The Return of Heads-Up Poker Grudge Matches

  • After a long dearth of high stakes heads-up poker games, three started last week
  • Doug Polk took on Scott Ball and Bill Perkins, while Matt Berkey took on Nik Airball
  • All three matches are $200/$400 heads-up No-Limit Hold’em
  • You can catch Doug Polk’s matches on The Lodge’s YouTube live stream
Poker player with a cigar and drink yelling across the table
Several heads-up poker clashes started last week, one of which is truly a grudge match. [Image:]

Doug Polk vs. Bill Perkins

The poker world has been starved for a good heads-up match, but now all of a sudden three ancient grudges broke to new mutiny in the span of a week – and Doug Polk’s fingers are in just about every hand.

Polk’s Austin poker room, The Lodge Card Club, played host to a pair of heads-up sessions. Polk took on businessman and high stakes poker enthusiast Bill Perkins at $200/$400 NLH, losing $28,700 over the course of their first six-hour session. They even played the biggest hand ever seen on The Lodge’s stream:

Later in the week, Polk went up against poker pro Scott Ball at the same stakes. Polk earned back his losses (and then some) with a $100,200 profit in another six hours.

Bad blood between Airball and Berkey

In between these matches, Polk still found time to play internet-barker for Nik Airball and Matt Berkey’s match. Polk had been drumming up interest in the game ever since Nik called Berkey a scammer on Polk’s podcast.

This match has a much harsher edge. Video of Berkey and Nik meeting in the Resorts World card room shows Nik pushing Berkey when Berkey makes a foray deep into Nik’s personal space.

Polk has also volunteered to coach Airball for the match, considerably altering the odds and fueling further animosity between Polk and Berkey.

The Berkey vs. Airball match gets underway each day at 4pm for a month in the Resorts World poker room. The blinds are $200/$400 and there’s no live stream. Several Twitter accounts, though, including Landon Tice and Doug Polk, are doing their best to track the action.

So far, Berkey is up $150,000, but this is heads-up poker and there’s plenty of time for variance to do its thing.

Heads-up is back and it feels good

In the febrile (often literally) air of the 2020 to 2021 COVID season, the poker community was pretty lairy. Everyone seemed to be out to make their name or lose their bankroll in a heads-up grudge match.

one of the most brutal handicaps in heads-up history

Daniel Negreanu and Doug Polk were going head to head for 25,000 hands. Phil Galfond was taking on all comers in the Galfond Challenge. Phil Hellmuth was propping up High Stakes Duel. Even Bill Perkins was able to swing a massive victory over Landon Tice by negotiating one of the most brutal handicaps in heads-up history.

Then silence. The Galfond Challenge fizzled out, Hellmuth pulled out of High Stakes Duel after losing to Jason Koon, and Polk put the money truck into long-term storage.

Well, the money truck’s back to backing up again and for fans of heads-up play, that silence is over. If you just like the drama of a good grudge match, the silence is over for you too.

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