It was the kind of heads-up battle that seemed scripted--Phil Hellmuth, going for gold bracelet 14, Ted Forrest heads-up for a gold bracelet for the first time since 2008. This was the kind of heads-up battle poker fans were begging to see and didn’t want to end. For a while it seemed like it might not, as the two poker titans battled for several hours before Forrest emerged victorious, earning his sixth gold bracelet in the process.
What was a fairy tale conclusion for Forrest marked the 10th runner-up finish for Hellmuth, who was appearing at his 49th career final table -- by far the most of anyone in history. This was Forrest's first win at the WSOP since 2004 and the first to take place at the Rio. The victory was a brutally hard-fought one for Forrest, who dueled with Hellmuth for over four hours, overcoming a chip deficit multiple times to claim the prize. The two icons exchanged the chip lead 12 times.
After the win, Forrest joked that he heard a lot of "14s" coming from the rail, but not a lot of "sixes". While fans may have been tuning in to see whether or not Hellmuth would extend his all-time career wins record, certainly none left disatisfied at one of the toughest heads-up battles the WSOP stage has seen in recent memory.
"Of all the tournament's I've played, this one was the toughest when we gone down to heads-up," said Forrest after the win. "I've never gone back and forth this many times against anyone. Phil is a great player obviously, and to win in this way really makes it even more satisfying. I don't know what I can say other than this is what we play for, for this moment."
Forrest collected $121,196 in addition to bragging rights (no small matter between these legends), and the gold bracelet. Meanwhile, Hellmuth picked up $74,848 for the runner-up finish. While the bracelet eluded him, even Hellmuth agreed in a short chat afterward that there was no shame in coming in second to the widely-respected Ted Forrest.
Now with six bracelets, Forrest's career win tally now matches that of reigning WSOP Player of the Year Daniel Negreanu, TJ Cloutier, Layne Flack, who was present on the rail to see Forrest win, as well as Jay Heimowitz.
One would think that over two decades, Ted Forrest and Phil Hellmuth would have played heads-up for a bracelet before. Given that there were 18 bracelets between them, they were beating up the rest of the poker world as the same time. However, back in those days when the bulk of the wins occurred, Hellmuth’s primary game was No Limit Hold’em, while Forrest’s bracelets typically came in mixed games. After all, Forrest came into today with five bracelets, only one of which is in No Limit Hold’em. Meanwhile, Hellmuth had 13 bracelets, only one of which wasn’t in No Limit Hold’em. Remarkably, both players were going for their second Razz bracelet. Hellmuth won his in 2011, while Forrest collected his back in 1993.
"Poker has changes so much since I started playing," Forrest said. "I never thought it would be anything like this, but it's great to see all that's happened here. It's also nice to win one in different eras. It's nice to know you had it back then and can still play."
The $1,500 Razz event drew 352 players, generating a $475,200 prize pool. The top 40 finishers made the money, including the likes of 1986 world champion Berry Johnston (39th), Matthew Waxman (19th), and 1996 world champion Huck Seed (12th). The final table seemed more like something you'd see in a $10,000 Championship event rather than a $1,500 price point, as there were five bracelet winners in the line-up with a grand total of 23 bracelets. Most of those belonged to Hellmuth, but David Bach (1), Brock Parker (2), Brandon Cantu (2), and Forrest (5) all contributed to the tally.Bach was trying to seek redemption from last year’s runner-up finish in the Razz event to Bryan Campanello. While the back-to-back final tables are a remarkable feat, Bach was unable to improve on his finish, instead exiting in fourth place.Here are the final table results for the $1,500 Razz Event:1st: Ted Forrest - $121,1962nd: Phil Hellmuth - $74,8483rd: Greg Pappas - $48,2754th: David Bach - $34,9795th: Brock Parker - $25,7176th: Brandon Cantu - $19,1837th: Yuebin Guo - $14,5178th: Kevin Iacofano - $11,143