Phil Hellmuth doesn’t think the younger GTO-minded pros are all that great compared to him, and Daniel Negreanu is fed up with the disrespect. The two poker superstars will soon face each other heads-up on PokerGo’s show, High Stakes Duel. And it appears there’s some bad blood boiling between the competitors leading up to the match.
The Poker Hall of Famers have a lengthy — and mostly cordial — relationship. Hellmuth even attended Negreanu’s wedding in 2019. Still, they occasionally feud publicly, mostly over Hellmuth’s ego.
On the felt, they’ve competed against each other hundreds of times in high-stakes cash games and tournaments, and have both appeared numerous times on popular televised shows such as Poker After Dark and High Stakes Poker. But, they’ve never faced off in a heads-up format. So, it’s anyone’s guess who will come out victorious. We can all make our predictions, and we’ll find out who is right once the as-yet unscheduled match eventually takes place.
For now, the players are doing their talking away from the felt. Hellmuth started the feud by bashing Negreanu’s performance against Doug Polk. And now, the man once known as “Kid Poker” is firing back.
Negreanu Has a Beef with Hellmuth
Negreanu recently appeared on Poker Central’s No Gamble No Future podcast to discuss the upcoming match. He took a shot at his future opponent for disrespecting the young grinders who believe in the GTO approach to the game. Hellmuth continues to publicly claim he’s among the best players in the world — a boast with which Negreanu and many others disagree.
“Guys like Erik Seidel, they have a deep respect for all the hard work that these young guys put in on just analyzing the data,” Negreanu said in the interview of Hellmuth’s generation. “We were filming the World Series of Poker, and we were sitting there on the couch in the back room, and I mentioned game theory optimal, and I said, ‘Phil, you’re an exploitative player,’ and he’s like, ‘no, I’m not, I’m GTO,’” Negreanu said of a previous conversation with Hellmuth. “And then he literally said, I swear to god, ‘I invented GTO.’”
Hellmuth obviously didn’t invent GTO, and plays a vastly contrasting style of poker. According to Negreanu, Hellmuth “still doesn’t know what the hell it [GTO] is.”
Negreanu says he’s not being insulting because Hellmuth is “very, very good” at his style of play. The issue, Negreanu says, “is that when somebody does understand game theory and can poke holes at all the exploits that you’re making, then you can’t win. Obviously, that s**t worked against Antonio (Esfandiari), but that s**t’s not gonna work against me.”
Negreanu also claimed that Hellmuth doesn’t play against the “GTO wizards so that he can just say he’s better than them.” The former PokerStars Team Pro member also ripped on Hellmuth for refusing to acknowledge the talent of the young grinders who put in countless hours studying the game from a GTO perspective. In fairness, those young grinders don’t respect Hellmuth’s game either.
“The people within the poker community know I’m not the best poker player in the world. I’m not, he’s not,” Negreanu said. “They know that, they know the best player in the world is probably some kid who hasn’t left his basement in two years because he’s grinding every single day. And this is where I want to get Phil to at some point, is to show some respect for this generation, because I think he disrespects them on a regular basis.”