Pill Hellmuth Takes Down the $50K Heads-up Championship Title

Phil Hellmuth triumphed in Poker Night in America's King of the Hill heads-up championship after beating Doug Polk in the semi-final, then defeating another online heads-up specialist, Daniel "Jungleman" Cates in the final for the full $200K prize pool.  

"GTO vs. White Magic" - this is what you heard a lot in the lead-up to the heads-up match between Doug Polk, a prominent figure of the online poker generation and Phil Hellmuth, an old-school poker pro who came up in an era before internet poker. GTO stands for Game Theory Optimal, meaning it's a very math and probability theory-based approach to poker, one that is favored by online players. 'White Magic" refers to Hellmuth's ability to read his opponents' live tells and adjust his play according to those.

"White Magic" prevailed in the first match-up of Poker Night in America's 200K prize pool winner-take-all heads-up championship, as Hellmuth defeated Polk in the freezout heads-up game. At one point Polk decided to literally flip a coin - or what looked more like a PNIA coaster - to decide on whether calling or folding two pair to Hellmuth's river bet on a one-to-straight board. The coaster landed face up, the side Polk had assigned "call" to, so he ended up putting in most of his remaining stack in the middle - unfortunately for him, Hellmuth did have the 7 making the straight. We're not sure, however, how much flipping coasters is part of the latest game theory on poker.

On the other branch of the tournament tree, "Jungleman" Cates ended his battle with Frank Kassela quickly, stacking him in the fifth hand of the game with the nut straight against Kasella's top two. With that Cates moved on to the final where he faced 14-time WSOP bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth.

The final was played until a player wins two freezout sessions. The first one went to Hellmuth, even though he chipped down to be a 3:1 short stack early in the game, but managed to climb back and take all of Jungleman's chips. In the last hand Cates called Hellmuth's AQ off pre-flop shove with KQ off. The flop came 7d8d6s4d - yes, the dealer accidentally put four cards on the board on the flop. After randomly removing one of them - diamond, which would have helped Cates since he was hoding the Kd - the croupier managed to deal out the right number of cards on the last two streets, 2s and Ah, which meant the first leg ended with the Poker Brat's victory.

Cates equalized the score in the second round which went down much quicker than the first one - Cates busted Hellmuth about forty minutes in with two pair, Hellmuth only had middle pair.

It was all decided in the final round at the Rivers Casino in Schenectady, New York. Just like in the first session, Cates amassed a massive lead early in the game - this time, Hellmuth was down to a measly 5,800-chip stack (down from the starting 100K!). He chipped back up a little - then the most talked about hand of the night came. Cates was not willing to call Hellmuth's ambitious river bluff for the last 10,000 of the Poker Brat's chips, even though he had trips. Cates could have ended it right there easily but didn't. You can watch the hand below.

This allowed Phil Hellmuth to climb back up again and eventually stack Cates once more, this time with A6 off against Cates' same KQ off. The King of the Hill heads-up championship belt along with the entire $200,000 prize pool went to Phil Hellmuth, even though many thought he would fall short against Polk in his first match already.