Doug Polk Holds Small Lead as Heads-Up Grudge Match With Daniel Negreanu Goes Back and Forth

  • Polk’s lead after six sessions is just $75,000, or fewer than two buy-ins
  • Polk, an internet specialist, was up by $268,000 after the first two online poker sessions
  • Negreanu stormed back in the first half of last week to take a slight edge
  • The two players have had an internet spat since 2014
Black and white chess knights facing each other
Doug Polk took over the lead after Monday’s session in his heads-up poker challenge against Daniel Negreanu, now leading by about $75,000, or fewer than two buy-ins. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Slim margin for high-stakes poker

After six sessions, Doug Polk leads Daniel Negreanu in their heads-up challenge by close to $75,000. That is a lot of money for most people, but in this match, the sum represents fewer than two buy-ins, so it is still anyone’s game.

less than 10% of the way through the 25,000-hand match

Polk was expected to wipe the floor with his Poker Hall of Fame opponent. Aside from the first session, the entire challenge takes place online, effectively giving Polk home-court advantage. Negreanu is a live-game specialist, while Polk, before he retired, was considered one of the best online poker players in the world. It is still very early – they are still less than 10% of the way through the 25,000-hand match – but so far, it looks like Negreanu is demonstrating that he plans on sticking around.

And as much as the two men do not like each other, a dynamic which led to the heads-up challenge in the first place, Polk actually paid Negreanu a minor compliment after round five on Friday:

Polk and Negreanu will log back onto the WSOP website on Wednesday as they grind two tables of $200/$400 No-Limit Hold’em.

New week, new leader

As VegasSlotsOnline News discussed earlier this month, Daniel Negreanu got off to a fast start, taking a $117,000 lead after the first session. Unlike the rest of the online sessions, the kick-off to the challenge was played in person at the PokerGO studio in Las Vegas. Negreanu said he was pleased to pull a six-figure profit, knowing that he was the underdog the rest of the way.

Polk found his stride on the internet, as expected. He won $218,292 in Session 2 and another $166,239 in Session 3 to turn the tables and gain more than a quarter-million-dollar lead.

Negreanu is running almost $184,000 below expected value

But last week was a good one for “Kid Poker,” as he won nearly $300,000 in Session 4 and Session 5 combined. That result put Negreanu back into the lead, with a slight $26,000 advantage. And it appears that statistically, he should be doing better. A Twitter poster put together a spreadsheet of the all-in pots for the first five sessions and determined that, based on the given hands and community cards at the time, Negreanu is running almost $184,000 below expected value.

Monday’s Session 6 was going fine for Negreanu most of the way, but in the last half hour, Polk took over. The highlight of the session was Negreanu seeing his flopped two pair get counterfeited on the river when a different board card paired, giving Polk a better two pair with his pocket Aces. Polk ended up profiting $99,300 on the session; that pot was worth $80,000.

Six years in the making

There has been bad blood between Negreanu and Polk for six years. In 2014, Negreanu said that if he honed his internet skills, he could beat the high-stakes online poker games. Polk scoffed at the idea, and not being shy about letting his opinions fly, publicly called Negreanu naïve.

The following year, PokerStars increased rake in many of its games. Negreanu, an ambassador for Stars at the time, said that higher rake is good for recreational players. That stance got him ridiculed throughout the poker community, particularly by Polk.

In 2018, Polk continued needling him, renting out a billboard outside the Rio in Las Vegas during the World Series of Poker to advertise a site called MoreRakeIsBetter.

Things came to a head this summer after Negreanu had some temper problems when he live-streamed his play during the US portion of the 2020 WSOP Online. Polk mocked Negreanu, even posting a parody video to make fun of the incident. As the two yelled at each other over Twitter, Poker vlogger and interviewer Joey Ingram suggested they play some poker to settle their differences, giving birth to the current battle.