Heads-Up Match Between Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Negreanu Set for March 30 on PokerGO’s ‘High Stakes Duel’

March 30, 2021
Heads-Up Match Between Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Negreanu Set for March 30 on PokerGO’s ‘High Stakes Duel’

This story has been updated with the new date that PokerGO announced on March 14.

After battling Doug Polk online for three months at WSOP.com, Daniel Negreanu is now heading back to the heads-up poker tables. He’ll be squaring off against a familiar name – 15-time World Series of Poker champion Phil Hellmuth.

On Tuesday, the two poker pros finalized a meeting on PokerGO’s High Stakes Duel. The showdown brings together two of the biggest names in poker. The duel was originall planned for March 16, but that has been changed to March 31.

Hellmuth and Negreanu officially announced the matchup on PokerGO’s No Gamble, No Future podcast.

War of words kicks off the duel

There should be plenty of fireworks when the two square off from the PokerGO Studio at Aria. The event has been in the works after some Twitter banter following the Negreanu-Polk matchup.

The High Stakes Duel format sees the two players battle heads-up for $50,000 each. The loser then has the option for a rematch at a $100,000 match.

Hellmuth has done well on the show so far. He’s battled Antonio Esfandiari three times and won every match. 

Negreanu has declared himself a 2 to 2.5 to 1 favorite and has already bet a “significant amount” on himself. However, he was complimentary of Hellmuth’s heads-up game.

“I think you’re great at heads-up poker,” he told Hellmuth. “A lot of the things you do against the players you’ve played against, specifically Antonio, actually destroys them.”

That included exploiting flawed strategy by Esfandiari, Negreanu noted. He considers Hellmuth one of the best exploitative players in the game, especially against GTO players.

His argument is that Hellmuth does well against more theory-based strategy players. That shouldn’t be a problem for Negreanu, or at least that’s what he’s hoping.

“For me, I feel like a bad matchup for you,” Negreanu noted. “A bad matchup because of what I’ll be willing to do.”

Poker Brat confident in his skills

Helmuth feels he’s played great in the heads-up format. He also has some major wins over players like Polk, Dan Cates, and Esfandiari.

“I get underestimated a lot,” Hellmuth told Negreanu. “All I do is keep winning. It’s really weird to me how you and other people keep underestimating me. It’s fine because I really think you guys honestly don’t understand what I do.”

If the podcast appearance was an indication, the heads-up matchup should be pretty fun. Negreanu and Hellmuth sparred quite a bit with plenty of trash talk.

Negreanu argues that Hellmuth would lose against heads-up poker specialists in a more drawn-out series like he played against Polk. Hellmuth doesn’t underestimate Negreanu and considers him “one of the great players in poker history.” He also said Negreanu has had some excellent coaches.

The recent heads-up series has given Negreanu some significant heads-up poker chops. However, Hellmuth feels good about his chances.

“Have I studied anything at all over the last two or three months?” he said on No Gamble, No Future. “No, I already know what I’m going to do. It’s worked for me …  against everybody I play. So I trust my instincts and I trust my reads.”

Those instincts should pay off, he believes. Hellmuth said if he can make two great folds and three great calls, he can win these types of matches. Here’s a look at the details of the High Stakes Duel:

  • Game: Heads-Up No Limit Hold’em
  • Location: PokerGO Studio at Aria, Las Vegas
  • Stakes: $50,000 match
  • Streaming: PokerGO
  • Date and time. March 31, 8 pm (ET)
  • Specifics: Played in a heads-up, sit and go style. The High Stakes Duel allows losing players to rematch for twice the original amount.

Tale of the tape

So how do these players stack up against each other? Both spoke briefly this week with USPoker about their chances going in. The event should attract plenty of interest among poker fans.

Phil Hellmuth

Phil Hellmuth

Discounting Hellmuth’s skills in heads-up poker might be a bad idea. Behind the bravado is a great player. With so many titles, Hellmuth has plenty of heads-up poker experience and regularly closes the show.

He describes himself as a counter puncher and feels his style works well in the heads-up game. That includes constantly adjusting and attacking when needed as well. 

The detractors certainly motivate Hellmuth and he said as much Tuesday on No Gamble, No Future. Esfandiari had also declared himself a favorite as well, however came out on the short end. Hellmuth remains firm in his skills, especially in a live setting.

“I have zero analysts and zero team,” he told USPoker. “I might watch some sessions of him live to see if I can spot any tells.”

Here’s a look at the Poker Brat’s statistics:

  • Live tournament winnings: $24.6 million
  • WSOP titles and winnings: 15 bracelet, $15.1 million
  • WPT titles and winnings: 0 titles, 5 final tables, $1.6 million
  • Intangibles: Hellmuth has excellent instincts and fares well in the live format. He seems to thrive when in the underdog role and has a record of success.

“Daniel says he is a big favorite,” Hellmuth said. “I have won roughly 18 out of 20 of my last heads-up matches. Antonio said he was a big favorite over me, but I beat him three times in a row.

“I also beat Doug Polk and Dan ‘Jungleman’ Cates in live heads-up matches, who the kids said were the two best in the world at the time. What am I, chopped liver?”

Daniel Negreanu

Unlike the series with Polk, Negreanu doesn’t plan on as much preparation for a single event. He’ll ditch the coaching and plans on using a “basic fundamental strategy that I think is effective against Phil.”

Negreanu loves the High Stakes Duel format and thinks he’s perceptive enough to uncover Hellmuth’s weak spots. Against Polk, he employed solvers and a complete strategy team After studying so much over the last few months, Negreanu has been playing at an advanced level.

That’s a notion even Polk agreed with. He battled Negreanu for 25,000 hands and won $1.2 million. Polk believes Negreanu improved, learned a lot, and would beat most players heads-up. That includes beating Hellmuth in this match.

Some in the poker industry initially listed Negreanu as the favorite in the -150 to -160 range. Hellmuth has been in the +125 to +145 range. Here’s a complete look at Kid Poker’s statistics:

  • Live tournament winnings: $42.1 million
  • WSOP titles and winnings: 6 bracelets, $19.6 million
  • WPT titles and winnings: 2 titles, 9 final tables, $6.4 million
  • Intangibles: Negreanu has excellent reads and now has extensive knowledge at playing heads-up. Losing to Polk over 25,000 hands gave him even more insight into the game.

“Outside of maybe Fedor Holz, I don’t think there is a worse matchup in the world for him,” Negreanu told USPoker. “I’ve played with him for decades and my game matches up very well against him.”

* Lead image courtesy PokerGO

* Hellmuth and Negreanu photos courtesy World Poker Tour

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