“Just one of those days”
Jason Koon has defeated Phil Hellmuth in the fifth round of “High Stakes Duel III,” foiling him in his attempt to claim a third-straight High Stakes Duel Championship. It was the richest round of “High Stakes Duel” yet, with a prize pool of $1.6m after each player put up an $800,000 buy-in.
it was just one of those days where almost anybody in my seat is going to win”
Koon was humble afterward, telling PokerGO, which produces the show, “I had great hands. Even the hands that I bluffed, almost all of them kind of presented themselves in a natural way, so it was just one of those days where almost anybody in my seat is going to win.”
He added that he knew the structure of the heads-up sit-and-go could have hurt him and it very well could have been Hellmuth hitting the hands.
“You shouldn’t feel bad the days that you run good, and you shouldn’t feel bad the days that you run bad. It’s just the process of it all. Today, I got to be the winner, and it’s nice to do that for gigantic stakes.”
Stakes could hit frightening levels
Each “High Stakes Duel” series starts with a $50,000 buy-in for each player in Round 1. Stakes double each round, hence why it was up to an $800,000 buy-in in Round 5.
If the winner of a round starts their winning streak in Rounds 1-3, they are not allowed to quit until they win three rounds in a row. If they begin a winning streak in Round 4 or later, they can stop after two straight wins.
The loser of the round can opt for a rematch, thus doubling the stakes, as mentioned. Should the loser not want to continue, a 30-day window opens during which another challenge can take their place, continuing the series from where it left off.
Koon knew going into Round 5 that there would be a chance he would have to put up $1.6m in Round 6, but he doesn’t think that will happen because of the stakes. He doesn’t believe a poker pro would risk it for that price, so the only realistic opponents would be recreational whales.
it’s a lot of money to move for a one-percent or two-percent edge that you’re going to have at most”
“I just can’t really see anyone that will play me. I’m not trying to be arrogant, it’s just that it’s a lot of money to move for a one-percent or two-percent edge that you’re going to have at most against me….”
Hellmuth has owned the show
Despite the loss, Phil Hellmuth has been king of “High Stakes Duel” from the moment it premiered in July 2020, enjoying an overall record of 9-2. He swept three rounds from Antonio Esfandiari in “High Stakes Duel I,” profiting $350,000 in total (buy-ins of $50,000, $100,000, and $200,000). Hellmuth had the option to end it after Round 3, which he did.
In March 2021, Hellmuth began “High Stakes Duel II” against Daniel Negreanu and in a repeat of the previous series, defeated his opponent in three straight rounds. As before, because he won three in a row, Hellmuth was able to quit and he did so, once again.
The current series, “High Stakes Duel III,” started in July 2021. In the $50,000 Round 1, Hellmuth took on his first amateur player, sports pundit Nick Wright. Hellmuth won, Wright decided not to continue, and Tom Dwan took his place for Round 2. And it was in that round that Phil Hellmuth finally took a loss. Now on the other side of things, Hellmuth opted for the rematch and got back to his winning ways in Round 3.
Dwan was going to play Round 4, but had to back out because of a scheduling conflict, so Scott Seiver took his spot. Hellmuth beat Seiver and in August, it was announced that the two would square off again in Round 5 for a $1.6m prize pool. A couple weeks later, however, Seiver withdrew for undisclosed personal reasons, leading to Koon stepping in and winning Wednesday night.