Match for the Ages: Negreanu Challenges Hellmuth to Heads-Up Duel

4 min read

Daniel Negreanu already appears to have his next heads-up poker opponent in mind, and it’s none other than Phil Hellmuth, who was critical of “DNegs’” play against Doug Polk.

Phil Hellmuth Daniel Negreanu
Will Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth face off on the felt in a winner-take-all heads-up match? Don’t bet on it. (Image:

Negreanu lost $1.2 million to Polk over 25,000 hands of $200/$400 No-Limit Hold’em on He wasn’t expected to win, so it didn’t come as a surprise to many. The GGPoker ambassador entered the match as more than a 4-1 underdog.

Despite virtually every poker expert expecting a Polk victory, Hellmuth ripped into his fellow Poker Hall of Famer’s play on the new PokerGo show, No Gamble No Future.

Co-host Brent Hanks asked the “Poker Brat” for his thoughts on the recently completed heads-up poker match. The WSOP bracelet record holder didn’t mince words.

“Yeah, I was disappointed in the way that Daniel played,” Hellmuth said. “But I know his coaches, his coaches are brilliant.”

Hellmuth then went on to criticize Negreanu for trying to play a GTO-like strategy against Polk, who specializes in game theory optimal play. Hellmuth then said he told Polk that he would love to face him next, although Polk said recently that he isn’t interested in playing additional matches.

Negreanu, however, would gladly face the Hellmuth, if he’d accept. He called out Hellmuth on Twitter for the critical comments about his play against Polk.

Yo @phil_hellmuth you said you watched ‘zero’ of the match but seem to have strong opinions on the play. I’ll play you a heads up match live, online, at any stakes you feel comfortable with for as many hands as you would like. Wanna play big guy?” Negreanu wrote on Twitter.

Don’t Bet on It

Polk vs. Negreanu was highly popular among the poker community. On most days during the 36-session challenge, the live-streams on YouTube combined to reach more than 10,000 viewers. But, that heads-up match would likely pale in comparison to Hellmuth vs. Negreanu.

Hellmuth and Negreanu are, arguably, the two most popular and polarizing figures in poker history. So, you know this match will generate massive interest, especially from the poker-boom era crowd and the casual poker audience.

But there’s one issue we haven’t yet addressed, and that is, will it ever take place? It’s clear that Negreanu is down for the challenge. Hellmuth, however? We don’t yet know and, even if he accepts, don’t bet on it being a 25,000-hand challenge or even close to that lengthy.

The 15-time WSOP bracelet winner, in the above video, touted his supposed impeccable record in heads-up poker.

“I’ve won 29 of my last 30 heads-up matches,” Hellmuth claims. “I won the last heads-up tournament I played in, and so, I think I’ve only lost once to Cary Katz.”

On the surface, Hellmuth’s heads-up resume is quite strong. In 2005, he won the NBC National Heads-Up Championship and finished runner-up in 2013. He recently defeated Antonio Esfandiari on PokerGo in three straight matches. He even beat Polk and Dan “Jungleman” Cates in a four-player, “King of the Hill” competition on Poker Night in America.

But, what he isn’t mentioning in the video is that those wins, albeit impressive, were small sample sizes. The matches only lasted a couple of hundred hands, or less. Negreanu, on the other hand, faced Polk three times a week, two tables at a time online, over three months.

So, until we see Hellmuth win at heads-up over a reasonably large sample size, it’s difficult to assess his true abilities in that poker variant. Would he be willing to compete against Negreanu in a lengthy match of 20,000 or more hands to prove his skills? Don’t bet on it. And, don’t bet on Negreanu accepting a small sample-size challenge.

With that said, if somehow they both come to terms and play, it would liklely become the biggest match in poker history.

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