[Content Disclosure: Poker Mind In Depth series]
Today is Day Four of the main event, with 789 players still in the hunt out of 6,494 starters; Phil Hellmuth sits in a very comfortable 75th place with 485,000 chips. As you may remember Phil made a deep run in last year's WSOP finishing 45th. Now we all know that predicting success based on a Day Four or even a Day Five position is folly. Chip leaders will come and go and disappear many more times in the next several days. So what makes 2009 different for Phil?
First, I want to say that catching up with Phil for any kind of in-depth session is really not in the best interest of his game right now. Phil can and does get incredibly focused each day before the event begins and I respect that focusing process. I can give you my observations based on Phil's play and some brief encounters.
This year, at least the main event, is different for Phil. He reports to being incredibly calm, which is a departure from his condition in the last five or six years at the main event. There is no doubt in my mind that this more low key approach is leading to better play. Not that with Phil's record he actually needs to elevate his game, but better is better, so why not. You will notice once the ESPN shows begin to run, there are no Hellmuthian blow-ups. Sure there is camera time, as someone wise once said: "You don't put me on the TV table to be quiet." But the 2009 version of Phil is really under a lot more control. He has been more aggressive in spots where he would have folded in previous years and yet I have seen four big lay-downs that saved him 50% or more of his stack. Very few players would not have gone broke in those four hands.
What does this mean for the next 3 days? Well, we all know that aces do run into kings and runner, runner, perfect, perfect suck-outs happen. No one has a clear path to the final table this early. About all we can say today, is that most of the field has a shot at the money, we will be "in the money" about midday today.
What I can observe is that Phil is once again in position for a deep run in the main event. Once again! I will keep a close watch on him and we will have a Part XVIII & XIX to this series, if . . .
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