Polk vs Negreanu recap: Graph shows the ups and downs of Polk, Negreanu challenge

Jon Sofen
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Posted on 02/03/2021

Doug Polk and Daniel Negreanu are finished up an epic heads-up poker battle that was more competitive than many expected. Although the expected winner did so, and by a wide margin, the underdog was more competitive than the final score indicates.

Negreanu was expected to get absolutely demolished in a heads-up no-limit hold’em competition against one of the best ever in that format of poker. At times, he seemed outmatched. But during some sessions, he was the better player.

Poker.org created a graph to show the ups and downs of this $200/$400 heads-up challenge between two fierce competitors. As you’ll notice from the graph below, Polk held the overall lead from Day 2 on. But you’ll also see that Negreanu won his fair share of sessions.

Negreanu starts off challenge with a bang

Daniel Negreanu kicked off the match in surprising fashion, by dominating Doug Polk on PokerGO in what turned out to be the only live poker session of the challenge.

The GGPoker ambassador booked a $116,000 profit live from the PokerGO Studio in Las Vegas. Many poker fans were surprised by what they saw, and Negreanu would continue to have some success over the next couple of weeks.

Polk, however, bounced back from the rough opening session as the challenge moved to the internet. He won the next two matches by over $340,000 combined.

But then Negreanu got back to crushing as he won four of the next five matches, including a $222,832 score on Day 7. Through eight sessions, many felt a potential upset was brewing. Could Daniel Negreanu really defeat Doug Polk at heads-up no-limit hold’em?

Heavy favorite answers back

If you thought a $180,000 deficit early in a long match was going to tilt the heads-up G.O.A.T., you’d be sadly mistaken. Polk’s played high stakes heads-up poker for years. He understands variance and doesn’t tilt easily.

Day 9 was the biggest turning point in the High Stakes Duel. Polk won $205,521 on the day 377 hands, which ended Negreanu’s momentum. From that point on, outside of a few hiccups along the way, as you’ll notice from the above graph, Polk’s upward trajectory began on that day.

He’d go on to book wins of over $100,000 the next two sessions. And then on Day 12, he really put the hammer down and ran hot for a $332,178 profit. At this point, many wondered if Negreanu would just give up and quit at the halfway mark (12,500 hands).

The poker pros agreed to permit the losing player to call it quits at the midway point without penalty. But Negreanu was already down nearly $600,000 after Day 12, and 12,500 hands was a long ways away.

Time to stop the bleeding

Day 13 was an important session for Negreanu. At the very least, he desperately needed to book a small profit to stop the bleeding, which he did ($17,780), and would then follow that up with two more consecutive small wins of $13,000 and $46,581.

The only problem for Negreanu is although he halted Polk’s momentum a bit, he only chipped off a small portion of the deficit. Even worse for him, Polk responded with three consecutive wins for over $100,00, capped off by a $173,362 victory on Day 18, putting him within inches of a $1 million lead.

Negreanu takes control

Each player deposited $1 million onto the WSOP.com poker site prior to the start of this epic heads-up challenge. Negreanu was the only player to ever make a second (and third) deposit.

With a $1 million deficit staring him in the face, Negreanu was back in desperation mode. And just as you’d expect from a veteran poker star, he answered back with seven wins in the next eight sessions.

All of a sudden, Polk’s lead had squandered down to well under $500,000. Sure, he was still the favorite and, hey, half-a-million bucks would buy a pretty nice house in Las Vegas. But it appeared that his edge over Negreanu had become minimal at best.

Back and forth we go

Well, so much for that. Negreanu’s momentum and upward trajectory was quickly squashed by the heads-up hold’em legend.

Polk regained control yet again with four straight wins, two by six figures. Among those winning sessions, the Upswing Poker founder turned a whopping $298,984 profit on Day 30 and finally reached the $1 million mark during the session.

Afterwards, he got a bit cocky but was, perhaps, served a heavy dose of karma on Day 31 when Negreanu ran red hot for a $390,000 profit, the largest any player has reached this entire challenge.

Polk, however, then officially put the match out of reach during the following three sessions, winning all three by more than $375,000 combined. At that point, with under 1,700 hands remaining and Negreanu facing a $946,000 deficit, the outcome was no longer in doubt.

On the final day, Polk put the cherry on top with a $256,000 win in one of his most dominating performances. He wrapped it up with a $1,202,000 overall victory.

But what a wild and exciting ride it’s been, regardless of which player you rooted for. Doug Polk and Daniel Negreanu are two of the best poker players in history, and they proved it during this intense and surprisingly competitive competition.

Featured image source: Twitter