Last August, Run It Once played host to the “Legends Showdown,” a poker extravaganza pitting six of the game’s elite against one another across a week of €50/€100 ($60/$120) heads-up matches. Despite his superhuman poker credentials, many considered Fedor Holz to be the value in this format.
That would prove not to be the case as he progressed to the semi-finals after handily winning the group phase, accruing over €100,000 ($120,420) in profit, including big wins over the eventual finalists Pauli “Fiilismies” Ayras and Kevin “KRab42” Rabichow.
The “Legends Showdown” was originally billed as an eight-player competition but suffered a couple of last-minute dropouts. They included heads-up specialist Wiktor “Limitless” Malinowski, who was at the time embroiled in some wild €1,000/€2,000 ($1,204/$2,408) action over on GGPoker.
Far from feeling contrite about his absence, Malinowski instead threw shade in the direction of winner Rabichow and surprise package Holz. In an interview with Joe Ingram on the “Poker Life Podcast,” the Polish professional challenged the German wunderkind, confident in not just his own poker skills, but his drinking abilities too.
I’m not gonna back off. If he wants to accept, no problem.”
“I can offer also playing drunk,” Malinowski boasted. “I can drink a full bottle of wine and I can play Fedor heads up any stakes he wants…I’m not gonna back off. If he wants to accept, no problem.”
Cut to a few weeks later, and Fedor Holz took down the $25,000 buy-in Heads-up No-Limit Holdem bracelet at the 2020 WSOP Online, hosted by GGPoker. Malinowski instantly pounced, reiterating his challenge and this time offering to lay Holz a hefty price:
Holz maintained his radio silence in the face of Malinowski’s doubling down. The poker world assumed that he didn’t fancy the prospect. After all, heads-up poker is a particular speciality, evidenced by Doug Polk’s throttling of Daniel Negreanu.
That assumption now requires some revision, however, as it appears that Holz was biding his time, likely spending some hours in the lab before issuing a challenge of his own.
The poker world has seemingly gone “heads-up for rolls” crazy again. Is this COVID-19 cabin fever? Are genuine grudges being settled? Is this the marketing strategy of the poker hype machine looking to use inject fake conflict to heighten interest?
In any case, Holz took to Twitter to issue his own challenge to Malinowski:
Malinowski is currently battling Russian heads-up beast Stefan “Stefan11222” Burakov in 30,000 hands of $50/$100, but he didn’t miss Holz’s offer to “let’s fucking do it.” Last Friday he responded, posting a video of his own to Twitter, saying that he’s willing to take on Holz and his best two students at the same time.
“Be careful what you wish for, man,” he warned.
Malinowski will be the favorite
PokerShares will no doubt set a line for this match soon. Yesterday, they teased such with a poll, suggesting, unsurprisingly, that Malinowski will be the favorite.
Holz famously retired from poker in 2016 after winning the WSOP $111,111 High Roller for One Drop event. Since then, playing part-time, he has over $18m in winnings in live and online tournaments. Speaking with me in 2020, he said: “Because of what I expect for myself and because of what others expect from me, I put myself in a position to not be authentic…and that had to stop.”
I’m not sure if this match with Malinowski has any authentic animus, but there’s no doubt that it involves a lot of real preparation. At just 27 years of age, Holz is in the coveted position where he can do exactly what he wants in life, and right now he wants to step into the ring with one of the best heads-up players to ever play the game.
He may be assuming the mantle of underdog for this challenge, but there is no way he would be taking this on if he didn’t think he could win.