LAS VEGAS -- The eyes of the poker world were focused squarely on one of the biggest days of the year, as the 2018 World Series of Poker main event played down to its final table with millions of dollars hanging in the balance on Wednesday.
But for a couple of hours, the focus of many fans at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino shifted, as Phil Hellmuth, the most prolific winner in WSOP history, won his record-extending 15th gold WSOP bracelet in an adjacent ballroom.
Hellmuth, the 1989 WSOP main-event champion, entered Wednesday as one of 39 bracelet hopefuls in a $5,000 buy-in no-limit hold 'em tournament running concurrently to the main event.
Just after 10 p.m. local time in Las Vegas, Hellmuth called an all-in bet from two-time WSOP bracelet winner Steven Wolansky with pocket threes -- and when a third three landed on the flop, it sealed his victory.
There were a few key pots that went Hellmuth's way with a bit of luck during the heads-up match, and he gave Wolansky a lot of credit in putting up a tough fight.
"He wouldn't give an inch. I knew he wouldn't give an inch," Hellmuth said. "I had to start thinking, 'All right, how do I want to handle this?' I'm going to have to steal more pots against him to give myself a chance, because he's just not giving a chip away. He's making it really tough, and I can't blink first either."
Hellmuth has held the all-time bracelet lead since he won his 11th career WSOP title in 2007, surpassing the 10 bracelets won by Johnny Chan and Doyle Brunson. Phil Ivey later reached 10 bracelets in his own right, but Hellmuth is now five gold bracelets clear of the field.
Among his other WSOP records, Hellmuth has also recorded the most in-the-money finishes and most final table appearances.