Who has the edge in tomorrow's Tom Dwan v. Phil Hellmuth rematch?

Jon Pill
Posted on: January 25, 2022 09:18 PST

It's time for the third round of High Stakes Duel III. Tomorrow's match will be Phil Hellmuth's ninth showing on High Stakes Duel and although his record on the show so far is 7-1, not everyone likes his odds.

Firstly, there is his opponent. HSD3-3 will be a rematch against Tom Dwan, the only person to have beaten him on the show's felt. Dwan's game is a bit of an unknown quantity these days. He's been out of the limelight playing private cash games in Macau for so much of the Black Friday to COVID period that we don't have a good line on whether he's got stronger or atrophied in that time.

Pre-black Friday, he was an unpredictable and frighteningly aggressive player and a specialist in heads-up play. If he has been keeping his game sharp, Hellmuth could be in real trouble.

Secondly, there's Hellmuth. No one seriously doubts Hellmuth's talent. His record speaks for itself, 15 WSOP bracelets and coming up on four decades at the top of the game. But Hellmuth's not a heads-up specialist, while Dwan used to play almost nothing but.

The rather unscientific engagement poll that PokerGO posted, seems to suggest that most viewers have their money on Dwan. "Are you Team @TomDwan or Team @phil_hellmuth? LIKE for Dwan or RETWEET for Hellmuth!"

So far the likes have it 56 to 19.

GOAT on GOAT violence

Against those simple facts are a few details in Hellmuth's favor.

Heads up may not be his best format, but live no-limit hold 'em tournaments are. Hellmuth plays and studies a lot more of the shorter stacked spots that come in this kind of format. That may be enough to counter Dwan's more deep-stack-based experience.

That mysterious period on Dwan's CV can cut both ways. If Dwan's been playing nothing but soft, short-deck, six-max games, then his heads-up game could be rusty by now.

Then there's Hellmuth's white magic, his 15 bracelets, his experience, and his uncanny ability to read and exploit. Plus his record in this particular tournament — small sample size though it is — is impressive. Seven undefeated matches in a row — three against Antonio Esfandiari, three against Daniel Negreanu, one against Nick Wright.

Dwan's victory last time around came when he got it in bad against Hellmuth's aces. Hellmuth's aces got cracked and Dwan won $200,000. It's not inconceivable that a little less bad luck and Hellmuth could have kept his streak on HSD intact.

What the market says

This time its double or quits. Dwan has a single win, and Hellmuth isn't going to give up easily.

In reality, this single match won't decide much.

The sit 'n' go format puts a very low cap on the size of the edge that either player can have over the other. As with those cracked aces in the last match, a single moment of bad luck is going to be the most likely decider. If you want a skill match, PokerGO's gonna have to spring for a much, much longer run time.

The money lines on this matchup weren't particularly decisive the first time around with odds mostly falling somewhere between +130 and -130 with Dwan tending to get the longer odds. But that's not much of an edge for Hellmuth.

The short lead-up has meant there is a dearth of sites taking bets on the outcome this time around. So that line might notionally have shifted since last time around.

Either way, your best chance of turning a profit in a match like this is finding a greater fool who'll give you long odds on either player.

Then sit back, tune in, and enjoy the show for the spectacle it is.

Featured image source: PokerGO