Place the bets and mark the calendar. More details look to be set, the heads-up matchup between Daniel Negreanu and Doug Polk looks set to begin on Nov. 1.
After weeks of anticipation and years of sniping, both players have agreed to the matchup and some key details. And since both are residents of Nevada, that includes battling it out online at WSOP.com.
The site remains the only legal, regulated option in the Silver State and looks to be the host for this event. Many in the poker world will be tuning in to see how things turn out.
Details on the big matchup
With the date and site now set, many details are now lined up for this poker heavyweight showdown. The two men previously agreed to play online No Limit Hold’em at stakes of $200/$400. They plan to play between 10,000 and 25,000 hands on two different tables.
“I’m willing to play four days a week, at least two-hour sessions,” Negreanu also noted on Twitter.
The matchup came about after some back-and-forth sparring in August. There was also some discussion on a neutral party being on site with each player. This is meant to make sure no outside influences were involved in each player’s action on the virtual felt.
The two players have been surprisingly civil in coordinating the events on social media. Both seem amenable to negotiation.
Really glad to hear that. I didnt like the idea of play money and crossbooking.https://t.co/YkNCrstCym on Nov 1st? Ill load up a million and lets roll!
— Doug Polk (@DougPolkVids) October 6, 2020
And while Nov. 1 seems to be the date, that could be shifted slightly depending on any production schedules involved in streaming the virtual battle.
Adding WSOP.com to the mix
Could some high-stakes action actually have thaw the tension between Negreanu and Polk? Who knows for sure, but there will be plenty of money on the line when they square off.
The contest should make for some added publicity for the legal US online poker market. Both players live in Nevada and WSOP.com remains the only legal choice.
Negreanu is a brand ambassador for GGPoker. While he’d certainly prefer playing there, that isn’t possible. GG isn’t licensed in any legal jurisdictions as of now.
Polk and Negreanu have plenty of World Series of Poker history and both bring some of that to the online site. Negreanu has $19.5 million in winnings and six bracelets. Polk has three bracelets and $4.5 million in winnings.
But this grudge match won’t be about bracelets. It’s about settling a score for big money … or something like that. Whatever it’s about, the action should be fun.
A look at both players
When it comes to heads-up No Limit Hold’em, Polk has plenty of experience. He played the heads-up game for years at some of the biggest stakes around. In 2013, Polk won a $20,000 buy-in, 15,000-hand challenge against Ben “Sauce123” Sulsky.
Two years later, Polk was part of a group battling an artificial intelligence bot at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania. The challenge involved 20,000 heads-up hands and the humans, including Polk, came out on top.
Negreanu admits he has less experience in playing big heads-up cash games but should be a formidable foe. He takes preparation seriously and spends plenty of time working on his game.
That should be no different in getting ready to face Polk.
Darren Elias analyzes heads-up cash games and what to expect
What are some challenges in playing heads-up and what can be expected? Four-time World Poker Tour champion Darren Elias offered some insight on this aspect of the game.
“The biggest challenge with heads-up versus a full ring or even a six-handed game is just adjusting to how wide players’ ranges are going to be every hand,” Elias says. “A player needs to be very comfortable playing big pots with weak holdings, which some full-ring players have trouble adapting to.”
As for preparation, Elias thinks players will go in two directions. First, he recommends studying heads up theory play in general for a heads-up event like this.
“They should learn to play fundamentally sound regardless of who their opponent is,” he says of those looking to play heads-up cash games. “The second step would be spending some time thinking about ways to deviate from this theory-based strategy to specifically exploit their opponent and win more money.
“This could be done through study of their opponent’s past play, or just a good understanding of their psyche and how they approach specific spots.”
Elias adds that usually in deep-stacked heads-up No Limit Hold’em, win rates can still be quite high even if the players’ skill levels are somewhat close. He also predicts some fireworks in the Negreanu-Polk matchup.
“The nature of heads-up No Limit Hold’em usually leads to one player getting taken,” he says. “This should be great for the fans as either way they should see blood.”
Whatever the outcome, Elias adds one additional note – he’d enjoy being involved in a similar event.
“While I’ve never considered myself a heads-up cash game specialist,” he says, “I do enjoy the game and would enjoy playing something like this.”
Ideas for enhancing the event coverage
With interest high for the matchup, poker fans should at least expect some kind of streaming coverage. The WSOP has a deal with PokerGO and it’s a good bet they’ll get in on the action.
Negreanu hinted as much at the network’s involvement this week on Twitter.
“Working on details with PokerGO, etc., to figure out how those interested can watch,” he noted on Twitter.
There could be some opportunities for some interesting concepts. Both players are already interesting media personalities and that could make for nice viewing. Maybe views could switch back and forth between the two.
Another nice addition might be a “weigh-in” show as PokerGO did with its new High Stakes Duel heads-up matchups. Some pregame analysis only adds to the spectacle of the event.
WSOP.com officials may have their own promotions in mind as part of the festivities. Maybe “Heads-Up Day” could be set for Nov. 1.
The site could offer its own promotion to encourage players to go mano-a-mano while checking out the action. A few interesting heads-up tournaments could highlight the day’s action – Nov. 1 is a Sunday after all. Some corresponding big heads-up Sunday majors might be fun.
No word on anything like that, but WSOP executive director Ty Stewart is pleased to see the matchup on the platform.
“I have my popcorn ready,” Stewart said. “As a poker fan, I think it will be one of the greatest online poker spectacles since the days of ‘who is isildur1‘ [Swedish high-stakes online pro Viktor Blom]. As a licensed poker operator under the regulations of Nevada, we’re pleased to offer a safe and secure platform so Doug and Daniel can play without fear. May the best man win.”
No matter the results, Negreanu-Polk should draw plenty of interest. Slugging it out for six figures should be fun.
For even more on the big matchup, click here.