Poker ace and celebrity Phil Hellmuth turned his hand to journalism this week, expanding the media coverage on the 39th World Series of Poker now in its second action-packed week in Las Vegas by writing for the mass circulation newspaper USA Today.
Hellmuth identified 4 trends in his entertaining column:
* Almost every record for field size has been broken at this year's WSOP, including the $1 500 buy-in No-limit Hold'em event which topped 4 000 entrants.
* The large number of pros involved, and their success ratio in bracelets illustrates again that poker is primarily a game of skill. Hellmuth included several paragraphs on the talent, successful track record and popularity of Erick "E-Dog" Lindgren who scored his first WSOP bracelet this year after winning just about everything else out there.
* The number of Million-Dollar Prop Bets: Hellmuth explains that proposition bets are an old-school play that has been resurrected at WSOP this year whereby individual players bet money on themselves or others to win a WSOP bracelet, last longer in a given tournament, or some other happening. He goes on to discuss the entertaining phenomenon, using as an example Israeli pro Eli Elezra's million dollar investment on bets that various players will win bracelets this year. Apart from creating added excitement, this sort of side action motivates the players even more.
Elezra is a smart man – he made $1 million last year betting against about 10 different players to win a bracelet.
* New Breed: Hellmuth reveals that pro players in Vegas right now for the WSOP come from 100 countires, but he remarks on the large number of under 25 year old players who are appearing in the 55 events.
"Some [of these younger players] have played more hands of poker by age 25 than I have in my whole life," writes Hellmuth, reporting that they come from Internet action on major sites like Poker Stars.com and Full Tilt Poker.com, where they can play well over 100 hands an hour. Some routinely play in eight games at a time, more than 400 hands an hour.
Hellmuth observed that the New Breed have the confidence to argue that they are better than the old school players because they have played more hands, and that they will soon own poker and will dominate it for years to come. They claim to be more sophisticated, better educated and more committed to the game.
"Although I respect the New Breed, they still have to look us old school guys square in the eye. All I can say is this: Don't blink, kid," Hellmuth concludes.