Phil Hellmuth goes for a three-match sweep against Daniel Negreanu
Phil Hellmuth’s seemingly unbeatable heads-up No-Limit Hold’em skills position him as the king of the High Stakes Duel mountain. The “Poker Brat” and his one-on-one poker acumen will be put to the test one more time against Daniel Negreanu, and we now know the date for that eagerly-anticipated rematch.
Hellmuth takes on Negreanu once again on Monday, June 23. High Stakes Duel II: Round 3 will air on PokerGO that night, with $400,000 on the line in a winner-take-all sit & go between poker legends.
The first two rounds of High Stakes Duel II have gone Hellmuth’s way, surprising some in the poker community. The opening round match saw Hellmuth battle back from the brink of elimination and complete a comeback win in a marathon match.
Round 2 featured a much more even battle, but the final result was the same. Boosted by a little bit of luck on the match-deciding hand, Hellmuth pushed his record to 2-0 against Negreanu, and 5-0 overall on High Stakes Duel.
What would a Round 3 win mean for Hellmuth’s legacy?
Since last year’s debut of the PokerGO show, Hellmuth has owned the title of High Stakes Duel champion. The first chapter of the series saw Hellmuth down Antonio Esfandiari in three straight matches, walking away with $350,000 profit off of his longtime colleague and nemesis.
The Hellmuth-Negreanu series stands one match away from ending in the same fashion. Per the rules of the show, Round 1 saw both players put up $50,000, with Hellmuth taking down the $100,000 match.
Round 2 doubled the stakes, with Hellmuth once again taking the win with $200,000 total on the line. Round 3 will play out as a $400,000 match.
If Hellmuth wins, the series ends, as Negreanu can’t challenge again as dictated by the High Stakes Duel rules. A Hellmuth win would net $350,000 profit for the 15-time WSOP bracelet winner across the three matches against Negreanu.
Hellmuth persists as one of poker’s most polarizing figures. The poker community at large frequently debates Hellmuth’s actual skill level versus his self-perceived poker abilities.
The heads-up format seems to heavily favor Negreanu against Hellmuth. PokerShares installed Negreanu as the betting favorite in each of the first two rounds, and the GGPoker Ambassador is once again favored against Hellmuth in Round 3.
Both players maintained relevancy from the “poker boom” era of the mid 2000s through the modern era of the game. Negreanu has embraced the game theory optimal strategies of the modern game, while Hellmuth unabashedly ignores that strategy trend.
Negreanu went deep into the lab for his 25,000-hand challenge against Doug Polk, bringing in a coaching team of heads-up specialists in preparation for that match. While Negreanu lost more than $1.2 million in that duel, he ended up earning Polk’s respect for his efforts to improve his game.
Negreanu went into High Stakes Duel II with that heads-up study still fresh in his mind. That hasn’t translated to success against Hellmuth, at least not yet.
Three sit & gos make for a very small sample in the long-term picture of poker results. If Hellmuth finishes the clean sweep of Negreanu, his detractors might have to concede that he knows what he’s doing in highly-hyped heads-up challenges.
What happens if Daniel Negreanu wins?
High Stakes Duel II really gets interesting if Negreanu pulls off a win on June 23. Hellmuth would then get the opportunity to challenge for a Round 4 rematch, which would put $800,000 on the line.
Down $150,000 going into the next match, a Round 3 win would put Negreanu ahead $50,000 on Hellmuth. Both players would then put $400,000 in on each side for Round 4, and the challenge would truly venture into high-stakes territory at that point.
The stakes double after every match on High Stakes Duel, and it’s amazing to contemplate Hellmuth and Negreanu continuing to move forward with the challenge. Each player gets a total of three rematch challenges, so as long as Negreanu doesn’t lose Round 3, he still has one more rematch in the bag if he loses a subsequent match to Hellmuth.
Starting at Round 4 and beyond, either player can cash out after two consecutive wins. Hellmuth still has all three rematch challenges at his disposal, so several scenarios could play out that extend High Stakes Duel II into seven-figure matches.
Those scenarios won’t come to fruition, however, if Hellmuth wins Round 3. A sweep of the first three matches officially eliminates Negreanu from the show, and Hellmuth would then await his next challenger, with a hypothetical High Stakes Duel III resetting to the start with a $100,000 match.
Featured image source: PokerGO