With Tom Dwan Out, Who Will Challenge Phil Hellmuth for $800K on ‘High Stakes Duel’?

6 min read

Tom Dwan has dropped out of his $800K “High Stakes Duel” match against Phil Hellmuth, but the show will go on with an as-yet-unnamed opponent. Who could it be? CardsChat has some suggestions.

hellmuth duel
Phil Hellmuth will take on an as-yet-unnamed opponent in his next “High Stakes Duel” match after Tom Dwan pulled out. (Image: Twitter/PokerGO)

The highly anticipated rematch between Hellmuth and Dwan was scheduled to take place at PokerGO’s Las Vegas studio on May 12. The two pros were tied on one win apiece and, this time, they were each putting up $400,000.

With Dwan unable to play, the match has been moved and a new opponent has been drafted in. The new date for Round 4 of “High Stakes Duel III” is May 17. Hellmuth’s opponent will be revealed during the weigh-in show on May 16.

Plenty of ‘High Stakes Duel’ options for Hellmuth

With Hellmuth often dividing opinion with his antics, there are plenty of players willing to ante up $800K to take him on. Who are the frontrunners? Before we list a few names, we can say for certain that it won’t be Tom Dwan.

The high-stakes pro was under the impression his match against Hellmuth would be rescheduled. He informed the show’s producers that he wouldn’t be able to play on May 12 due to other commitments.

However, there appear to have been crossed wires. Dwan assumed he’d be able to play at a later date. The organizers clearly had a different opinion and will push on with Round 4 with or without the man who made a name for himself as durrrr.

The frontrunners

OK, so it won’t be Dwan in the hot seat, but based on recent events, past form, and the silhouette shown on the new poster (which could be a red herring), here are some of the frontrunners and their fictitious odds:

Justin Bonomo: -200

Bonomo hasn’t been in the news much recently, but a number of people on Twitter have said the silhouette looks a lot like him.

Looking at the image (at the top of this page), there’s a chance it could be Bonomo. As the second biggest tournament winner of all time, he certainly has the pedigree to take on a challenge like this. He’s not always the most vocal player at the table, however, which might not be appropriate for this format.

Alan Keating: -200

Keating is a high-stakes cash game player who also appeared in the social media stars game at Hustler Casino.

Although he lost $1.1 million in that game, he’s been spending time with Hellmuth and PokerGO President Mori Eskandani. That could make him one of the favorites.

slimeIRL: +100

Popular Twitch streamer slimeIRL could be the man to take on Hellmuth. Although he’s a novice when it comes to poker, he was involved in a pot that called Hellmuth’s integrity into question.

slimeIRL was part of Hustler Casino Live’s recent high-stakes game involving social media stars and Hellmuth. A particular pot between slimeIRL and Hellmuth saw the latter expose his hand after what he assumed was a fold from Hellmuth (see tweet below).

The incident sparked a debate online and, although the dust seems to have settled, it could be reignited if slimeIRL has been drafted in to play the latest “High Stakes Duel.”

Ninja: +150

Another player who was particularly vocal during the social media stars game at Hustler Casino was Ninja. The super-rich gamer was more than happy to go toe-to-toe with Hellmuth on every level.

Ninja, aka Richard Tyler Blevins, has said he’d be willing to play more poker tournaments and Hellmuth now calls him a friend.

‘Jungleman’ Dan Cates: +200

Cates was one of the first pros to comment on PokerGO’s tweet. Although the silhouette doesn’t look much like Cates, he’s expressed an interest in playing.

What’s more, the two have some history when it comes to heads-up tournaments. Hellmuth beat Cates in a King of the Hill match in 2017. This could be Cates’ chance to get one back.

Eric Persson: +300

Putting Hellmuth on tilt isn’t the hardest task in the world, but really getting under his skin is a feat few ever achieve. One person who recently bucked that trend was Eric Persson.

The owner of Maverick Gaming and high-stakes poker player talked Hellmuth into a frenzy during the PokerGO Tour Heads-Up Showdown (see video above). In fact, Hellmuth was so irate that he refused to play in another event Persson was involved in. Would the producers of “High Stakes Duel” submit Hellmuth to another round of Persson? Possibly.

Erik Seidel: +500

Perennial performer Seidel is another pro who threw his hat into the ring on Tuesday. The fourth-biggest tournament winner of all time tweeted that that silhouette “kinda” looks like him.

Seidel impressed on the PokerGO stage in March when he took two fifth-place finishes and an outright win worth $472,500 at the US Poker Open.

The outsiders

The following players probably won’t be sitting opposite Hellmuth on May 17, but they’ve all either got something to prove or enough of a profile to be in the hot seat:

  • Alexandra Botez (+600): Another social media star who could come back to haunt Hellmuth is Botez. The Canadian chess champion banked the biggest profit in Hustler’s cash game ($456,900) while taking an ear-bashing from Hellmuth.

  • Daniel Negreanu (+800): Hellmuth has already beaten Negreanu in this event, so they may want to run it back.
  • Antonio Esfandiari (+1000): Like Negreanu, Esfandiari also lost to Hellmuth in a series of “High Stakes Duel” matches, so he may want his revenge.
  • Vanessa Kade (+1100): If the silhouette is a red herring and the mystery opponent could be anyone, Kade would be an ideal opponent. The Canadian has been on a tear since winning the anniversary Sunday Million in 2021 and would certainly give Hellmuth a run for his money.
  • Doug Polk (+1200): He trounced Negreanu when they played a high-stakes match and Polk is always willing to show the “old school” how modern poker is played.
  • Bryn Kenney (+2500): If anyone needs a way to restore their image within the poker community right now, it’s Kenney. But, with a scandal hanging over his head, that matchup might not go down well with poker fans.

Whoever gets to take on Hellmuth in the latest “High Stakes Duel” will be putting up $800K in a winner-takes-all format. To see who’s been chosen, tune into the Weigh-In on PokerGO at 7:30 pm ET (4:30 pm ET) on May 16.

The match itself will be shown at 8 pm ET (5 pm PT) on May 17. The first hour of “High Stakes Duel” will be free on PokerGO’s YouTube channel. The rest of the match will be shown on PokerGO, which costs $10 per month or $99 for an annual pass.

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