In 1989, the 24-year-old Hellmuth became the youngest player to win the Main Event of the WSOP by defeating the two-time defending champion Johnny Chan in heads up play. He held that distinction until 2008, when 22-year-old Peter Eastgate became the youngest Main Event champion. At the 2006 World Series of Poker, he captured his record 10th World Series of Poker bracelet in the $1,000 No Limit Hold’em with rebuys event. At the time, this tied him with fellow poker legends Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan. However, unlike Brunson and Chan, all of his bracelets are in Texas hold’em.
At the 2007 World Series of Poker, Hellmuth won his record-breaking 11th bracelet in the $1,500 No Limit Hold’em Event. Hellmuth also holds the records for most WSOP cashes (68) and most WSOP final tables (41), recently overtaking TJ Cloutier. At the Main Event of the 2008 World Series of Poker Hellmuth made a deep run finishing in 45th place out of a field of 6,844. He was the last former champion standing at the event when he was knocked out. Hellmuth took home $154,400. He has won $6,019,630 at the WSOP and is ranked eighth on the WSOP All Time Money List. In October, 2008, Hellmuth launched, pokerbrat.com, a webstore where customers can purchase Hellmuth and non-hellmuth brand poker gear. In May, 2009 Phil Hellmuth released the book Deal Me In: 20 Of The World’s Top Poker Players Share The Heartbreaking and Inspiring Stories of How They Turned Pro.
Hellmuth is known for being an excellent poker player but a bad loser who makes disrespectful remarks about his opponents’ skills, especially after taking bad beats. During the Main Event of the 2005 World Series of Poker, he stated, “I can dodge bullets, baby!” after laying down Ace King to an opponent’s pocket Aces on a board of A 4 4 Q rainbow. He later accused an opponent of not even being able to spell poker after the player put all of his money in the pot preflop with King Jack against Hellmuth’s Ace King; Hellmuth’s opponent hit a three-outer to win the pot. Other famous quotes include: “If luck weren’t involved, I guess I’d win every tournament…” and “I’ve revolutionized the way to play Texas hold ‘em”.
On one occasion, Hellmuth, who is frequently very talkative during matches, so infuriated veteran poker professional Sam Grizzle that the two men had fisticuffs. Hellmuth claims that the fight was a draw and that neither one of them was injured, but other accounts report that Grizzle easily won the fight with a single punch. In the first week of the show Poker After Dark on NBC, after fellow pros Shawn Sheikhan, Steve Zolotow, Gus Hansen and Huck Seed refused to stop talking while it was his turn to act on his hand after Annie Duke raised him, Hellmuth threatened never to play in these tournaments again. Duke was the only player at the table who remained quiet while the drama played out. Producers of the show came up with a ruling regarding the situation, Hellmuth returned and was eliminated a few hands later by Sheikhan.
At the 2007 WSOP Main Event, Hellmuth’s sponsor arranged for him to arrive in a branded race car, escorted by 11 models (one for each of Hellmuth’s 11 World Series of Poker bracelets). However, Hellmuth crashed the race car in the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino parking lot when he lost control of the vehicle and hit a concrete light fixture. After the accident, Hellmuth showed up in a limo, met his escorts, and made his grand entrance to the Main Event two hours late. The accident was briefly thought to be staged by some sources, but Hellmuth said it wasn’t. He later made light of the accident in a television advertisement. In 2008, Hellmuth again made a grand entrance into the WSOP Main Event, arriving in a convoy dressed in military garb, with eleven stars on his helmet (for the eleven WSOP bracelets he has won).