World Series of Poker Standout Phil Hellmuth Comes to SugarHouse Casino For Philadelphia Poker Classic
Throughout March, SugarHouse Casino has hosted a month-long poker event that has seen the likes of professional poker players such as Phil Hellmuth, poker’s all-time World Series of Poker (WSOP) gold bracelet leader, and Olivier Busquets, a World Poker Tour title holder with 21 WSOP cashes and more than $7 million in total live earnings. In addition, a highly anticipated grudge match that had its roots in a Twitter argument between Mike Dentale and Cate Hall resulted in the pair battling it out in a heads up cash game on Sunday, March 19.
“I love Philadelphia, look what I’m looking at now, the casino is right on the river and it’s really a nice casino, so it was fun to come here and film for a couple of days,” Phil Hellmuth told Spirit News.
The month-long event is being highlighted by the return of the popular television series “Poker Night in America” on NBC Sports in May. The program will feature the grudge match between Dentale and Hall, the tournament featuring top professionals, and high-stakes cash games in which the professionals will also be competing.
“This is a really amazing opportunity for this casino. We’ve had great viewership numbers these past few days. We’re in the 4,000 to 5,000 range and last week at Pittsburgh they were right around 1,000. So for us to get this kind of publicity and coverage is really beneficial for the casino,” Vicki Sims, Poker Room Manager at SugarHouse, told Spirit News.
The main Philadelphia Poker Classic (PPC) event was the tournament that started on Sunday, March 12 and culminated on Sunday, March 19. The event that had a $200,000 prize pool saw the last day running for a grueling 20-hour period. Eventually, at 8AM on the morning of Monday, March 20th, Michael Hager was crowned champion, walking away with $46,000, with runner-up Joe Palma winning $35,000.
Speaking to Spirit News after the main PPC event, Phil Hellmuth said, “I just busted the tournament so that hurt a little bit, but I could have played better. I played pretty poorly and then got unlucky on the last hand. I also bluffed off some money, which I shouldn’t have. I played a very tight style.”
The tournament gave the chance for local players to play alongside the big shots they only usually see on television, providing for many what was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“We have a lot of big names come in from out of town, some who don’t frequent the smaller tournament series like this one, so it’s exciting to see the likes of Phil Hellmuth and Olivier Busquet here. We’ve got a lot of famous players. It’s really nice to see those kinds of faces, and local players like to see the big players in the poker room and like to play with them,” said Matt Glanz, a consultant for Rush Street Gaming (the parent company of SugarHouse), a producer for “Poker Night in America,” and a player himself with over $6 million in career earnings.
He added: “Poker is probably the only game where everyone is on the same level. If you have chips and a seat, you’re on the same level as everyone else and can compete.”
At the same time that the main PPC event was taking place, the heads up grudge match between Mike Dentale and Cate Hall kicked off at around 3:30PM on Sunday, March 19. The match was best of three heads up freeze outs at $15,000 each.
Hall is new to the poker scene with her first live cash in 2015. Since then she has been an unstoppable force, earning three WPT final tables and has $871,000 in live earnings.
Dentale is what could be considered a veteran of the poker circuit, with 11 years of playing experience behind him, 10 WSOP cashes and $1.4 million in total live earnings. However, he only plays poker part-time, as he runs his own business.
Both players are extremely outspoken and engaged in a Twitter argument with each other in early December over their political leanings. Hall criticized President Trump, of whom Dentale is an advocate. The argument quickly escalated and became about poker.
The insults over Twitter were severely heated as Dentale said, “You are irrelevant. The only reason you get coverage is because you have a vagina. Poker needs this, and you’re running good.”
Equally firing the insults back Hall said Dentale was a “scumbag,” a “coward” and a “trainwreck” of a poker player.
“I play at the Sugarhouse recreationally and I saw on Twitter these two feuding. The banter back and forth was awesome, so I had to come and see it,” said Connor Hughes, a spectator from Lancaster, PA.
Speaking to Spirit News before the grudge match, Dentale said: “When we are playing heads up it’s the same deal even though it’s cash instead of tournament chips. I’ve got a good feel for heads up, I’ve got a good feel for the game, I understand values, and I understand pot sizes and math. I’ve got a very good idea of the game and I think I’ll do well.”
He added: “She challenged me and of course I would never back down. I think she’s atrocious. I’ve never disliked her before but then she started making these crude remarks which I thought was disrespectful to the poker community, and that I didn’t like.”
Although Dentale showed initial confidence in his game, talking to Hall at the table and insulting her playing style, Hall came out the victor, showing just why she has burst onto the poker scene so quickly in the past two years, defeating Dentale in a clean 2-0 sweep, thus walking away from the table with $30,000. •