Came down to final heads-up
Daniel Negreanu had to sweat until the very end, but when the dust cleared, he was in the top spot on the PokerGO Cup leaderboard, named the series champion. He elevated into the lead in the eighth and final event, finishing fourth and earning 69 points to bring his Cup total to 537.
“Kid Poker” moved ahead of Ali Imsirovic (497 points) and David Coleman (470) with that result, but still had to worry about Sam Soverel, who faced Cary Katz heads-up in the $100,000 No-Limit Hold’em Event. If Soverel won, he would have earned 400 PokerGO Tour points and ended with 568 to just squeak by Negreanu for the PokerGO Cup title.
Negreanu cheered for Katz to dig out of a near 3-to-1 chip deficit heads-up and Katz did just that, using some great bluffs to take some important pots from Soverel without a showdown.
‘El Jefe,’ Cary Katz, came through for me and got the job done”
“It was a bittersweet day because I busted and I didn’t win the million dollars, and I busted in an ugly fashion, but ‘El Jefe,’ Cary Katz, came through for me and got the job done,” Negreanu told Poker Central after the tournament’s final table.
First tournament win in eight years
Negreanu captured the PokerGO Cup crown in large part because of his victory in Event #7: $50,000 No-Limit Hold’em, which earned him $700,000 and 420 PokerGO Tour points. Beyond the PokerGO Cup leaderboard race, though, the tournament was significant because it was Negreanu’s first win in an open live event since 2013.
It is hard to believe that someone of Negreanu’s stature, a man who has won over $43m in live tournaments over the course of his Hall of Fame career, could have gone nearly a decade without a victory, especially with how much he plays. But it happened, and he was certainly aware of it.
Every possible bad thing I’m thinking in my head. I can’t help it. I’m human.”
“I’ve been a bridesmaid so many times,” he said after his tournament triumph. “Just the demons and the ghosts in your brain, like when I’m heads up with [David Coleman in Event #7] and that three hit the turn, it was just every reminder, like Buckner back in Shea Stadium. Every possible bad thing I’m thinking in my head. I can’t help it. I’m human.”
Friendly rival and 15-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth congratulated Negreanu via Twitter:
Despite the lack of wins, Negreanu has had plenty of great runs and massive cashes since 2013. He has had a number of big-dollar runner-up finishes, including the 2014 WSOP Big One for One Drop for $8.3m, the 2018 Super High Roller bowl for $3m, the 2019 WSOP $100,000 High Roller event for $1.725m, and the 2017 WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic for $936,000.
2021 has been a test
On top of his eight-year drought, Daniel Negreanu has had an especially rough go of it lately. Before his PokerGO Cup win, Negreanu had a string of high-profile, high-dollar losses, starting with his heads-up No-Limit Hold’em “grudge match” against Doug Polk.
Polk, retired from poker, was once one of the top online heads-up players in the world. He and Negreanu had bad blood that went back several years, finally deciding to settle things on the virtual felt. Negreanu, despite his lofty poker achievements, was a distinct underdog, as his strengths were in live tournament poker, whereas this was Polk’s wheelhouse. And sure enough, Polk destroyed him, winning $1.2m in the cash game contest.
Polk and Negreanu have developed a healthy respect for each other because of the match and Polk gave Negreanu a shout-out about the PokerGO cup tourney win:
Then, in late March, after back-and-forth trash talking on Twitter, Negreanu and the aforementioned Phil Hellmuth squared off in PokerGO’s High Stakes Duel II. After being nearly down to the felt, Hellmuth roared back to defeat Negreanu in the first round, winning $50,000 from his rival.
In May, the stakes were doubled, but the results were the same: Hellmuth bested Negreanu for the second time. And then, about three weeks ago, Hellmuth completed the sweep, claiming another $200,000 from Negreanu.