Hellmuth vs. Negreanu Match is Intriguing But Will Prove Very Little

4 min read

The poker community will be locked in on the upcoming heads-up match between Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu on PokerGO’s High Stakes Duel show. Fans of both players are sure to place some heavy wagers on what should be an intriguing match between two of the game’s all-time biggest stars. But don’t kid yourself, the match won’t prove which player is superior.

phil hellmuth daniel negreanu
Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth will play the equivalent of an exhibition match, and nothing more. (Image: pokerscout.com)

Jim Barnes of the Las Vegas Review-Journal recently reported the match would take place “by mid-March.” That’s based on his interview with the show’s producer, Mori Eskandani, who advised bettors to stop wagering by the 14th.

“I’m not going to tell them exactly when we are filming, but it’s better not to place a bet after March 14,” Eskandani told the LVRJ.

So, we know the heads-up battle is going to take place soon, and we know the basic format. High Stakes Duel begins with a $50,000 per player game, creating a $100,000 pot off the bat. The losing player then has the option to put up another $100,000 for a rematch, bringing the prize pool up to $200,000. After that match, the losing player again can elect to double the pot and raise the stakes.

Given both players have sizable bankrolls and talk a big game, don’t expect the losing player to quit so early. Hellmuth is unbeaten on High Stakes Duel, having defeated Antonio Esfandiari three straight matches in 2020.

The show was highly entertaining as both players engaged in lively table banter. You can expect the same from Negreanu and Hellmuth, two poker pros who love the spotlight and know how to entertain a television audience while playing cards.

Although the three Hellmuth vs. Esfandiari matches were fun to watch, Hellmuth’s wins proved very little. The game played is no-limit hold’em, but the format is sit n go style, and only about 100-200 hands are dealt before the match concludes.

That’s such a tiny sample size, meaning that variance played a significant factor. Even over three games, variance still played a crucial role in Hellmuth’s win. Compare that to Doug Polk vs. Daniel Negreanu, or any of the three Galfond Challenges, where 25,000 or more hands were played.

Large Sample Size vs. Small Sample Size

Those who watched Polk beat Negreanu for $1.2 million over 25,000 hands know who the better player is. Sure, luck can still be somewhat of a factor over that sample size. But it’s minimal compared to the High Stakes Duel matches.

Negreanu opened the challenge against his long-time rival with a six-figure win over 200 hands on PokerGO. If the match stopped there, he would have walked away a big winner. Unfortunately, for the pro once known as “Kid Poker,” there were still 24,800 hands remaining, and he ended up losing over $1.3 million during that span.

So, when Negreanu and Hellmuth are done with their match, viewers will be left wondering how it would all play out of they continued for another 20,000 hands or so. We’ll never know who would win heads-up between the Poker Hall of Famers, we can only speculate.

Polk has made it clear his former opponent would obliterate Hellmuth. But unless they actually play it out on the felt over a large enough sample size, we really don’t know which player would come out victorious. For all we know, Hellmuth would learn to make adjustments during the match and correct some of his mistakes. Or, maybe Negreanu would crush him for $2 million.

What we do know is the small sample size from the High Stakes Duel show isn’t near enough to determine the superior player. But it’s sure going to be entertaining to watch because the competitors sure know how to entertain an audience.

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