Doug Polk and Daniel Negreanu becoming friends isn’t surprising

Jon Sofen
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Posted on 07/22/2021

Doug Polk and Daniel Negreanu feuded for years, mostly over petty nonsense. On Wednesday, they made it clear to the poker community that they’ve officially buried the hatchet during a two-hour YouTube podcast. And although the newfound friendship surprised some, it really shouldn’t have given they have so much in common.

Earlier this year, the poker stars wrapped up a 25,000-hand heads-up no-limit hold’em challenge, in which Polk won by $1.2 million. The outcome certainly wasn’t a shocker as the heavy favorite, who specializes in heads-up NLH, won. But what did surprise so many in the poker community was the respect they gained for each other throughout the battle.

On Wednesday, they discussed numerous topics on Polk’s most recent podcast, including cracking jokes about some of their old feuds, Phil Hellmuth’s inflated ego, and Jake Schindler, whom Negreanu referred to as the best tournament player in the world.

Two of the same

Daniel Negreanu and Doug Polk competed against each for four hours or so three times a week for months during their heads-up match. Over that span, they began to chat more often and the petty feud was put to rest. That’s what happens when rivals start to realize they are similar individuals.

For starters, the obvious one, they’re both talented poker players with impressive resumes in this game. Beyond that, they’re both Liberal-leaning politically, have massive social media followings, and are often criticized by their peers for being outspoken.

Larry Bird and Magic Johnson hated each other during the 1980s when they battled on the basketball court for NBA supremacy year after year. As they got older, they became friends instead of bitter rivals. That rivalry-turned friendship, like Polk and Negreanu, wasn’t all that surprising. Magic and Bird are two of the all-time greats, both forever legends of the game. In the early 1990s, around the time Johnson announced his retirement from basketball after testing positive for HIV, their respect for each other grew.

Like Magic and Bird

We’re seeing the same thing happen between Polk and Negreanu. After so many years of bickering, the two adults decided it was time to stop fighting. During Wednesday’s podcast, the poker pros made it clear they have moved beyond the petty nonsense that took place from 2014-2020.

When the heads-up match concluded this year, Polk admitted he respected Negreanu for completing the challenge. Heads-up poker isn’t Negreanu’s specialty. He stepped into Polk’s arena, heads-up no-limit hold’em online, and played all 25,000 hands despite trailing by six figures or more throughout most of the competition.

Sitting there taking a beating day after day, losing more than $1 million in the process, can’t be easy even for a wealthy individual such as Negreanu. Sure, the money he lost won’t change his lifestyle. But that’s still a tough task mentally to complete a challenge in which you have no shot to win.

Contrast that with the Landon Tice-Bill Perkins heads-up battle in which Tice gave up 4,907 hands, not even 25% of the way through. Tice, the 22-year-old supposed up-and-coming poker star, laid nine big blinds per 100 hands at $200/$400 stakes ($720,000 over 20,000 hands) as a handicap for the underdog Perkins. At the time he called it quits, Tice was only winning at a 3.25 big blinds per 100 hands rate, far off the pace he needed to win the challenge.

But Negreanu didn’t quit despite trailing big a significant amount during his battle against Polk. And that appears to be a big part of the reason they’ve gone from bitter rivals to friends.

Featured image source: Twitter