Looking for revenge
In 47 BC, Julius Caesar fought The Battle of Zela against the army of Pharnaces II of The Kingdom of Pontus. It was something of a revenge match. The previous year, Caesar’s general Gnaeus Domitius Calvinus and his forces lost to Pharnaces at the Battle of Nicopolis. Afterward, Pharnaces committed dreadful atrocities against the Roman prisoners and any civilians he found in the region. Needless to say, Caesar was hungry for a re-match.
Dwan previously defeated Hellmuth in their $200,000 match
On Wednesday, poker pro Phil Hellmuth took on Tom Dwan in High Stakes Duel. It was also something of a revenge match. The pair have history going back over a decade and Dwan previously defeated Hellmuth in their $200,000 match. For a short time in late August 2021, it was unknown whether ‘The Poker Brat’ would invoke his right to a re-match. Then in September, we found out that Hellmuth was indeed thirsting for a ‘double-the-stakes’ encounter:
A successful WSOP campaign put the pep back in Hellmuth’s step
Having been defeated by Pharnaces in Nicopolis, Caesar mounted a successful campaign against the Ptolemaic forces. After a decisive victory at the Battle of the Nile, Caesar’s attention turned back to Pharnaces. Looking to avenge his general, he departed Egypt, traveling through Syria, Cilicia, and Cappadocia in search of his old foe.
Having been defeated by Dwan in High Stakes Duel, his first loss in eight outings, Hellmuth was left psychologically and emotionally bruised. With a checked ego, he went into the WSOP more grounded and he believes that humility was the key to his success:
A record-breaking seven final tables in seven poker disciplines followed, as did a record 16th WSOP bracelet. With renewed pep to his step, Hellmuth could turn his attention back to Dwan.
Hellmuth and Dwan took their positions
Caesar brought with him two cohorts of the fourth legion, the full 22nd legion, an allied force of Galatians, and a smaller force from the 36th legion. He also had a small contingent of cavalry. Suffice to say, he wasn’t playing around. When Pharnaces learned of his approach, he sent envoys to seek peace, but Caesar was in no mood for olive branches.
Pharnaces had an army of 20,000 men, some professional soldiers, and cavalry but very much padded out with tribal and levied infantry. They positioned themselves near the hilltop town of Zela while Caesar’s men made camp on nearby high ground. Who would make the first move?
Hellmuth showed up to the PokerGo studio in fine form
Followed by his legions of fans, armed with white magic, a can of Brein-Fuel, and a pocket full of Sour Patch Kids, Hellmuth showed up to the PokerGo studio in fine form:
In a pre-match interview with Paul Seaton for Gamble Online, Hellmuth exuded confidence. “I will make big adjustments for this,” he said, adding, “I watched the first match, and closely watching that match helps me calibrate my… reads and strategy based on those reads.” Commentator Phil Galfond paid tribute to that same reading ability, pointing to Hellmuth’s acute spider senses in individual spots from matches past:
As Hellmuth and Dwan took their seats, a captivated audience on PokerGo watched in anticipation. But who would draw first blood?
Hellmuth, The Counter-Puncher
Pharnaces decided that the best defense was offense, and he launched an unexpected pre-emptive strike on Caesar’s camp. It was a poor decision militarily as it traded the high ground for a momentary surprise. After some initial confusion within Caesar’s ranks, his veteran Roman legionaries recovered and formed a solid defensive line. Caesar then went on the counter-attack, driving Pharnaces’ army back down the hill, where it lost its shape and cohesion.
Hellmuth is a self-styled counter-puncher. He is a reactor, an adapter, an apex-predator who likes to set traps but also a chameleon capable of switching gears. Unsurprisingly, Dwan was aggressive from the get-go but Hellmuth was deft, absorbing the blows, finding calls when ahead, and folding when behind.
At one point, Hellmuth even went way above the rim with a trademark exploitative fold that proved correct:
As the blinds increased, so too did Hellmuth’s three-bet percentage and barrelling frequency. For a period, the hyper-aggressive Dwan was out-muscled by Hellmuth who forced him into a series of guessing games. In one crucial spot, Dwan guessed wrong, stationing off with pocket tens when Hellmuth turned trips:
In just five days, Pharnaces was defeated and according to Plutarch (who wrote about the battle 150 years later), Caesar’s ruthlessly swift victory became commemorated with the now-famous Latin phrase: ‘Veni, vidi, vici.’
a King on the flop put Hellmuth’s Ace-King out in front
Having bludgeoned his way through the second half of the match, Hellmuth had a dominating 5:1 chip-lead when the two found themselves in a classic race. Dwan’s pocket eights needed to hold to prolong the contest but a King on the flop put Hellmuth’s Ace-King out in front and a clean run-out sealed things. Revenge certainly is the sweetest morsel to the mouth that ever was cooked in Hell.
Hellmuth came, he saw and, like Julius Caesar, he conquered. The only difference is, unlike Pharnaces, Dwan will be back for more. The rules of High Stakes Duel insist that a player must win three in a row if they want to take their chips off the table. Two more victories for Hellmuth and he walks away with $1.6m. For now, though, he can just bask in the glory of this result. His record is now an astonishing eight wins out of nine matches on High Stakes Duel.
After the match, a bemused Dwan sought clarification of the rules, his eyes widening when he realized that he must now win three times in a row if he wants to cash out the spoils of victory. The decisive match, should Dwan now get there, would be for $3.2m, an amount that must surely get even his hardened gambler’s heart pumping. Things certainly escalate quickly on High Stakes Duel.