Hellmuth vs. Negreanu: Whose Reputation is Most on the Line?

4 min read

Phil Hellmuth vs. Daniel Negreanu is finally going to happen on PokerGo’s show, High Stakes Feud. While both players want to win, only one can. But one player, at least from a public perception standpoint, needs this victory more than the other.

Phil hellmuth negreanu poker
Phil Hellmuth vs. Daniel Negreanu, the match poker has always wanted, is officially on. (Image YouTube)

Following Negreanu’s $1.2 million loss in a 25,000-hand heads-up challenge to Doug Polk, Hellmuth piled on his pal, claiming “DNegs” played poorly. Of course, Negreanu wasn’t just going to sit back and take it from the self-proclaimed, best No-Limit Hold’em player ever. So, he offered up a heads-up challenge to the “Poker Brat.”

On the Poker Central podcast, No Gamble No Future, the GGPoker ambassador announced the match is on. But this one, unlike Polk vs. Negreanu, won’t take place on the internet. Instead, it will be played at the PokerGo Studio in Las Vegas. And, yes, hole cards will be up, so you’ll get to see all the tight laydowns Hellmuth makes.

The match will air on the show High Stakes Duel. An official date hasn’t been set, but both Hellmuth and Negreanu have agreed to play. Hellmuth competed on the show last year against Antonio Esfandiari where he won three matches for a $350,000 profit.

This time around, he’ll likely face a tougher opponent. While Negreanu is far from a grizzled veteran in the heads-up streets, he just spent the past three months competing against one of the best heads-up No-Limit Hold’em players ever. So, while it cost him $1.2 million to learn a heads-up lesson, it could prove beneficial against Hellmuth.

That said, luck is going to be a significant factor in this match, much like it was during the Hellmuth/Esfandiari High Stakes Duel. Unlike Negreanu vs. Polk, which spanned 25,000 hands, High Stakes Duel is a sit-n-go format, which means the blinds will increase, and only a couple hundred hands will be played, if even that.

One Player Can’t Afford to Lose

Negreanu disrespects Hellmuth’s game often. On the recent No Gamble No Future podcast, he went so far as to say he isn’t even going to prepare for the match. He claims the only way his opponent can beat him is by winning “three or four flips in a row.”

Does that mean this match is more important to Negreanu? Absolutely not. In fact, a win or a loss will do little, if anything, for his reputation. Most poker pros don’t consider Hellmuth a top heads-up player, so beating him in a small sample-size game won’t change anyone’s opinion of the GGPoker ambassador.

Hellmuth, on the other hand, can’t afford a loss here — at least not from a reputation standpoint. He’s the one who popped off about how poorly Negreanu played against Polk. He’s the one who recently bragged about supposedly winning 29 of his last 30 heads-up matches. Hellmuth loves to flaunt his NBC National Heads-Up Championship record out there (he won it in 2005 and finished runner-up in 2013) even though that tournament, which ended in 2013, proved very little due to its sit-n-go format.

Hellmuth loves to mention how he won heads-up events such as that and the King of the Hill on Poker Night in America in 2017. He brings these victories up when a poker pro questions his heads-up abilities.

Negreanu, however, admitted on the recent No Gamble No Future podcast that “I’m not the greatest player in the world.” He acknowledged that this match won’t prove much in terms of who is the superior heads-up player.

“He doesn’t want to play with 500 big blinds, he doesn’t want to play with 300 big blinds,” Negreanu said in the interview. “He wants to hold onto those chips, hold onto those chips, until we’re both at about 50-60 big blinds or less, and then he feels like he’s got a shot.”

Negreanu, who said he won’t prepare much for the match because, as he claims, he knows what Hellmuth is going to do, said he might watch bits and pieces of the Esfandiari match “just for s**t’s and giggles.”

Given that Hellmuth has repeatedly bragged about his heads-up wins in small sample-size games, he’ll take some heat if he loses — and deservedly so.

Putting aside the format for the Hellmuth vs. Negreanu match, it’s certainly going to be exciting to watch. Two of the most popular and polarizing players in poker history battling it out for everyone to see, mono–a-mono, with thousands of dollars at stake. What more could a poker fan ask for?

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