George Anthony walked by the Rio Hotel’s valet around 1:15 p.m. Sunday on his way into the casino and saw a line of photographers, a mob of fans with cameras and two rows of models dressed Roman warriors and muses.
“What an entrance,” Anthony said as stepped onto the curb. “I think I know who it is.”
He went into his bag, pulled out a magazine and went to an advertisement of Phil Hellmuth dressed as the Julius Caesar.
About 15 minutes later, Hellmuth followed the same path as Anthony, only the 11-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner didn’t walk up to the curb.
Four men carried Hellmuth, who was dressed as the former Roman emperor, including a gold crown, grey furs and a black cape, to the red carpet where 11 models wearing body paint to look like Roman warriors and another row of women in white toga-like dresses were waiting for him.
They were his escort as he made his way up the red carpet before he entered the Rio and made his way to the tournament area for Day 1c of the $10,000 World Championship No Limit Hold’em (Event 57) in the Amazon Room.
As he followed the path, there were another almost 80 models tossing rose pedals in the air as he made his grand entrance, which included drums and horns, and a crowd with cameras in front, behind and alongside him the entire way.
Once he reached the tournament area with 12 minutes left in Level 1, his entourage followed him onto the stage around one of the two feature stages where ESPN was filming the table Hellmuth would be playing at for the day.
“We’re just having as much fun as we can have,” Hellmuth said during the 20-minute break at the end of the level. “I thought it was great. Having the girls with the body paint was just fun. I mean, come on, how often do you see girls with just body paint on?”
Hellmuth said he will be Caesar at the WSOP Europe, which will take place Sept. 17 to Oct. 1 in London.
“We’re going to do Caesar theme at the World Series of Poker Europe as well, so Caesar is like a yearlong theme,” the 1989 Main Event champion said. “Because when you do Caesar, you want to do him big and you want to do him right.”
The entrance added to the legend of Hellmuth, which some love and others can’t stand.
While hundreds of fans were lining the red carpet as he walked in and were taking photos and asking for autographs, others were scowling at the fashionably late entry.
Just as Hellmuth entered the Rio, one man told him, “Phil, you’re shameless, totally shameless.” It caught Hellmuth’s ear and he went over and shook the man’s hand.
Further into the hotel, however, Brett Jungblut walked by the exhibition after he left the tournament area and loudly said, “Biggest clown in town.”
The reaction and the large media coverage of it, Hellumth said, is good for the game.
“It’s just supposed to be fun,” he said. “But I think there’s 10 or 20 percent that just say, ‘Aww, that’s not right. Phil’s just self-promoting, blah, blah, blah.’
“But I think this is great for the sport of poker. And it’s great for the World Series of Poker and, clearly, it’s great for me and it’s great for Ultimate Bet. But it’s also great for poker.”
The attention can get overwhelming, Hellmuth said, as he has made grand entrances in the past, including coming in as Gen. Patton last year. He has learned, however, to deal with the attention — both positive and negative.
“When you walk through and there are just tons of people and flash bulbs and people screaming and yelling and cheering, that got to me the first two years a little bit. Just a little bit,” he said. “Last year I was able to deal with it. I’m like, look, this is just a role you’re playing today. And then you have to sit down be Phil Hellmuth and win.
“So, today, the same thing. It’s just a role I’m playing. It’s a lot of fun, but if I let all that stuff get my ego out of control, I’ll play badly,” he said. “So right now it’s about just change clothes, go in there and be Phil.”
When Hellmuth’s reign as Caesar ends, he expects to move on to a new character for next year’s WSOP and is already considering a number of personas.
“Next year I like the idea of being Gambit having watched ‘X-Men.’ Right now Gambit’s at the top of my list for next year. But if not Gambit, we’ll come up with something,” he said. “There’re a whole list of ideas.”