As we approach the conclusion of this year's World Series of Poker Main Event, with the so-called November Nine finalists reconvening in Las Vegas next month, let's return to the 2008 WSOP when the combination of extreme exhaustion and frustration finally got the best of me.
It was late on Day 6 and I was really struggling to keep it together. I had played ten hours of poker each day over the previous four straight days. It was one of the most intense poker experiences of my life, in the most important and meaningful tournament of the year.
Unfortunately for me, it's these exact situations when my worst Poker Brat moments tend to emerge.
So, with blinds at $15,000/$30,000, an unknown Romanian amateur named Cristian Dragomir opened for $85,000 with 10d-4d. I looked down at A-K from the small blind and raised $155,000 making it $240,000 to go. Dragomir made a quick call.
The flop came 10s-9s-7c. Not knowing where I stood, I decided to check. Dragomir, however, fired out $300,000. Since I had totally whiffed, it was an easy fold against his sizable bet.
But then Dragomir showed 10d-4d -- and I went absolutely bonkers!
As the crowd roared, I screamed in utter disbelief, "Is this what poker has turned into? You, sir, are an idiot! You called $155,000 more with 10-4. I cannot believe it. I'm in shock. How can such a bad player make it to the final eighty players in the Main Event?"
Was it a horrible play? Yes, absolutely. Perhaps if he had shoved all-in pre-flop I would have understood that he was trying to make a move. But calling pre-flop with 10-4? No way.
I regret to say that I continued to verbally berate Dragomir and his play over the next several hands. It was the Poker Brat at his worst. That's when Dragomir demanded that I receive a penalty for my ugly behavior.
"Are you going to let Hellmuth call me an idiot over and over again?" he asked the floorman.
Well, ask and ye shall receive. I was given a penalty, and a costly one at that. I had to sit out one entire round -- nine hands in total - and had to forfeit $81,000 in chips in blinds and antes.
The decision to levy this hefty penalty against me instantly became a huge topic in the poker world. Pro player Erick Lindgren, who had been watching the action live, noted that several other players had acted way worse than me and none of them had been similarly disciplined.
I remember telling my wife that it was flat-out wrong to penalize me at that crucial stage of the tournament. Why? Because I'd been acting like that the whole six weeks of the WSOP!
Look, it's one thing to give me the equivalent of a "five-yard penalty" on Day 1, but penalizing me on Day 6 was like receiving a "15-yard penalty plus a loss of down" - it just wasn't right.
The next morning, the WSOP officials actually rescinded the penalty because they agreed that it was excessive. Yes, warnings and penalties were intended to correct inappropriate behavior, but in this particular situation, the punishment just didn't fit the crime.
Yet their decision to rescind the penalty was crucified in the poker world. Charges of favoritism to a big-name player like me raged on poker forums everywhere for months.
Will we see a similar emotional outburst when the November 9 finalists get together next month in Vegas? No, probably not. After all, there is only one Poker Brat, and that, my friends, is me.
** Phil Hellmuth ** This article is supplied by Phil Hellmuth and UBpoker. Visit UBPoker for more great poker articles.