- »Two Legends of Poker in a Duel for the Ages
Two Legends of Poker in a Duel for the Ages
As far as poker podcasts go, it was one of the most explosive opening ten minutes ever. The latest episode of the No Gamble, No Future show, featuring Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu, kicked off with a feisty exchange that left co-hosts Jeff Platt and Brent Hanks speechless. And nothing more than spectators to a verbal jousting match between two legends of the game. And, to say Hellmuth “came in hot” is putting it mildly.
“Let me ask you this Daniel, why am I a two-and-half-to-one underdog?”
Hellmuth, nicknamed the ‘Poker Brat’ for his outbursts, antics and constant whining at the table, is a 15-time bracelet winner at the World Series of Poker. He’s got more than anyone, and it’s not even a close race. Doyle Brunson and Phil Ivey are tied for second on the bracelet list with ten each.
“I get underestimated a lot, and it’s an interesting thing for me. To do everything I’ve done, and all I do is keep winning, it’s really weird for me how everybody just keeps underestimating me. I don’t actually think you guys even understand what I do. It feels to me like I’m way ahead of everybody still, but all I hear, because they don’t understand my play or study it, is that I’m way behind.”
High Stakes Duel II
The California native will once again have the chance to show off his skills on PokerGo, as he prepares to defend the belt against his Canadian rival in the second installment of Poker Central’s High Stakes Duel. Hellmuth is the reigning and defending champion, easily scoring a knockout versus Antonio ‘The Magician’ Esfandiari in three consecutive rounds to claim the title back in October. He pocketed $400,000 for his efforts. Not a bad return on his initial $50,000 investment, the original buy-in.
“Antonio had been taunting me for years, said he was a 60 per cent to 65 per cent favourite, but three matches later he had zero wins, I had three wins. So, why am I a two-and-a-half-to-one underdog?”
Hellmuth was set to square off with Negreanu tomorrow (Tuesday), but the event’s been rescheduled for the end of the month, March 31st, due to a non-player coronavirus concern. Poker fans will have to wait for the drama to unfold, but they’ve already been treated to some classic Phil.
“If there’s so much luck in heads-up sit and go’s, why did I win the NBC Heads-Up (Invitational) championship? Why do I have a second in the NBC Heads-Up championship? Why do I keep winning all these matches?”
They are great questions. It’s hard to fathom a player of Hellmuth’s stature, both the championships and that six-foot-five frame of his, searching for respect. But he is. And it’s been a developing theme over the years. In a generation of pre-flop charts, heads-up displays, computer simulations, and ever-increasing internet teaching tools, where young whiz kids are fine-tuning their strategies beyond imagination, Hellmuth continues to say that he is the greatest of all-time. In his mind, he should be hailed as such, especially at No-Limit Texas Hold’em, and feels he’s got the credentials to prove it.
On top of the bracelets, Hellmuth has reached 64 WSOP final tables, has close to 200 cashes, and is the 1989 world champion. That year, he defeated the great Johnny Chan heads-up for the title, denying the ‘Oriental Express’ his third straight championship. He holds all the records, including most seconds, and yet bemoans the fact others fail to recognize his genius.
“Have I studied at all in the past two months? No. I already know what I’m going to do. It’s worked for me against everybody I’ve played. I trust my instincts, I trust my reads, and if I can make two great folds per match, three great calls per match, often times that wins the match. I have a strategy that keeps working for me,” Hellmuth said.
Will his game plan work against Negreanu? Time will tell, but it’s clear Hellmuth is taking the challenge very seriously. He wants to win, and has made no bones about the fact that Daniel is one of the players who he feels doesn’t offer up enough respect for his accomplishments.
“I don’t underestimate people ever. Daniel deserves massive respect. First of all, he’s one of the greatest poker players in history. I’d take him against almost all of these young players. I think Daniel has tremendous skills. In addition to that, he has two amazing coaches, really smart guys, and he’s been doing nothing but playing heads-up poker for months. He’s been studying it, debating it after every single session. His hatred for losing is like my hatred for losing. He’ll throw his computer in the pool. So, that level of dedication, frustration, and being that intense makes him get better. He’s got skills.”
As for Negreanu, who is coming off a 25,000-hand marathon showdown with Doug Polk, the High Stakes Feud, he’s ready for action too. Despite losing a cool $1 million to his arch nemesis Polk, he believes his game has improved dramatically, and comes into this contest fully expecting to win. A six-time bracelet winner himself, the Toronto native has also been named WSOP ‘Player of the Year’ twice, the only player to do achieve that feat. He’s earned more than $42 million in his career. With accolades like that, it’s easy to be confident, but he’s not taking Phil lightly.
“The reason you (Phil) beat Antonio is he made poor decisions,” Negreanu said at one point during their exchange, with his arms flailing as if frustrated at his opponent’s ego.
“His strategy was flawed, he wasn’t balanced enough, and you were just exploiting him. You have been, for three decades now, probably the best exploitative player of all-time. You play a style nobody plays. They think they’re playing a normal person, but they forget they’re playing against the great Phil Hellmuth. I am uniquely suited for this because I have an understanding of that stuff, and I’m willing to go to the streets with you.”
They, my friends, are fighting words, but so are these from Phil:
“If he lands enough punches, I’ll be forced to throw some big haymakers. I’ll have to throw in some really big bluffs. That’s what my style dictates. I’m ready to bluff, I’m ready to make great calls, I’m ready leave my mind completely open in the moment, and I’m ready to dodge punches. Because that’s what I do.”
Again, Hellmuth v Negreanu, and High Stakes Duel II, is slated for March 31st on PokerGo.