The win hands Hellmuth only his second loss in the series. Koon, a GGPoker ambassador, now advances to Round 6 of the series for a $3.2 million showdown.
Hellmuth has the first right to rematch Koon, but another competitor can step up to put $1.6 million on the line should Hellmuth decline.
“I had great hands,” Koon told PokerGO after the match. “Even the hands that I bluffed, almost all of them kind of presented themselves in a natural way, so it was just one of those days where almost anybody in my seat is going to win.
“Like I said coming in, I was ready to lose this thing quite often because of the structure. I could have been on the other end of that, where Phil just had huge hands all of the time, and that’s just the nature of poker. You shouldn’t feel bad the days that you run good, and you shouldn’t feel bad the days that you run bad. It’s just the process of it all. Today, I got to be the winner, and it’s nice to do that for gigantic stakes.”
Early action falls Hellmuth’s way
Both players began the match with 800,000 chips. When things got underway, Hellmuth and Koon shipped some small pots back and forth. A significant pot went Koon’s way in a hand where he held A♦9♠ to Hellmuth’s A♠10♦. A flop of 9♦3♦3♠ gave Koon two pair and he eventually raked a 122,000-chip pot.
“As long as it’s that same spot over and over, I’m okay with it,” Koon said after the hand.
Hellmuth landed a small pot a short time later after hitting a straight on the turn. Another straight landed for Hellmuth on the river a bit later. He got paid off after Koon hit two pair.
That winning streak wouldn’t last long, and Koon soon took command of the match
— PokerGO (@PokerGO) December 8, 2022
Koon scores with pocket Aces, Hellmuth frustrated
By the 30-minute mark, the chip stacks were about even again and Hellmuth pulled ahead in about the 50,000-chip range. That changed when a major hand developed at about the hour mark.
Koon found pocket Aces but faced a three-bet from Hellmuth, who held Q♥6♠. That brought a four-bet from Koon, ballooning the pot to 152,000. Hellmuth then chose a five-bet to 260,000.
Surely thinking his opponent had another massive hand, Koon announced all in. Hellmuth quickly sent his hand to the muck and a pot of more than 1 million was shipped to Koon.
That left Hellmuth with just under 600,000 and seeing a complete reversal of the match. He was left muttering and then rose from his chair for some self-motivational talk.
“I had the five of diamonds in my hand Phil,” Koon said, twisting the knife a bit more.
The high stakes pro continued to roll after that huge hand. However, rivering an Ace-high flush almost at the halfway point sent Hellmuth a 270,000-chip pot and some breathing room.
Despite that hand, Koon still held a lead of almost 250,000 chips. Hellmuth continued to chip away at that some more, shortly cutting the gap to around 130,000 chips.
Give max credit to @Jasonkoon, he played great poker in our “High Stakes Duel.” Congrats on the win Jason, you are a class act and a great player and everyone knows it. I enjoyed playing the first 11 matches of HSD, finished 9-2 #POSITIVITY pic.twitter.com/DuTIj9GDG0
— phil_hellmuth (@phil_hellmuth) December 8, 2022
Koon digs in to rattle the Poker Brat
This episode turned out to be one of the shortest in the history of the series. While most matches have reached the four- to five-hour range, the Koon-Hellmuth battle lasted just over two hours.
Down the stretch, Koon raked plenty of nice pots. Hellmuth’s stack withered on the vine over the last hour. A few full houses fell Koon’s way and he also found ways to get paid off at least through the river when he had the goods.
By Hellmuth’s own count, at one point later in the match Koon won around 14 of 16 straight pots. Koon then won a hand with a flush holding the 9♠ to Hellmuth’s flush holding the 8♠. It was that kind of day for the Poker Brat.
The final hand saw Hellmuth finally find a nice hand with A♦K♣ and both players got it all in for the remainder of Hellmuth’s 103,000 chips. The flop brought the Q♠10♣4♠, giving Koon top pair. Hellmuth could still win with a Jack to make a Broadway straight or any Ace or King.
The turn brought the 10♦ followed by the 3♠ and the match was over. Hellmuth saw his record on the show move to 9-2 and Koon took home a seven-figure score.
Inside the action
Mixing in some interesting cuisine choices, such as hamburgers and Sour Patch Kids, has been a unique part of the series for Hellmuth. This tournament started with Hellmuth downing a Breinfuel, a drink that is one of his sponsors.
The 16-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner seemed to be a bit more health conscious this time, however. He noted early that he brought along some mixed nuts, pistachios, and a chocolate chip granola bar of some type.
“You really came to play,” Koon said after learning of the menu for the day. “I was hoping you were going to get all jacked up on sugar.”
As if on cue, Hellmuth announced he’d be eating his cheeseburger off camera this time.
When it came to the action on the felt, a theme of big pots permeated the match throughout. There seemed to be less “small ball” in this one, with players unafraid to blast in some chips, as typified by Koon’s pocket Aces hand.
Koon was relaxed and ready throughout the match. He mixed in some aggression and found a nice bluff late in the match as well, forcing Hellmuth to lay down a straight. The poker pro showed discipline in folding at key times as well, nursing his lead in the second half of the match.
For his part, Hellmuth became frustrated at times. But that can be a mirage as it’s regularly part of his table persona and seems not to affect his actual play too much.
“This is kind of his house,” commentator and poker pro Nick Schulman noted early in the match. “He takes a lot of these guys to these weird realms where he just sort of navigates his way out of them. And just watching him … he’s been brilliant on (the show).”
But his momentum on the show ultimately hit a roadblock. Hellmuth just didn’t seem as in control as in prior matches and a few ill-timed bluffs proved costly.He hasn’t announced yet if he’ll seek a rematch.
* Lead image courtesy PokerGO