High Stakes Duel: Hellmuth Grinds Out Grueling Round-1 Win Over Negreanu

5 min read

Phil Hellmuth gave new meaning to the “chip and a chair” mentality in Round 1 of High Stakes Duel against Daniel Negreanu. Hellmuth battled his friendly rival for more than six hours before setting a successful trap to win the match.

phil hellmuth daniel negreanu
Phil Hellmuth never gave up against Daniel Negreanu, and it paid off. (Image: PokerGO)

When you face Hellmuth at the poker table, you had better be ready to grind it out because, although he makes some questionable folds, he’s one of the toughest players to stack. He proved that once again on Wednesday night on PokerGO in a heads-up battle that, at one point, seemed like it might never end.

The condensed version of the match is that Negreanu had control for four hours. But Hellmuth never gave in and his patience would eventually pay off. As strange as it might seem, in six hours of heads-up play, there weren’t many coolers or brutal bad beats, nor did either player pull off any elaborate bluffs.

With that said, the show was highly entertaining, thanks in large part to the back-and-forth banter between two legendary poker pros. That’s precisely why thousands of poker fans tuned in, and why they’ll most certainly come back for the rematch. And, yes, there will be a rematch, as Negreanu made clear afterward.

Hellmuth doesn’t quit

Hellmuth doesn’t get much respect for his heads-up play from other top pros, especially the younger generation. But as rapper DJ Khaled sings, all he does is “win, win, win no matter what.”

Against Antonio Esfandiari in the first High Stakes Duel, the 15-time WSOP bracelet winner won all three matches. On Wednesday, he improved his record to four-for-four, this time against Negreanu.

The buy-in for Round 1 was $50,000, which created a $100,000 initial prize pool. The winner, however, isn’t permitted to cash out unless the losing players surrenders after Round 2. In this case, Negreanu was the loser, and he isn’t ready to quit. So, they’ll play at least one more match. In Round 2, the losing player from Round 1 (Negreanu) must pay another $100,000 to get back in the game.

The first match between the Poker Hall of Famers was quite a grind, for both players. Each player started with 50,000 chips and the initial blinds at 50/100. Early on, Negreanu chipped away at Hellmuth’s stack. Although he didn’t win many big pots, he controlled the game for quite some time.

On just the second hand, Hellmuth avoided a potential early disaster with K-Q. He three-bet his hand preflop, a rare move for Hellmuth, and folded when Negreanu four-bet his pocket aces.

About an hour later, he avoided another disaster thanks to a fortunate river card. On a board of K-6-5-9-7, Hellmuth hit a straight with A-8 after bluffing the flop and turn. Negreanu, with 8♥ 6♥ in the hole, called throughout, only to chop despite having flopped a pair and a flush draw.

Hellmuth can’t help himself

You didn’t think you were going to read an entire match recap involving Phil Hellmuth without a meltdown story, did you? It took 90 minutes, but Hellmuth finally had a blow-up.

The “Poker Brat” three-bet with pocket jacks and Negreanu made the call with K-9 suited, a standard play in heads-up No-Limit Hold’em. Negreanu caught a lucky flop and hit a king, and went on to win a crucial 20,800-chip pot. Afterward, Hellmuth angrily stood up from his chair, called his opponent an “idiot” for calling his three-bet, and then walked around the PokerGO Studio for a bit before mumbling under his breath for the next three hands.

Three hours into the match, Negreanu had full control and appeared on the verge of victory. He had Hellmuth down to around 5,000 chips before his opponent picked up a couple of double-ups and a few medium-sized pots. At around the four-hour mark, the 1989 WSOP Main Event champion was all of a sudden in the chip lead.

He never surrendered that lead, although Negreanu didn’t go down without a fight. As the blinds started getting big, Negreanu protected his stack by folding marginal hands instead of having a “screw it, let’s gamble” mentality. But he eventually ran into a trap and almost got lucky.

Hellmuth, with nearly a 6-1 chip advantage, decided to just limp on the button with pocket nines. He got exactly what he was hoping for as his opponent shipped it for 15,500 with 6-7 of hearts. Hellmuth snap-called and the players watched a wild flop of 8-5-J with two hearts come, giving Negreanu a straight flush draw.

The hand was close to a coin flip at that point, but the turn (black king) and river (black 8), were of no help to Negreanu, and Hellmuth was officially the Round 1 winner.

There will be a rematch, but the date hasn’t yet been set. If you missed out on High Stakes Duel on Wednesday evening, you can catch the entire show any time you’d like on the PokerGO app (paid subscription required).

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