramzi Jelassi, the plucky poker player who wouldn’t back down, served as Hellmuth’s foil. And the rest of the players at the table had supporting roles.
The fireworks began when Hellmuth, wearing a leather jacket over his UltimateBet „Poker Brat“ jersey and UltimateBet baseball hat, decided to push Las Vegas‘ Bobby Law all in with a sizable bet.
„You think you’re just going to keep running over me?“ Hellmuth asked.
Law, wearing a short-sleeved Green Bay Packers golf shirt, clearly had a good hand and didn’t know what to do.
„You’ve got queens,“ Hellmuth said. „I know you’ve got queens.“
Then Hellmuth called for a clock and Law pushed back.
„Everyone has been taking an hour to make a decision,“ Law said.
Hellmuth quickly withdrew his request and started talking to his wife, seated at a podium immediately behind him.
„Honey, honey, warm up the car,“ Hellmuth said, as Law continued to ponder his decision.
Finally, Law mucked his hand, and Hellmuth revealed he’d bluffed Law out of the pot with a two and a four.
„Who wants to play poker with me,“ roared the 6-foot 5 inch Hellmuth as he stood up in celebration.
„Honey, honey,“ Hellmuth shouted to his wife. „I bluffed with five-high.“
Then Hellmuth turned to the cameras.
„Don’t play the cards. Play the play-ah,“ Hellmuth said. „I’ll have that on t-shirts next week.“
Taking in the act from the far side of the table was Jelassi.
„I’ve played with Phil a lot before,“ Jelassi told Casino City. „I know how he works.“
Hellmuth didn’t remember playing with Jelassi though. „I remember Juha Helpi,“ Hellmuth told Jelassi at the table. „But I don’t remember you.“
„That’s good,“ said Jelassi. „That’s better for me.“
Jelassi then began to engage Hellmuth in some pots. After one fold, Hellmuth asked to see Jelassi’s cards.
„I don’t want to show you aces,“ Jelassi retorted, reminding him of a pot earlier where he had revealed aces and became the subject of a Hellmuth diatribe about amateurs.
„Sometimes when they play poker, they forget who I am,“ Hellmuth muttered to another player at the table.
After another re-raise from Jelassi, Hellmuth started the conversation again.
„You’ve re-raised me 10 times in a row,“ Hellmuth said. „That’s a new record.“
„And I had the best hand nine of those times,“ Jelassi responded, refusing to back down.
„A lot of things Phil does is just get people on tilt — to get inside people’s heads,“ the 21-year-old from Stockholm, Sweden, explained.
„Sometimes he reveals his hand without thinking about it,“ Jelassi added.
Jelassi had Hellmuth talking all night, even when he was not directly involved in a pot.
In a move that surprised Hellmuth, Australia’s Tony Clark went all-in with his remaining 28,000 chips.
„Did you just lose your mind?“ Hellmuth asked Clark. „Buddy, what do you have? If you have ace-queen, your dead.“
„You’re overplaying ace-queen,“ Hellmuth said, trying to get a read on Clark. And after a few minutes of Hellmuth talking, Jelassi asked for a clock to be put on Hellmuth.
„Who asked for the clock?“ Hellmuth said. When he found out it was Jelassi, Hellmuth confronted him.
„Why did you ask for the clock? Why would you do that?“ Hellmuth said.
„Because you’ve been thinking about this for four minutes,“ Jelassi responded. „Even you can make a decision in four minutes.“
Hellmuth ignored Jelassi for the moment and concentrated on his hand. He decided to call and lost to a set of tens. And that set Hellmuth off.
„Idiot put all his money in on sixes earlier,“ Hellmuth tells his wife. „He’s crazy bad. He plays six hands in a row that he shouldn’t have played. The he gets a set against me.“
Hellmuth then turned his attention back to Jelassi.
„By the way, thanks for calling the clock on me buddy. Five years from now, you won’t call for that clock.“
„I gave you four minutes to think about,“ Jelassi points out.
„There was 50,000 in the pot,“ Hellmuth said. „I needed time to figure it out.“
Five hands later, Hellmuth was still talking about the clock.
„It’s the World Series of Poker. You can’t call the clock like that.“
After that hand, Hellmuth went on a major roll. He dominated play for the next several hands and ended the night with about 200,000 in chips.
Meanwhile, Jelassi went in the other direction, and eventually busted out.
„I think I played really well except for one pot. I just stuck way to much money in there (against Law) and it was an unnecessary risk.“
„The Main Event was what I expected,“ said Jelassi, who cut his teeth in poker online and was playing in the WSOP for the first time.
„I like to play live games because the players are worse and you get some tells that are not on the screen.“
Notable eliminations: Bryan Micon, Liz Lieu, Bruce Buffer, David Tran, David Sklansky, Joe Hachem, Dan Shak, Phil Laak, David Oppenheim, Carlos Mortensen, Michael Binger, Lee Childs, Isabelle Mercier, Howard Lederer, Shannon Elizabeth, Beth Shak, John Juanda and Jerry Yang.