Negreanu erases deficit, takes over lead in heads-up battle vs. Polk

Doug Polk Daniel Negreanu
Jon Sofen
Posted on: November 16, 2020 08:02 PST

What a difference a day makes. Daniel Negreanu no longer trails in his heads-up grudge match against Doug Polk thanks in large part to some very fortunate river cards.

But the luck factor hasn't been on Negreanu's side throughout the entire challenge. In fact, despite the GGPoker ambassador's recent bit of good fortune, he's actually running well below expected value, at least on all-ins, as one Twitter user pointed out.

During last Wednesday's session, won by Negreanu, Polk rivered a flush to win a $100,000 pot on the final hand, a huge lucky swing for the Upswing Poker founder. But during the most recent session, most of the luck appeared to be on Negreanu's side. As a result, he is now in the lead for the first time since the opening session.

Negreanu loves those river cards

Poker is a funny game. One day, you're missing every draw and losing to brutal river suck-outs. The next, you're catching every draw in sight. For Negreanu, Friday was one of those days he'd like to replicate many times over.

Polk, the pre-match heavy favorite, entered the most recent session with a lead of $181,000 thanks partially to the aforementioned lucky flush. But he's now in a small hole, about $26,000 after his opponent absolutely crushed it on Friday.

Polk jumped out to an early lead in the two-hour session and was up around $40,000, the equivalent of one buy-in. It appeared he was headed to yet another big win. And then it all turned around quickly and things just sort of snowballed downhill for the Upswing Poker founder.

In one massive pot, Polk turned a straight only to run into a bigger straight on the river. In another hand, Negreanu won a huge pot with a straight on the river (Polk's cards weren't disclosed). Things got even worse for Polk as the session went on.

Twice within about 10 minutes, Negreanu picked up pocket aces and got paid off in big pots both times. Polk continually called off large-sized river bets against "Kid Poker's" monster hands. That cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars within just a couple of hours.

The rival poker pros have now played 1,737 hands and Negreanu has a $25,916 lead. At $200/$400 stakes, that lead isn't very big and could deteriorate (and then some) in just one hand. But the mere fact that "DNegs" is even in the lead this far into the competition comes as a huge surprise to many poker players who felt he had no shot at winning this high-stakes no-limit hold'em challenge against one of the best heads-up players ever.

But the match is still in its relatively early stages. For all we know, Polk will go on to do what he was expected to do — destroy his rival. Or, perhaps, Negreanu will shock the poker world and actually win this thing. They've agreed to play 12,500 hands at minimum with the losing player's option to extend it to 25,000 hands.

The poker pros will continue grinding away this week beginning Monday at 2:30 pm PT. They'll also play at the same time Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Each session lasts two hours but Negreanu recently said on his DAT Poker Podcast that he expects they'll soon begin playing longer sessions to get the challenge completed as quickly as possible.

Featured image source: Twitter