Phil Hellmuth rallied from a massive chip disadvantage to defeat his friend and rival, Antonio Esfandiari, in the first match of PokerGo’s new heads-up poker show, High Stakes Duel.
Poker Central has been heavily promoting the new show on social media over the past few weeks. The initial episode drew great interest from the poker community. But technical issues derailed the release of the first show, which was supposed to air Friday evening at 6 p.m. PT.
Instead, most viewers were forced to wait until the following afternoon to catch a glimpse of the highly anticipated heads-up match. Poker Central decided to release the first episode of High Stakes Duel in its entirety on YouTube on Saturday instead of the PokerGo app.
Once the show was finally made available to the general public, for free, viewers were treated to a back-and-forth battle between two poker legends.
Rivals finally settle it on the felt
Esfandiari and Hellmuth have quite a history against each other. The “Poker Brat” has long claimed Esfandiari has been extremely lucky against him in previous matches. But he hasn’t been willing to accept an offer from “The Magician” to play heads-up—until now.
The first round of High Stakes Duel costs $50,000 to enter, creating a $100,000 prize pool. At the end of the match, the loser has the option to challenge the winner to a rematch. The second match prize pool is then doubled to $200,000.
During the first match, Hellmuth caught some cards early on, which frustrated his opponent. But he wasn’t taking advantage of the good run of cards, only pulling out to a small advantage.
Esfandiari then began to take control of the match, and soon had a 3-1 chip advantage. Both players started with 300,000 chips and the blind levels, which began at 500/1000, increased every 20 minutes. Down to just over 150,000 chips, Hellmuth knew it was time to take a stand.
The 15-time WSOP bracelet winner pulled off a pair of key bluffs, the first forcing Esfandiari off trip kings with a deuce kicker with just a pair of fours. Had he lost the hand, he would have been down to crumbles and almost assuredly a loss.
But then the tides turned. Hellmuth had spent much of the match complaining about how poorly he was running, but he then hit a few hands and rebuilt his stack.
On the final hand, the Poker Hall of Famer won a race with pocket sevens against Q-J to polish off Esfandiari. He won the match but his opponent officially called for a rematch. The poker legends will again square off on PokerGo at an undetermined date, likely after the GGPoker WSOP Online Bracelet Series concludes as Hellmuth is currently in Mexico competing for bracelets.