Negreanu announces mid-March start for Hellmuth HU challenge

Jon Pill
Posted on: March 02, 2021 06:20 PST

Drop by drop we are getting information on the Hellmuth v. Negreanu heads-up challenge. Unlike the match against Doug Polk, the Hellmuth game will be part of PokerGO's show: High Stakes Duel.

The latest dribble of info to be leaked includes a vague start date (mid-March) and confirmation that the ruleset will be the same as the Esfandiari match.

Hellmuth previously played a three-round match with Esfandiari on High Stakes Duel. Hellmuth won all three rounds.

Negreanu himself leaked the rough date, tweeting "Line is up. Event will happen. Mid March." Negreanu's tweet also came along with a link to the PokerShares line on the match. At the time of writing, the odds are listed as Negreanu at 1.61 and Hellmuth at 2.45.

Further confirmation of the mid-March date came from PokerGO's Mori Eskandani who told the Las Vegas Review-Journal: “I’m not going to tell them exactly when we are filming, but it’s better not to place a bet after March 14th.”

The show will be live streamed on the PokerGO app. Previous episodes of the show are available on the PokerGO YouTube. PokerGO have not confirmed if the Negreanu match will get the same treatment.

Rules of engagement

PokerGO has posted the macro-rules for the match. These are pretty much the same as for Esfandiari's three-round routing last year.

The rules are as follows:

  1. Players each post $50K for a Round 1 purse of $100K.

2. Losing players may play the next round by matching the outstanding prize pool within three days of the lost match.

3. If a loser declines, new players may submit a challenge. If no challenger comes forward within 30 days, the winner may cash out.

4. If a winning streak starts during Rounds 1–3, players may cash out after three consecutive wins.

5. If a winning streak starts during Round 4 or later, players may cash out after two consecutive wins.

Because each round is double-or-nothing, whoever wins the last round will walk away with a profit. In total, Esfandiari lost $350,000 to Hellmuth over the three games ($50k, $100k, and $200k).

We can assume the micro-rules for the two matches will be similar as well.

In the Esfandiari-Hellmuth match, players started with 300k in tournament chips and blinds of 500-1,000.

Levels then move up every 20 minutes. There is no reason to assume this will change for Hellmuth's match with Negreanu. This is the aspect of the format that chips away at Negreanu's edge.

The odds couple

Negreanu has put in 25,000 hands of heads-up poker against one of the sharpest opponents he could have picked. But over a single hand (or a handful of them), the variance of heads-up poker is huge.

So, the odds are surprisingly wide given that the format is essentially a series of heads-up sit'n'goes. It is hard to imagine any vaguely competent player who would loses ~60% of the time in this format. At 2.45, Phil could probably bet on himself, blind-jam every hand, and still be plus E.V. overall.

Negreanu's real edge might be his high net worth. If they have to out-Martingale each other, it is their bankrolls, not their skillsets, that will settle the matter.

Featured image source: Flickr