In what might be the most anticipated heads-up event since NBC cancelled the National Heads-Up Championship in 2014, Poker Night in America will host a $50,000 buy-in winner-take-all battle.
The battle will be between four fierce competitors on August 22-23 at Rivers Casino in Schenectady, New York. Dan “Jungleman” Cates and Doug Polk are the overwhelming favorites against Frank Kassela and Phil Hellmuth.
King of the Hill Odds to Win, per PokerShares.com
Dan Cates (+250)
Doug Polk (+256)
Phil Hellmuth (+370)
Frank Kassela (+455)
The event will be streamed live on Twitch beginning at 3:30 pm ET on August 22. The second match starts at 8:30. On August 23, the final match will kick off at 5 pm. CBS Sports Network will broadcast the event in front of a national audience on a future date.
First round matchups are Hellmuth versus Polk and Kassela versus Cates, with the winner in each match advancing to the final round. The champion will take home $500,000 and, perhaps more importantly, bragging rights.
In their Element
Polk and Cates are favored to win because they specialize in heads-up poker. They’ve both made millions of dollars online in this format.
Hellmuth is one of the most accomplished tournament players in history, having won a record 14 WSOP bracelets and more than $21 million in live tournament winnings. He also won the 2005 National Heads-Up Championship and finished to Mike Matusow in 2013.
Despite his nearly 30-year tournament dominance, he isn’t favored because, unlike Cates and Polk, he hasn’t played over a million hands online in the heads-up format.
Kassela also doesn’t have extensive heads-up experience. But he is an accomplished player, having won the 2010 WSOP Player of the Year after winning two bracelets that summer. He has more than $3 million in lifetime tournament winnings. Polk, in a recent video, referred to him as the “wild card” in this event and said he doesn’t know much about his heads-up abilities.
WCGRider Assesses the Field
On his popular YouTube channel ‘DougPolkPoker,’ Polk assessed his competitors and his thoughts on PokerShares’ betting lines. He agreed himself and Cates deserved to be favored and, although he admits Hellmuth has “accolades in spades,” he doesn’t like his chances.
“How is Phil Hellmuth going to fare in this first round match up against myself? I’ve got to say, I don’t think he’s going to do very well. I mean, heads-up no-limit is my thing. I’m having a hard time seeing Phil Hellmuth beating me,” he said.
The player he most fears is Jungleman due to his proven success in the heads-up format online.
“Jungle has insane results online, including winning over $10 million on Full Tilt Poker and $1 million on PokerStars,” Polk said.
Polk hasn’t played with Kassela but did say his expertise appears to be in mixed games, giving him a disadvantage in this no-limit hold’em format.
“The guy does have five cashes this summer at the World Series of Poker, has an impressive tournament resume with $3 million and, really, in most lineups, would be the strongest player. However, in this lineup of players, especially with people so familiar with the heads-up format, you have to imagine he’s the underdog.”
Stay tuned on August 22 to see if Polk can back up his mouth.