After months of jawing, Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu finally met on the felt for a heads-up match for $100,000 in PokerGO’s “High Stakes Duel.”
And the wait proved to be worth it as they did not disappoint.
A lengthy, six-hour battle would see Negreanu go up huge. The needles flew as he pulled out a few props to rub some salt in the wounds he was opening on his longtime rival.
However, he failed to land a killing blow, and “The Poker Brat” clung to life with a few blinds. Slowly, he inched his way back from the ledge, and eventually, it was he who held the lead. Unlike Negreanu, did not give it back up, and when the final card hit the felt, he had earned what was no doubt one of the most satisfying victories in a career chock-full of them.
As a reminder, though, the show’s format allows for Negreanu to exercise an immediate rematch at double the stakes. As promised in the lead-up, he’s already said he’s exercising that right, so expect another meeting between the two to happen in short order.
Remember, an annual subscription to PokerGO costs $99.99, but you can save $10 off by using promo code “PokerNews” at checkout. Once you’re signed up, the entire first match of Negreanu vs. Hellmuth can be seen here.
“Idiot” Negreanu Takes Big Lead
The first major blow was struck about an hour into the broadcast. Negreanu opened for 375 with , Hellmuth three-bet to 1,500 with , and Negreanu peeled, flopping the best of it on . Hellmuth continued for 1,700 and Negreanu called. Hellmuth barreled again for 2,300 on the then went small with 4,400 into about 12K on the river.
Negreanu called down and had a good laugh after Hellmuth grumbled some choice words, passing over a box of tissues he’d brought in preparation.
A bit later, Hellmuth three-bet pre with but Negreanu had and collected two bluff barrels from Hellmuth on a runout, with river raise going uncalled. That gave Negreanu a bigger lead, about 75,000 to 25,000.
Negreanu opened to 750 and Hellmuth three-bet to 2,100 with . Negreanu called with and flopped. Hellmuth continued for half-pot, 2,100 again. Negreanu peeled and hit the on the turn. It was his turn for half the pot after Hellmuth checked. Both players checked the and Hellmuth was less than pleased at showdown.
He shot out of his chair, walked around the table and stared at the board, muttering this and that after calling Negreanu an idiot.
“How the f*** do you get away with it?” he asked. “F*** man, I mean how f****** lucky can you get?”
Negreanu was up almost 4-to-1 after that hand.
“It doesn’t f****** matter, I’m still gonna beat you,” Hellmuth said. “Because you’re gonna give it away just like that.”
Then, Hellmuth opted to limp at 250/500 and got what he wanted as Negreanu popped it to 1,500 with . Hellmuth came back with 3,700 and Negreanu called, flopping big on . He checked, Hellmuth bet 4,000, and Negreanu called. They both checked the , bringing a . Hellmuth quickly called a final bet of 4,000.
“You know, you might win this match, but I f****** hate the way you played,” he said as he prepared to nurse his last 7,000. “You played so f****** bad, it’s crazy.”
Negreanu stretched his lead even a hair further, getting up about 96,000 to 4,000, with the big blind being 500 still. As Hellmuth groused about how it had been two years since he lost a heads-up match, Negreanu threw out what may have been part compliment, part needle.
“Wow, that’s a good stretch,” he said. “You had a good run.”
“It’s not over yet,” Hellmuth reminded him. “What do you mean, had a good run?”
A Comeback for the Ages
Hellmuth began crawling back. First, he made a couple of winning hands and picked off a bluff.
The first big jump for Hellmuth came when he had about 11K in his stack and defended the blind from a min-raise with . Negreanu held and Hellmuth check-raised all in with a superior draw over a small c-bet on . Negreanu called saying he figured he was 50-50, but Hellmuth’s hand held as he hit a straight on the turn to all but seal it.
A bit of good fortune helped as well as Hellmuth check-called a bet with on and beat Negreanu’s with a ten on the river for two pair. He check-called 4,800 into 8,000 and suddenly wasn’t too far down, 38,000 against 62,000.
Hellmuth kept inching his way back, and after sucking out with ten-eight against top pair with two pair again, he had things almost square.
The lead finally changed hands when Negreanu raised his previously lucky — he’d won three times with it already — to 3,000 at 500/1,000, and Hellmuth gave him action with after limping. Hellmuth called a small bet of 1,500 on the flop then 5,000 more on the . Negreanu blocked for 6,000 on the and Hellmuth made it 17,500. Negreanu let it go but was down to 36,000.
Then, a very unlucky hand developed for Negreanu. He min-raised to 2,400 pre with and Hellmuth defended . The flop gave both a draw, and Hellmuth check-called a small bet of 1,800. Negreanu hit top pair on the turn and gave it another barrel of 4,500. Hellmuth called again, binking on the . Negreanu found the river check back but found himself down more than 3-to-1.
The deck conspired against Negreanu again as he checked down top pair of kings and made trips on the river, only to lose to Hellmuth’s one-card straight. Negreanu only lost one street but that was by then a significant chunk of his chips as he dwindled down to about 16,000.
“Spooky,” was all he could muster.
Eventually, he got the last 10,000 or so in with against . He managed to run out Broadway on and the game was back on, but he didn’t keep the momentum up.
Negreanu only had about 15,000 left when he was all in once again with but had this time run into a huge hand in . Negreanu seemed confident a sweat was coming but the was probably better than he could have hoped to see. The didn’t help him on the turn, and neither did the on the river.
“There will be a rematch, you can guarantee that,” Negreanu said as they shook hands.
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