Doug Polk Leads Daniel Negreanu by Over $1m in Heads-Up Challenge

  • Negreanu was down by $770k at the halfway point and opted to continue the challenge
  • He went on a great run to start 2021, cutting the deficit to under $500k
  • Polk has won four sessions in a row, including a $299k win on Wednesday
  • Polk admitted to a couple lucky hands after Negreanu had complained about bad luck
Two samurai facing off in a meadow under the moon
A massive Wednesday session has catapulted Doug Polk to a $1m lead over Daniel Negreanu in their heads-up No-Limit Hold’em challenge. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Polk’s largest lead of the contest

Things are not going well for Daniel Negreanu in his heads-up No-Limit Hold’em challenge against Doug Polk. After Wednesday’s session, the 30th of their poker series, Negreanu is down just over $1m. It is the Poker Hall of Famer’s largest deficit of the challenge. The most he was down by previously was $957,932 after session 18.

The two men began their one-on-one match in early November 2020, agreeing to play two simultaneous tables of $200/$400 No-Limit Hold’em on WSOP.com (they both have homes in Nevada) until they have played a total of 25,000 hands. As part of the agreement, the person who was losing at the halfway mark could call it quits. At that point, they could also agree to double the stakes.

Negreanu was a distinct underdog going into the challenge

Despite his status as one of the greatest poker players of all time, Negreanu was a distinct underdog going into the challenge because his success has come mostly in live tournaments. Polk, on the other hand, was considered one of the best heads-up No-Limit Hold’em players in the world before he retired just a few years ago.

Negreanu was losing by $770,254.08 when they hit 12,500 hands at the end of 2020. During the challenge’s holiday hiatus, Negreanu thought about waving the white flag, but decided to keep going, hoping to make a comeback.

Negreanu had been making a comeback

And for a while in these early weeks of 2021, it looked like the break did Negreanu a world of good. He won the first four matches of the year and five consecutive going back to December. The $130,000 he won in the January 11 session cut Polk’s lead to under half a million. Overall, Negreanu had sliced nearly $300,000 off the deficit since the halfway point.

But Polk has now won the last four sessions, capped off with a $299,000 win on Wednesday to take his lead over the $1m plateau. After Monday’s session in which Polk won about $74,000, Negreanu complained about his perceived terrible luck.

This doesn’t feel possible.”

“I’m not suggesting that the fucking software’s rigged, but man, it feels like it,” he said in a post-match interview, adding that in his nearly three decades playing poker this downswing feels unreal. “This doesn’t feel possible. I know it is possible, and I know fucking variance is a thing. But it doesn’t feel possible. It just doesn’t feel fucking possible.”

Before Wednesday’s session, Negreanu “called his shot,” tweeting that he was going to win $228,000. That was incorrect.

Polk admits to a little luck

Though Polk needled Negreanu on Twitter for complaining about his bad luck, he did admit that he himself got quite lucky in two big hands on Wednesday. In one hand, Polk had T-K, dominating Negreanu’s T-7. The flop was good for both players – 7-6-K – but clearly better for Polk. The turn, though, was devastating for Negreanu. A Ten gave him two pair, but it also gave Polk a better two pair. Negreanu committed all of his chips and got wiped out. Polk’s stack climbed to over a quarter million dollars.

Shortly thereafter, Polk won another massive pot thanks to a river that he called “insane.” He again had the dominant hole cards, Q-8 versus 7-8, but the flop of T-6-7 paired Negreanu’s kicker to give him the lead. The turn was a Jack and then the river was a 9, giving both players a straight using their 8. But Polk’s Queen was the difference, providing him with the better, Queen-high straight as he vacuumed even more of Negreanu’s chips.

Negreanu was able to salvage something and not make the day even more of a disaster when he picked off a Polk bluff, but after having cut his deficit to under $500,000 just a week and a half ago, to now be down over $1m is disheartening.