There was no guarantee that the Phil Hellmuth vs. Tom Dwan matchup would live up to the hype that has surrounded it since the heads-up match was announced. But the match did exactly that, taking over five and a half hours to complete with plenty of great poker played on both sides. In the end, it was Tom Dwan who came out on top, snapping Phil Hellmuth’s winning streak of seven straight High Stakes Duel wins.
Hellmuth took the early lead in the marathon match, picking off a Tom Dwan bluff with two pair to build an early lead of 125,000 in chips to Dwan’s 75,000. Dwan eventually took the lead after about two hours of play, and the two players battled and traded leads for a while before Dwan won a big pot with a flush to take a 115,000 to 85,000 chip lead heading into level six.
The match started to tilt in Dwan’s direction from that point forward. Hellmuth made a three-bet preflop with pocket sevens, only to be met with an all-in from Dwan’s ace-king, which prompted a fold from Hellmuth. In another key pot, Hellmuth bluffed 12,000 into a pot of 28,000 on the turn with ace-high, but was forced to fold when Dwan moved all-in with his turned straight. These spots left Dwan with a commanding 150,000 to 50,000 chip lead over the defending champion.
Hellmuth continued to battle until he was eventually dealt pocket aces with only 20,000 chips left. Instead of moving all in, Hellmuth decided to limp in, allowing Dwan to check behind with his nine-three offsuit. The slow play seemingly worked to perfection when the flop came five-three-two, giving Dwan middle pair and prompting the chip leader to put out a bet of 5,000 chips. Hellmuth moved all-in and was called by Dwan, who spiked a nine on the turn to take the lead. The six of clubs on the river sealed the victory for Dwan.
Many poker fans were quick to point out that this wasn’t the first time that Tom Dwan had sucked out on Phil Hellmuth’s pocket aces in a big heads up tournament. In the 2008 NBC Heads-Up Poker Championship, a 21-year-old Tom Dwan moved all-in with pocket tens against Hellmuth’s pocket aces early in their heads-up matchup. Dwan turned a ten in that hand and held on to win the match and receive a classic Hellmuth rant.
Will Hellmuth return for a rematch?
Since High Stakes Duel has never lasted beyond three matches due to Phil Hellmuth’s dominance, many poker fans may be unaware of how the format works. In the first round, both players put up a $50,000 buy-in. This increases to $100,000 each in round two, $200,000 each in round three, and so on. In order to walk away with the prize pool, a player must win three consecutive matches before round six or two consecutive matches starting in round five.
In his victories over Antonio Esfandiari and Daniel Negreanu, Hellmuth won the first three matches and thus was allowed to walk away with his $200,000 in profit each time. Now that he has lost, though, Hellmuth would need to beat Dwan in round three (a $200,000 buy-in) and then win again in round four ($400,000) and round five ($800,000) to walk away. The notoriously risk-averse Hellmuth may not be interested in playing at those stakes.
And so the poker world will have to wait and see if Hellmuth decides whether or not he wants to return for a rematch. After Wednesday night’s epic duel, fans would certainly love to see another round. But with or without Hellmuth, High Stakes Duel III is heading into some uncharted territory with some massive prize pools, and Tom Dwan is currently in the driver’s seat.
Featured Image Credit: Flickr – World Poker Tour