While he has won virtually everything of importance in the world of poker, 14-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth still loves to have the cameras on him. He enjoys the time that he spends in commentary about poker (hence his new position with the World Poker Tour’s Raw Deal segment), but it is more important (to Phil) for people to see him play. Thus, the defense of his Poker Night in America “King of the Hill” championship in Pennsylvania this weekend is perhaps foremost in his mind.
Beginning this afternoon at the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh, the “King of the Hill” battle will commence for the second time. The event will bring together four players – Olivier Busquet, Shawn Deeb, Parker ‘tonkaaaap’ Talbot and the defending champion Hellmuth – in a bracket fight for supremacy. They will be playing heads up No Limit Texas Hold’em, with two matches today leading to the final tomorrow for the championship.
Each player has their own skin in the game with this event. They have each put up $50,000 and it is a “winner take all” event. On Saturday night, one of these men will emerge from the “best two of three” final with a payday of $200,000 and the “King of the Hill” championship belt.
The competitors in this tournament are coming from all aspects of the poker world. Busquet is a known entity and long considered an expert at heads up poker. Ranked right behind him is Deeb, who has been a terror on both live and virtual felts for the past decade-plus. If there were a “wild card” to the bunch, it would be Talbot, who has a good history in the online poker arena but not much live experience to speak of. Then there’s Hellmuth, whose achievements in the game have made him a living legend – and he is never shy about letting people know about that!
This second competition comes on the heels of what was a very popular “made for television” event. In August, Hellmuth arguably came in to the inaugural “King of the Hill” competition as the underdog in the tournament. With opponents such as Dan ‘Jungleman’ Cates, Frank Kassela and Doug ‘WCGRider’ Polk, it wasn’t thought that Hellmuth (who isn’t considered the best heads up player) would have much of a chance in the tournament. After surprisingly knocking off Polk in the first round, however, Hellmuth would go on to face Cates in the Championship Match.
The “best of three” winner take all match that occurred between Cates and Hellmuth was one for the ages. Cates would make a hero call against Hellmuth in Match 1 to put the former World Champion on the ropes, but Hellmuth fought back to not only be competitive but, in the end, take Match 1. That tenacious attitude out of Hellmuth held on into Match 2, where he was able to put Cates away handily to take the “King of the Hill” championship belt and the $200,000 prize.
What was the big draw of the first “King of the Hill” battle will try to be replicated in Steel City. There was vehement competition between the players, but there was also verbal jousting and “table talk” that the PNiA cameras captured for posterity. While Hellmuth is a given for wanting to chat at the tables, Busquet, Deeb and Talbot will have their work cut out for them to be as verbose as the trio of Kassela, Cates and Polk.
The competition begins this afternoon at the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh at 6PM (Eastern Time). The Poker Night in America cameras will pick up the action with a “live-delayed” streaming broadcast beginning at 6:30PM on their Twitch channel. Action on Friday will be the two semi-final matches (expect Busquet and Deeb up first, with Hellmuth and Talbot coming after that), with the best of three Championship Event taking place on Saturday night, also to be streamed on Twitch.
It should be an exciting event as Hellmuth isn’t going to sneak up on people like he might have in the first encounter (like a 14-time bracelet winner can “sneak up”). Busquet and Deeb are heads up practitioners and Talbot has gained quite a reputation online in the same arena. Can Hellmuth emerge from Pittsburgh with the “King of the Hill” belt by the end of Saturday night or will there be a new owner in the cards?