Updated December 7, 2022 - 9:33 pm
Phil Hellmuth’s aggression served him well during the first four rounds of “High Stakes Duel III.”
But the same playing style that flummoxed previous opponents backfired Wednesday.
Hellmuth ran into a buzz saw in Round 5, losing to high-stakes poker pro Jason Koon in their $800,000 buy-in heads-up No-limit Hold ’em match at the PokerGO studio by the Aria.
Koon earned the $1.6 million prize, the largest to date on the show.
“I had great hands,” Koon told PokerGO. “Even the hands that I bluffed, almost all of them kind of presented themselves in a natural way, so it was just one of those days where almost anybody in my seat is going to win.
“I could have been on the other end of that, where Phil just had huge hands all of the time, and that’s just the nature of poker.”
Koon, 37, has more than $40 million in live tournament earnings and ranks seventh on the all-time money list, according to the Hendon Mob Poker Database. He paid the $800,000 entry after professional poker player Scott Seiver, who lost to Hellmuth in Round 4, was forced to pull out of a scheduled rematch for personal reasons.
However, Koon needed less than 2½ hours to bust the “Poker Brat” in one of the shortest matches on the show to date.
The first of several missteps by Hellmuth came 45 minutes in when he engaged in a preflop raising war and five-bet Koon, who was holding pocket aces.
Hellmuth was forced to fold his shoddy queen-six after Koon went all-in, and the bluff cost Hellmuth close to 40 percent of his 800,000-chip starting stack.
From there, it was all downhill for Hellmuth, who cursed and chastised himself for several minutes after the hand was completed.
Hellmuth briefly recovered, but the momentum soon shifted as Koon won 10 of 11 pots during one stretch.
Koon held a 7-to-1 chip advantage after two hours of play and continued to get hit with the deck, to Hellmuth’s disgust.
On the final hand, Hellmuth was all-in for his final 103,000 before the flop with ace-king against Koon’s queen-eight.
But a queen came on the flop to give Koon a pair, and the final two cards didn’t improve Hellmuth’s hand.
“Like I said coming in, I was ready to lose this thing quite often because of the structure,” Koon said. “You shouldn’t feel bad the days that you run good, and you shouldn’t feel bad the days that you run bad. It’s just the process of it all. Today, I got to be the winner, and it’s nice to do that for gigantic stakes.”
Hellmuth had profited $1.25 million from the show before the loss against Koon.
Based on the rules of “High Stakes Duel,” Hellmuth has first right to a rematch against Koon for a $3.2 million winner-take-all prize.
If Hellmuth chooses not to return, another opponent can step in and pay the $1.6 million entry fee to face Koon. Possible challengers include well-known poker pros Daniel Negreanu and Dan Smith, along with online standouts Wiktor Malinowski and Linus Loeliger.
“I just can’t really see anyone that will play me,” Koon said. “I’m not trying to be arrogant, it’s just that it’s a lot of money to move for a 1 percent or 2 percent edge that you’re going to have at most against me.
“I did not play an optimal strategy today. I played a very Phil-specific strategy. But if I play another player, I will be ready to play them if they play the way that a solver would play.”