Sports personality Nick Wright said he knows he’s not a better poker player than Phil Hellmuth, not even close.
But that’s also why he’s going to beat him.
Wright is the latest opponent for Hellmuth on PokerGO’s “High Stakes Duel” series. The $50,000 buy-in No-limit Hold’em match will be broadcast at 5 p.m. Wednesday on the subscription video service PokerGO.
Hellmuth, 57, the all-time leader with 15 World Series of Poker tournament victories, is undefeated on “High Stakes Duel,” having won three matches each against poker pros Antonio Esfandiari and Daniel Negreanu.
Esfandiari and Negreanu made it clear before their matches that they believed they are superior players to Hellmuth.
Wright, 36, the co-host of “First Things First” weekdays on FS1, said he thinks that mindset worked against them.
“Is it possible the pros are playing him wrong?” Wright said. “And that in a weird way, an amateur player who absolutely knows what they’re doing but isn’t a pro player … is going to come at it from a different angle (and) might actually have a better chance?”
“I know I’m not the better player,” he continued. “It’s actually why I think I’ll win this first one.”
Wright got his shot at Hellmuth after they tangled on some episodes of PokerGO’s “Poker After Dark” series that haven’t aired yet. After those run-ins, Wright said he suggested the match, and PokerGO executives agreed, taking a chance to bring in new viewers who know Wright from TV but who might not usually watch poker.
Hellmuth said he was taken aback at the suggestion, having expected to take on another top pro in Tom Dwan or Phil Ivey, but came around to the idea that the match was “good for poker.”
Wright said he is an avid amateur who started playing poker in high school and played heavily in college. One edge he will have is that he can study hours of Hellmuth playing in this format, while no video of Wright playing poker exists, he said.
Wright said he doesn’t know if Hellmuth will be nervous for the match, but he must know that the match offers “all downside with limited upside for him.”
Hellmuth said he will focus on playing his game, and he saw enough of Wright on “Poker After Dark” to know that he is a capable opponent.
“You can’t underestimate anybody, ever, right?” Hellmuth said. “He’s much, much, much better than the public thinks. Much better. He’s not afraid to make big bluffs. He’s not afraid to make big calls.”
Wright said he is ready to apply pressure to Hellmuth.
“I could be totally wrong here and I could go out there and he could annihilate me. I get that that’s a possibility,” Wright said. “But I think I’ve got more than a puncher’s chance, and that we are going to be into the third hour of the match, and I’m going to be very, very alive. And I think that’s going to be a very uncomfortable position for him.”
High Stakes Duel
Who: Phil Hellmuth vs. Nick Wright
What: $50,000 buy-in heads-up No-limit Hold’em match
When: 5 p.m., Wednesday
How to watch: PokerGO (subscription required)