Doug Polk vs. Tom Dwan: Once-in-a-lifetime match highlights WPT Heads-Up Championship

Doug Polk vs. Tom Dwan: Once-in-a-lifetime match highlights WPT Heads-Up Championship
Poker writer Geoff Fisk profile photo
Geoff Fisk
Posted on: June 17, 2021 08:12 PDT

Clash of poker legends is perhaps the most anticipated heads-up duel of 2021

One of the biggest events on the 2021 poker calendar gives us one of the biggest heads-up matches in poker history. Doug Polk and Tom Dwan face each other in the first round of the WPT Heads Up Poker Championship, which kicks off this weekend.

The 32-player tournament includes some of the biggest names in poker, and the later rounds of the tournament will likely feature a few other faceoffs between poker icons.

The Polk vs. Dwan first-round match came about completely by chance, however. Polk and Joey Ingram hosted a bracket reveal show Tuesday, with all opening-round matches determined by the random number generator.

Before the first match was even selected, Ingram called for a Polk vs. Dwan match. ended up spitting out that pairing as the fifth match of the draw (clip begins at 31:40):

Does the poker community at large share the enthusiasm displayed by Polk and Ingram for a long-awaited Tom Dwan vs. Doug Polk heads-up match? In the era of the heads-up challenge, it’s hard to imagine a one-on-one matchup bigger than this.

Icons from different eras collide

Dwan and Polk really haven’t encountered each other at the poker table across their careers. Dwan emerged as an online poker phenom at Full Tilt Poker in the mid-2000s, but became one of the game’s most elusive figures after Black Friday purged online poker’s biggest operators from the U.S. in May 2011.

The 32-year-old Polk was just beginning his poker journey in the early 2010s, and that path led to Polk become one of the world’s best heads-up players by mid-decade. Through a combination of poker prowess and popular YouTube channel, Polk now stands as a legend of the modern era of poker.

Dwan, now 34, built his legend in the “poker boom” era of the 2000s. The player once known as “durrrr” on Full Tilt Poker doesn’t make many appearances on U.S. soil in current days but regularly appears on the Triton Poker high-stakes cash games of the Asia-Pacific region.

While Polk and Dwan haven’t crossed paths at the poker table, Polk did challenge Dwan to a $5 million heads-up match in 2017:

Polk took exception to Dwan’s handling of the “Durrrr Challenge,” a heads-up challenge that pitted Dwan against other top players from the late 2000s and early 2010s. Dwan took on Dan “Jungleman” Cates in one round of that challenge, with Cates building a $1.2 million lead after around 20,000 hands.

The match, scheduled for 50,000 hands, never reached its completion. Dwan and Cates haven’t played a hand in that challenge since 2013, with Cates contending that Dwan stopped responding to his queries about the unresolved match for years.

Dwan never responded to Polk’s $5 million heads-up challenge. The power of randomness brings together a mythical and long-awaited match in the first round of the WPT Heads-Up Championship.

First-round matches from the 32-player bracket play out this weekend. Polk and Dwan go to battle on Saturday, June 19, beginning at 6 pm EDT/3 pm PDT, playing a best-of-three sit & go format.

You can catch all matches from the WPT Heads-Up Championship on the World Poker Tour Twitch channel. The tournament runs from June 18-22, with all matches played on the Poker King online poker site.

Featured image source: Flickr/World Poker Tour