Daniel Negreanu said he knows he’s a better heads-up poker player than Phil Hellmuth — but that’s not what the scoreboard says.
And if Hellmuth wins their third straight “High Stakes Duel” match, he will walk away with bragging rights and $350,000 of Negreanu’s money. The match will be broadcast at 5 p.m. Wednesday on the subscription video service PokerGO.
“The level of frustration is incredibly high,” Negreanu said. “… I just have to continue to do what I’m doing, because it’s working. It’s just not showing the results.”
The poker stars are playing a $200,000 buy-in heads-up No-limit Hold’em match. Hellmuth won the first match for $50,000 each in March, and Negreanu was entitled to a rematch at double the stakes. Hellmuth prevailed again in a $100,000 match in May, and Negreanu again had the right to the rematch with the stakes doubled.
If Hellmuth wins the third round, he can cash out.
“I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything,” he said. “On the surface, I won the first two matches, but it kind of doesn’t feel that way. If I lose this match, I lose money.”
Indeed, a victory would put Negreanu ahead $50,000 (winning $200,000 after losing $150,000 in the first two matches). In that case, Hellmuth would have to decide whether to go for a fourth match at double the stakes. If he declines, Negreanu would have to beat another opponent before he could cash out, under the “High Stakes Duel” rules.
Negreanu and Hellmuth are friends, but Negreanu said his position on Hellmuth’s poker game is unchanged. Though Hellmuth is the all-time leader with 15 World Series of Poker tournament victories, Negreanu said he is not the best player in the world, certainly not against top competition, and doesn’t understand modern poker strategy.
“High Stakes Duel” is played in a tournament format with escalating blinds that allows Hellmuth to simply survive the early rounds, then win a couple of big hands at the end to take the match, Negreanu said. Stats show Negreanu winning more “blinds” worth of chips in both matches, and Negreanu held the lead for most of the first two matches.
“If you watched the match, you would have seen that it wasn’t due to skill that he won,” Negreanu said. “It was just running good at the right times.”
Hellmuth’s position is also unchanged: He has a style that has worked for 30 years, and he does not concede that today’s players know more than him about the game.
“Daniel is always going to find some mistakes in what I’m doing,” he said. “We haven’t solved No-limit Hold’em yet, even if some people say we have. It does still have the human element.”
Negreanu is favored for the third match, as he was for the first two. He is -149 on pokershares.com (Hellmuth +129).
High Stakes Duel
Who: Phil Hellmuth vs. Daniel Negreanu
What: $200,000 buy-in heads-up No-limit Hold’em match
When: 5 p.m. Wednesday
How to watch: PokerGO (subscription required)