Pocket nines won Phil Hellmuth his first World Series of Poker bracelet against the legendary Johnny Chan almost 20 years ago to the day back in 1989.
Yesterday at the Stampede Casino, those same cards got him knocked out in the quarterfinal of the heads-up main event at the Canadian Open Poker Championship.
Going all-in before the flop with nines underneath after a string of bad beats kept him involved in a six-hour-plus grudge match in the best-of-three contest, Hellmuth watched in horror as a six came on the river to give his opponent Benjamin LaBlond three of a kind.
LaBlond faced pro (Yukon) Brad Booth in the semifinal later last night, with the winner moving on to today's noon final against Jeff Madsen, who beat Terrance Chan in the other semi.
Frustrated as he's ever been, 11-time WSOP winner Hellmuth didn't have much to say after his loss, but he had a bad feeling as waited for the final card to be pulled.
"I even said I felt like he's probably going to get a six," he said. "The guy was extraordinarily lucky. He knows it, too.
"It's just frustrating. I'm trying to be mellow and smile."
It helps that his mom, Lynn, was there supporting him.
Occasionally listening to him vent his frustration from the stage, she was in his corner the entire time.
In the viewing area were a few of his fans hoping for an autograph. Unable to wait till the end, they were satisfied with some of his famous antics, walking away from the table, chatting almost to himself in disbelief, and raising his arms in exasperation.
Known as the poker brat, Hellmuth acted the part. Asked by his fans whether or not he was the same as a child, Lynn Hellmuth was polite in her answer.
"He had a lot of energy," she said with a smile.
Proving her point, Hellmuth's legs were shaking rapidly under the table as the game went on. To the reporter sitting next to her, she expanded a little after opening with a joke.
"No comment," Lynn said of the eldest of her five children. "Let's just say all the other kids were easy.
"You see the energy level. He'd come home with his arm cut up, his leg cut up. But he's always had a heart of gold."
And 11 gold bracelets from the World Series.
Just no championship in his first game in Calgary.