Poker Mind In Depth Part II: Phil Hellmuth

[Content Disclosure: Poker Mind In Depth series]

We can't start a 2009 World Series of Poker conversation with Phil Hellmuth without talking about the "incident" at the end of day five of last year's main event. If you have read my piece on that night, you know that I disagreed with the floor call which resulted in a one round penalty against Phil that because of the hour, would have been enforced the following day at the beginning of day six of the main event. You probably know that after a meeting with Commissioner Jeffery Pollack and Tournament Director Jack Effel that penalty was rescinded. So I started my conversation with Phil about the new "Phil Hellmuth" rule that has been put in place for the 2009 WSOP.

The important part of the new rule is really not written down, but it is known because Phil actually attended a "sensitivity training" session with WSOP floor staff. Calling a player an idiot is subject to a penalty this year and at least a warning will be given. Phil was quick to point out that even using the term "these idiots" will not be allowed. 

P: "I actually think that goes too far, but I am for the rule change. Poker should not be about players yelling or screaming at each other. But this puts the WSOP and ESPN staff in a double bind because confrontations like have happened in the past are what makes for compelling television. I mean I watched tennis to see John McEnroe and we know fans watch for the excitement and for players who are passionate about the game. But this year I will just have to express myself in a different way. I will have to talk about how unlucky I get or about my play and not direct my comments at any other player."

I reminded Phil that last year the penalty/non-penalty was given without any warning to him.

P: "Even worse, I was acting and talking exactly like I had been for the previous six weeks of the World Series and then suddenly that behavior is being penalized.  I mean if there was a rule that is one thing, but last year there was no rule and past behavior without any penalties would indicate that I was within the acceptable standards."

I asked Phil if these new penalties are not actually meant for the professionals and for the feature tables. My point was that the rules were really about the image of the WSOP and sometimes new rules go too far.

P: "Well yes and no. Sure we will be watched more closely but we should be, we should know better than a first time player. On the other hand, I have been protected many times in the past by WSOP staff when I was playing at a table where another player just wanted to go at me because I was Phil Hellmuth. In fact that happens once or twice nearly every year. I am for the new rule, really I am. I just hope it doesn't go too far and take all of the interaction between the players out of the game."

Then I asked about rule 53E, which states: Harrah's will maintain a written log of all penalties throughout the duration of the WSOP.

Now that is the entire rule. Nothing is written down about what this penalty log is going to be used for. But Phil was told in his sensitivity session and media have been told that if a player gets a penalty say in Event #4 that should that same player receive another penalty in Event #32 several weeks later, the Event #32 penalty will be treated as a second offense and therefore the enforced penalty in the later event will be more severe. 

P: "Right, that is exactly how they intend to enforce the "log entry" rule. So I am going to be very careful in all the tournaments because one slip in a early event could cost me an additional full round penalty in the main event."

You can be sure that this will not be the last discussion Phil & I have this summer about the new player conduct rules or as we are all calling them: The Phil Hellmuth rules.