Sunday, July 5, 2009 | 5 p.m.
Flanked by dozens of women, heralded by trumpeters and mobbed by his fans, Phil Hellmuth channeled Julius Caesar as he arrived at the World Series of Poker on Sunday.
The no-limit Texas Hold 'em champion who won the main event 20 years ago slowly made his way to his table nearly two hours after play began, joined by body-painted female gladiators and muses carrying rose petals in tote bags.
"When you dress as Caesar you actually feel more powerful," Hellmuth told The Associated Press as he waited in a car outside the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, before his stunt.
"Kiss my ring!" the 11-time gold bracelet winner said. "Hail Caesar!"
He greeted World Series of Poker Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack and his table mates while television cameras rolled, then changed into more normal attire as the tournament broke after its first level.
Hellmuth, who last year entered the series dressed as Gen. George S. Patton, said his entrances have become a personal tradition at the series that he has looked to top each year.
"It's kind of a fun spectacle," Hellmuth said. "I think it's great for poker."
Nearly 1,700 players entered the tournament on Sunday, and officials expected a sellout of about 2,600 players on Monday, the last day the tournament will accept entries. The series was on pace to undershoot last year's total entries by about 800 players if Monday sells out.
Peter Eastgate won $9.15 million last year after emerging from a field of 6,844 players in the $10,000 buy-in tournament.
While nobody tried to top Phil Hellmuth's arrival at the series, other players routinely use gimmicks in the tournament to try to draw attention to themselves and sometimes distract other players.
Dennis Phillips, a trucking account manager who placed third last year and won $4.5 million at the series' final table in November, had a few dozen supporters dressed like him in a white collared shirt and a St. Louis Cardinals hat as he began the tournament.