HAND TO HAND COMBAT: Analyzing Early Fireworks in the Negreanu-Polk Matchup

December 2, 2020
HAND TO HAND COMBAT: Analyzing Early Fireworks in the Negreanu-Polk Matchup

Grandmaster chess player Savielly Tartakower once said: “The winner of the game is the player who makes the next-to-last mistake.”

Even though Daniel Negreanu and Doug Polk aren’t playing chess, heads up No Limit Hold’em has often been compared to the game of knights and kings. With potentially millions of dollars on the line, one mistake could be devastating. 

Negreanu and Polk are now headed into Day 14 and the match was back and forth early. As of Monday, however, Polk had taken a sizable lead.

The two are playing between 10,000 and 25,000 hands on two tables at blinds of $200/$400 on WSOP.com. Both players live in Nevada and the match has also put the spotlight on legal US online poker

With that in mind, here’s a look at a few interesting hands from the first few weeks of play.

1 – Negreanu lays a trap in the PokerGO Studio

The first session in the series featured 200 hands of live play on PokerGO and brought a win for Negreanu. Though this is a marathon, coming out with an early strong finish had to feel good. 

Negreanu had been playing aggressively and was rewarded handsomely near the end of the night. Polk was dealt Q♦J♦ and raised to $900 with Negreanu reraising to $4,000 with 10♣6♣. 

Polk called and the flop landed hard for Negreanu – 6♠K♣6♥. Negreanu led out small with a $1,600 bet into the $8,000 pot and Polk called. This play seemed part of Negreanu’s continued strategy of betting small after a three-bet.

Daniel Negreanu Masterclass

The sizing seemed designed to price Polk in, but also disguise huge hands when they hit. The turn was an 8♦ and Negreanu checked – laying a trap. Polk bet $7,600 into a $11,200 pot and Negreanu simply called.

A brick landed on the river, the 2♥. Negreanu checked again. Polk bluffed at the wrong time and  moved all in. Negreanu called and took a $114,350 pot

The first match closed shortly thereafter with Negreanu up $116,500.

2 – Pocket Aces and a then a full house

The first online session produced another massive pot. This time Polk scooped a giant score. After Negreanu raised to $1,000 with 9♣7♣, Polk three-bet to $3,768 with the goods – AA

Negreanu called and the flop came 88♠5. Polk fired a continuation bet of $3,766. Negreanu called and the board now produced trips with the 8 on the turn.

The third 8 also gave Polk a monster full house. He bet out $15,069 and Negreanu called.

The river was a 9, giving both players a full house. Negreanu called when Polk moved all in – handing him a huge pot of $130,301.

3 – Missing the flush and a big payoff for Polk

Early in the Day 2 session, Polk raised to $910 with 64 and Negreanu reraised to $4,140 with J9. Polk called and the flop was 642♣, giving Polk top two pairs.

Negreanu fired out $6,210, about two-thirds of the pot and Polk called. The 10 hit the turn and Negreanu checked his flush draw.

Doug Polk

Polk bet $6,830 and was quickly reraised all in. That was music to his ears.

Polk snap called and the river brought the A♠. Negreanu missed the flush and Polk scored a $92,205 pot.

4 – Bluff catching with Aces full

Session four brought a big score for Negreanu. In one big hand, Polk opened to $948 with QJ♠ and Negreanu three-bet with AQ. The action continued preflop as Polk four-bet to $12,876 and his opponent called.

The pot was already at $25,749 and the flop fell A♠8♠4♣. Negreanu checked and Polk continued, betting about one-fifth of the pot.

Negreanu called and the turn card was the A. He set the trap again, checking a monster hand on the turn again. Polk continued his bet by dropping $11,896 in the pot and was called.

The river brought the 4♠, with the table showing A♠8♠4♣A4♠. Daniel risked missed value betting and checked again. What must have felt like déjà vu for Polk, he bluffed – putting Negreanu all in for $34,633.

Of course, Negreanu snap called with Aces full and scooped $129,108.

5 – I ♥ runner-runner flushes

Doyle Brunson once noted: “Everyone gets lucky once in a while, but no one is consistently lucky.” This wasn’t the biggest hand of the session so far, but it shows that luck still plays a factor in the short term.

This is one of the reasons the series is being played out over multiple sessions and up to 25,000 hands.

In another early session hand, Negreanu was dealt J♣J♠ and raised to $1,000. Polk held TT♠ and three-bet to $4,110. Negreanu four-bet to $10,220 and received a call. 

The flop was 65♠2 and Doug checked. Negreanu continued the action by betting small – $4,087 – into the $20,437 pot. This has been a trend in some of Negreanu’s hands.

Polk moved all in for $30,687 with Negreanu insta-calling and seemingly in great shape. But the 37♥ turn and river made a runner-runner flush for Polk. He scored $81,812 in the process. 

It’s been an interesting matchup so far, but Negreanu now has an uphill climb. He’s continually said over the years that Rocky is his favorite movie. The film even inspired him to accept the challenge in the first place.

He’s now hoping to go the distance and land a few haymakers. Polk will be hoping to land a knockout of his own.

★★★ To follow all the action in this series, visit the NEGREANU-POLK CENTRAL landing page for complete daily updates, links, and more. ★★★

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