Heads-up hype or real animosity? Negreanu and Hellmuth trade barbs

Geoff Fisk
Published by:
Posted on 03/03/2021

Poker icons square off on No Gamble No Future ahead of upcoming High Stakes Duel match

Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth consistently gift the poker community with signature-style content. Whatever your opinion of the poker superstars, they strike irreplaceable personas in poker lore.

Hellmuth and Negreanu square off in the next round of PokerGO’s High Stakes Duel. A $100,000 winner-take-all prize is on the line when the pair of Poker Hall of Famers do battle on March 16.

Ahead of that much-hyped match, Negreanu and Hellmuth appeared on the latest episode of the No Gamble No Future. Show hosts Jeff Platt and Brent Hanks sat back for much of the hour-plus episode, letting the pros take center stage in an interview that raised the hype even higher for the eminent High Stakes Duel battle.

Negreanu says he’ll take it to the streets against Hellmuth

High Stakes Duel features heads-up sit-and-gos with winner-take-call cash prizes. The first episode of the show pitted Hellmuth against Antonio Esfandiari with $100,000 on the line.

The loser of each High Stakes Duel match gets the option for a rematch, with the prize doubling with each match. Hellmuth defeated Esfandiari at $100,000, and Esfandiari lost two subsequent rematches for $200,000 and $400,000 respectively.

That trio of wins against Esfandiari puts Hellmuth in the winner’s seat in High Stakes Duel. Negreanu will challenge Hellmuth to the next match on the PokerGO show.

Negreanu contended that Hellmuth’s one-of-a-kind playing style “destroys” many opponents who play a modern GTO-based style. Hellmuth’s trio of wins over Esfandiari came as a result of Hellmuth’s exploitation of Esfandiari’s mistakes, according to Negreanu.

“You have been, for three decades now, probably the best exploitative player of all time,” Negreanu said to Hellmuth. “You play a style nobody plays. And a lot of the time when you face off against a GTO player, they approach you like a normal human being. But they forget that they’re playing Phil Hellmuth.”

“I’m uniquely suited in having an understanding of that stuff. But also, I’m willing to go down in the streets with you and play exploitative, where they don’t do it quite the same.”

Is Phil Hellmuth a massive underdog against Negreanu?

Negreanu posted a tweet in February that estimated him as a 2.5-to-1 favorite against Hellmuth heads-up. The upcoming High Stakes Duel match came forth after Negreanu took exception to Hellmuth’s comments on his play against Doug Polk, in a match that saw Polk take $1.2 million off Negreanu.

Hellmuth has since taken exception to Negreanu’s 2.5-to-1 estimation of Hellmuth’s odds of winning in a heads-up format against him.

“I beat Jungleman [Dan Cates] who they said was the best,” Hellmuth said. “I beat Doug Polk who they said was the best. I had a street fight with Antonio; I won three matches there.”

“So you say I’m great at heads-up. Which implies that you’re greater, or the greatest?”

Negreanu responded that he thinks he would “get destroyed by really good players,” but doesn’t include Hellmuth in that tier of elite heads-up players.

“I feel like a bad matchup for you,” Negreanu said. “Because of what I’ll be willing to do against you. Where some of the guys who play theory-based strategy would not.”

That exchange represents just a small part of an hour-long episode of No Gamble No Future that ranks as must-see poker programming. You can check out the full episode at the No Gamble No Future YouTube channel.

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