The heads-up match the poker world needs right now

Jon Sofen
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Posted on February 11, 2021 1:50 pm EST

With Doug Polk vs. Daniel Negreanu out of the way, it’s time for the poker world to find its next big match. Landon Tice and Bill Perkins are scheduled to play soon, but the likelihood of that one generating massive interest around the poker community is slim.

Polk and Negreanu don’t appear to have any interest in a rematch. As evidenced by the recent Galfond Challenge (Chance Kornuth vs. Phil Galfond) only getting a few hundred viewers per session, it’s clear the poker world isn’t going to be excited for a fourth Galfond Challenge.

So, which two poker pros would most interest the poker community? Before we name the names, let’s first explain what attributes those players must have to truly generate massive interest within the poker community.

First off, the two players need to have broad appeal. That means they can’t just be online pros who have never or rarely ever played in live cash games and tournaments. Online grinders with boring personalities simply aren’t going to attract the casual audience.

Next, the players need to be accomplished pros in some capacity, even if it’s not in heads-up no-limit hold’em. And that brings us to our next point: the game played should be NLH because that is far and away the most popular poker variant. After that, the proposed match should be realistic. So, Tom Dwan vs. Phil Ivey, which would obviously generate thousands of viewers, isn’t worth mentioning because that’s likely never going to happen.

Lastly, the competitors should be able to generate some sort of drama. The first Galfond Challenge between Galfond and “VeniVidi1993” had low viewership right up until the final day in which Galfond pulled off a miraculous comeback, erasing a $900,000 deficit. That drama drew in over 20,000 viewers during the final session to see if the Run it Once founder could finish off an incredible rally.

And the Polk vs. Negreanu match had major drama built up for years as the popular pros feuded over numerous issues.

Two players who best stack up

The two pros who would make for the most interesting heads-up match are Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu. That might sound crazy but it isn’t out of the question.

Not only would this match generate interest, it would easily surpass the viewership in the Polk vs. Negreanu match. Hellmuth and Negreanu are the two most popular poker players in history.

They’re both outspoken individuals who have a huge following within the casual poker audience. And people love to root for or against both of them.

These two poker pros are friends, but they’re also rivals. Their careers are tied together given they were the two most recognizable names in the game during the poker boom era.

Negreanu’s made it clear he’d like to take on another challenge. Hellmuth enjoys heads-up poker and has had some success against mostly weaker opponents. He beat Antonio Esfandiari last year on PokerGo in three straight matches. And he won the 2005 NBC National Heads-Up Championship (runner-up in 2013).

There’s no secret these two poker pros love attention. And they know this match would generate massive interest from the poker community. Both would likely be willing to play much of the match live on PokerGo as they are affiliated with and promote the poker app.

Poker needs this match now more than ever because of COVID-19. With the major live tournament scene mostly on hiatus, the community could certainly use an exciting heads-up match, much like Polk vs. Negreanu gave us.

It would be a tough sell to Hellmuth simply because Negreanu got a heads-up lesson against Polk. But if the “Poker Brat” would agree to play, it’s hard to imagine “DNegs” declining the offer. He’d love to stick it to Hellmuth, even though they’re long-time friends.

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