Phil Hellmuth says Daniel Negreanu is condescending and out of line. Negreanu says “the Poker Brat” just doesn’t like the taste of his own verbal medicine.
The poker stars face off in the second round of their “High Stakes Duel,” which will be broadcast at 5 p.m. Wednesday on the subscription video service PokerGO. Hellmuth rallied from a huge deficit to win their first match, a $50,000 buy-in heads-up No-limit Hold’em showdown. The stakes have doubled to $100,000 each for the second round, and again the loser will have the right to a rematch at double the stakes.
Despite the loss in the first match, Negreanu’s confidence has not wavered. Hellmuth “needed a miracle, followed by a second miracle, parlayed with a third, fourth and fifth miracle” to win the match, Negreanu said.
Negreanu held a chip lead of about 95,000 to 5,000 before Hellmuth rallied.
Hellmuth is the all-time leader with 15 World Series of Poker bracelets, including the 1989 Main Event title, but Negreanu called Hellmuth’s legacy into question before the match, saying that he couldn’t compete against top professionals and that WSOP bracelets were not a true barometer of poker skill.
Negreanu said it would be easy to beat Hellmuth, and it looked as if he would be proven right in the early stages of the match as he built a big lead. Negreanu mocked Hellmuth’s play and joked that the “knockout” was coming.
“I felt like that was out of line, way out of line,” Hellmuth said. “How are you going to come in and be condescending to one of the all-time greats, you know? But he was, he was completely condescending — and rude, actually. It was a big point of pride for me that when I beat him I never said one negative word.”
Negreanu said viewers shouldn’t feel badly for Hellmuth, whose nickname “the Poker Brat” comes from years of berating players at the table for what he perceives as poor play. In fact, Hellmuth called Negreanu a “(expletive) idiot” after losing a hand during the first match.
“This isn’t some poor innocent victim,” Negreanu said.
Negreanu was a -159 favorite in the first match and is a -161 favorite on pokershares.com for the second round (Hellmuth +142).
Negreanu said the bottom line is that Hellmuth has failed to embrace modern poker strategy and is stuck using tactics that worked in previous decades. Hellmuth still has a chance to win the match, Negreanu said, because it is in a tournament format with escalating blinds rather than a cash game format with deep stacks throughout.
“If you could bet on who would be ahead after 2½ hours, I would be a 10-1 favorite,” Negreanu said. “He has no idea how to play deep-stack poker, not the faintest clue.”
Hellmuth said he will continue to use a style of play that has worked for 30 years, despite the opinions of Negreanu and other modern pros.
“I get the brunt of all the criticism, but I win all the money,” Hellmuth said.
High Stakes Duel
Who: Phil Hellmuth vs. Daniel Negreanu
What: $100,000 buy-in heads-up No-limit Hold’em match
When: 5 p.m. Wednesday
How to watch: PokerGO (subscription required)