Daniel Negreanu or Tony G? Put Up or Shut Up, Phil Hellmuth

  • Longtime rivals Daniel Negreanu and Tony G have issued challenges to Phil Hellmuth
  • Negreanu responded to Hellmuth criticisms with “wanna play big guy?”
  • Tony G said he wants to “dance” with Hellmuth
  • Hellmuth inferred a preference for live poker but has not indicated who he’s leaning toward 
man deciding between two doors
Both Daniel Negreanu and Tony G have issued heads-up challenges to 15-time WSOP bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth, who has indicated his interest, but has not revealed a preference of opponent. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Kill Phil

Speculation abounds in the poker world right now as poker legend and 15-time WSOP bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth teases the prospect of not one but two heads-up “grudge matches” against longtime rivals Daniel Negreanu and Antanas “Tony G” Guoga.

Haters hate, but they are not worthless: they FUEL me!!”

Hellmuth recently walloped his frenemy Antonio Esfandiari to the tune of $350,000 across three high-profile, high-stakes heads-up matches on PokerGo’s new show “The Duel,” but despite Hellmuth’s prowess in the format, he still has his detractors. Ever the braggadocio, Hellmuth pointed to his record but insisted that his doubters play an important role for him. “I won 28-out-of-31 televised cash games over 6 years. Haters hate, but they are not worthless: they FUEL me!!” said The Poker Brat. 

It would be a stretch to call them haters, but Daniel Negreanu and Tony G are certainly doubters and both fancy their chances in a face-off versus Hellmuth. 

Kid Poker issued a challenge

Since his crushing $1.2m defeat to Doug Polk a couple of weeks ago, Negreanu has been immersing himself in the chess world. He certainly deserves a break, but it is fair to say that his biggest takeaway from that match is the new set of skills that he honed during it, new weapons that could blunt if they are left on the shelf too long. 

Negreanu’s interest in a high-stakes duel with Hellmuth piqued when Hellmuth derided his performance against Polk during an interview for PokerGo’s new show “No Gamble, No Future.” Hellmuth said that he was “disappointed in the way that Daniel played,” mocking his attempts to take Polk on at his own game by trying to deploy a GTO (Game Theory Optimal) strategy. 

Daniel shot back with a “put up or shut up” response on Twitter:

Tony G threw down the gauntlet

To say that Tony G and Hellmuth have history would be an understatement. The Lithuanian businessman, politician, and poker pro made a cottage industry out of winding up Hellmuth in televised cash games throughout the first half of the last decade. There was even a controversial session when Tony G angle-shot Hellmuth on Pokerstars’ “The Big Game.” 

It is unsurprising, then, that Tony G has entered the fray with a challenge of his own. He has been largely absent from poker for the last five years, so what better way to announce your return than throwing down the gauntlet to the former WSOP Main Event champion? 

Hellmuth gets to choose

Whether Hellmuth takes up either challenge is yet to be seen. One would suspect his chances against Tony G are a lot better than they would be against a hungry Negreanu 2.0, looking to claw back some of that $1.2m he lost to Polk. On the flip side, a match versus Negreanu would put more bums on seats and Hellmuth does love the limelight. 

If the match against Negreanu were to go ahead, we have some evidence that Hellmuth prefers the idea of a live encounter. A week ago, he retweeted the results of a poll by popular poker forum @CardsChat which suggested that people want to see this match played out in the flesh:

The ball seems to be in Hellmuth’s court as to which match he would prefer to take, but what is certain is that either one would both be primo popcorn TV for poker’s great unwashed. 

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