Enemies made nice afterward
The three-month heads-up No-Limit Hold’em challenge between Doug Polk and Daniel Negreanu came to an end Wednesday, as Polk finished ahead by an astounding $1.2m. In a fitting finale, Polk administered the coup de grâce, stripping another quarter million dollars from the Poker Hall of Famer.
The challenge began as the result of bad blood between the two players, but yesterday, at least, they both had kind things to say about each other after the 1,718-hand session concluded. Negreanu, despite his legendary status and all the success he has had, was a distinct underdog going into the competition because before retiring, Polk was one of the best heads-up No-Limit Hold’em players in the world. Internet poker was also Polk’s domain, while Negreanu was more at home in live tournaments.
I did not think he would play this well at all.”
And though Negreanu lost $1.2m, Polk thought he represented himself well, saying in a post-game YouTube interview: “Negreanu did a really impressive fucking job with a lot of the stuff he did. I did not think he would play this well at all.”
Polk added that Negreanu’s more conservative, small ball style of play wasn’t suited to this kind of contest and that he “needed to be willing to fire more aggressively to win,” but Polk also believes that Negreanu would still beat all but the very best heads-up specialists.
For his part, Negreanu didn’t sound like there were any sour grapes, as he congratulated Polk and acknowledged that he was the favorite the entire way.
“It was a fun challenge,” Negreanu said. “I felt like there were ebbs and flows, of course. He’s happy, he’s a big winner on the match, and deservedly so.”
Bad blood boiled near the end
Last week, it didn’t look like things would end up so congenial. On Wednesday, Polk raged at Negreanu for engaging in a stalling tactic, tanking for as long as possible in order to slow down the pace of play. Negreanu even took a long time to act on the button pre-flop, which is considered very poor etiquette in heads-up play.
Polk described Negreanu’s tactic as a “total piece of shit move,” even sitting out in protest at one point. He appealed to match referee Phil Galfond, no stranger to heads-up challenges himself, claiming that Negreanu was breaking the rules. Specifically, Polk pointed to the “Table Etiquette” section on WSOP.com – the host site for the competition – which says that players should play at the same pace as their tablemates.
Galfond ruled that Negreanu was not breaking any rules, though he did encourage the Hall of Famer to speed things up.
Very few bright spots for Negreanu
As the final results would indicate, the heads-up challenge was never really close. Negreanu did start with a six-figure win in the opening session, but that one was unique, as it took place in person in Las Vegas. Polk immediately took the lead once they started on WSOP.com, winning almost $400,000 in the next two sessions.
Negreanu won the next two to regain the lead. Polk took a slight edge in Session 6, followed by two more winning sessions by Negreanu and another lead change. After a $205k win in Session 9, however, Polk regained the lead and never looked back.
his problem was that his wins were generally much smaller than were Polk’s
Daniel Negreanu actually won about half the sessions, but his problem was that his wins were generally much smaller than were Polk’s, perhaps because of the differences in their strategies that Polk mentioned. After Session 18, Polk was up by almost a million, but Negreanu won seven of the next eight sessions to cut the deficit in half.
Polk extended the gap to over a million dollars by Session 30 and though Negreanu had the biggest session win at $390k to give himself a chance, Polk quickly extinguished any remaining embers of hope, doubling his lead over the stretch run.