Daniel Negreanu Leads the High Stakes Feud

There is no doubt a few nervous gamblers out there. Especially if they’ve bet big on Doug Polk. Two weeks into one of the most talked about matches in poker history, the much-hyped High Stakes Feud, and a surprising story line is developing. Daniel Negreanu, a four-to-one underdog, not only has the lead, he’s gaining in confidence.

“Doug Polk vs Daniel Negreanu,” screams the bold print at Polk’s training site website, upswingpoker.com, which is tracking the day-by-day results. “After beefing for years, Doug and Daniel are squaring off at $200/$400 for at least 12,500 hands,” the update page reads.

Negreanu vs polk

The challenge itself, a so-called ‘Grudge Match’ between bitter rivals, is set for 25,000 hands. The player behind at the midway point does have the option of quitting. A vast majority of fans, pundits, and even fellow pros, were expecting it to be a one-sided affair, and believed the Canadian might be in jeopardy of losing the entire $1 million bankroll he deposited for this contest.

Meanwhile, the side action has been fast, furious, and fierce. There’s no telling how much money has been wagered on the match, but an educated guess would put it in the range of hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions. At this point, the Polk side has to be the more agitated of the two. The favourite is trailing.

Dueling Live Streams

An interesting dynamic early on has been the viewing experience. With no hole cards visible, except for called pots on the river, fans have been relying on YouTube to get their fix. They’ve had their choice of live streams, too. If you’re cheering on the Canadian, for instance, you’re more apt to be watching GG Poker’s channel, featuring Jeff Platt on commentary duty. Negreanu is invested heavily in GG Poker, so it only makes sense the channel is pro Kid Poker.

If you’re supporting the American, you’re likely to be watching the Doug Polk Poker channel, with a host of big-name pros like Ryan Fee, Jamie Kerstetter and Olivier Bousquet doing play-by-play. Or Joey Ingram, who has one of the most popular poker channels in the world, because he and Polk are very close friends.

Wednesday

  • Hands Played: 591
  • Winner: Negreanu +$222,832.70
  • Overall: Negreanu +$155,205.89

The cards seemed to be falling Negreanu’s way right from the start as they sat down at two tables on Wednesday. Everything was working, and he took down a few large pots early to set the tone. There was also a key hand, late in the session, where Negreanu picked off a Polk bluff with only ace-high on the river. The pot was worth $32,000, not the biggest pot of the round, but as it was being shipped Negreanu’s way, the folks at GGPoker stream threw down a ‘Ha Ha’ emoji in celebration. It depicted a picture of the Canadian laughing, hence the ‘Ha Ha’. Rubbing salt in the wound? Yes, the war is real.

Negreanu Ha Ha Emoji

“The one stat I was way behind on was the all-ins, and we had two of them,” he said afterwards, following nearly two-and-a-half hours of intense action, his hair a tad messy from the rigors of the grind.

“One was ace, king of spades versus queens, and I was lucky enough to make the flush on that one. I also had king, queen versus his jack, ten of hearts, where he had middle pair with a flush draw, and he missed that with one card to come. It feels good to win those. For the rest of the match everything seemed to go my way. If I didn’t have a bad bladder, I could probably keep playing.”

A Sound Strategy?

At the outset, as part of the pre-match negotiations, the 46-year-old Negreanu agreed to sit down for a minimum of two-hours per session, with an option to play longer if he felt up for it, until the challenge was over. This was the first time he carried on past the two-hour mark, for an additional half hour, most likely because he was running well, feeling positive and way up. Or, was he just pacing himself, right to the little boy’s room?

We’ve got lots of action coming up, so I felt like that was a good chunk to push it, and see what we could do. I’m looking at my balance now, and it’s bigger than it was when I deposited my money online, so I’m definitely happy about it.

More than 10 per cent of the way through the challenge, the Negreanu camp has to be thrilled with how things are progressing. The Polk camp not so much, and it has to be at least a little concerned. Yes, heads-up play is Polk’s specialty, and yes, he’s been there and done that, but he certainly did not expect to be behind approaching the 3,000 total hands played mark. And, what’s worse, ’Kid Poker’ seems to have all the momentum.

I think my play is improving with each session. One thing I pride myself in is that I work hard and I learn fast. This isn’t my first time playing. I did have to relearn a lot about how the game is structured, and the best way to play it, but I’m willing to do that. It requires a good amount of humility to ask other people for help. I’m in the Hall of Fame, I’ve got all the accolades, but I’m not alien to say, ‘listen guys, I need help here.

Bettors Beware

With Polk so highly regarded in this discipline, many gamblers felt comfortable in giving up four-to-one on their money. As each hand goes by, will that faith dwindle? Although it’s still early, the answer to that is surely in the affirmative. Poker is a game of swings, and one or two sessions don’t make a 25,000-hand match, but the crafty veteran is letting it be known, he’s here to win this thing.

“If you laid four-to-one, or more, against me in this spot, I think you’re probably nervous, as you should be. If you can still get four-to-one, with me being up after some 2,500 hands, it’s a good bet. I’m not saying that I’m a favourite in the match overall, but considering the start, and how well I feel I’m closing the gap, I think I’m a good bet right now.”

PokerShares, an online poker betting site founded by Canadian Mike ’Timex’ McDonald, had Negreanu listed as a +535-underdog heading into Wednesday’s play. Guaranteed, a few people are sitting on scared money.

Thursday

  • Hands Played: 457
  • Winner: Negreanu +23,000
  • Overall: Negreanu +$179,000

On Thursday, the play was much tighter. They were both still aggressive, but the chips went back-and-forth. For most of the session, Negreanu had a huge lead on one table. And Polk had the same advantage on the other.

“It was a good battle. I was able to make some hands here, and I missed some hands there. Listen, it goes both ways, he got unlucky in some spots too. Overall, I’m happy to come out on top. Obviously I’m happy to log another 450 hands or so, come out ahead and strengthen the lead. I thought I played well.”

With heads-up poker, it’s right there in the name, heads-up. It’s a one-on-one war. Make no mistake about it, though, they do have teams of coaches and experts helping them behind the scenes. There’s no rest for the weary, either. After grinding it out for close to six hours the past two days, both ‘Team Polk’ and ’Team Negreanu’ are back to the drawing board. Studying, analyzing hand histories, and trying to develop a winning strategy for the next time they meet, later today.

Doug and Daniel

“Typically, what we do is look at the match.” Negreanu said, while inadvertently showing the world why’s he’s so good at the game. His willingness to learn. He is not one to rest on his laurels.

“We look for things I can improve on or do differently. When he’s throwing new stuff at us, like he did in the last match and this one, we are figuring out what’s the best counter. I felt really comfortable adding some new tools to the repertoire. I feel a lot more confident with every pot.”

Are You Betting Against a Legend?

Remember, heads-up isn’t Negreanu’s specialty, it’s Polk’s. But he’s been around the block a few times, has been plying his trade for some 25-years. He is one of the greatest to ever move chips across the felt. Negreanu has won six WSOP gold bracelets, is the only player to win the ‘Player of the Year’ award twice. He has an incredible $42 million in live tournament earnings, and then some. In 2014, at the age of 40, he became the youngest member ever inducted in the Poker Hall of Fame. He knows a thing or two about the game.

Pundits are still trying to figure out the impetus for this spectacle. Was it all those personal shots hurled his way by Polk, on social media sites like twitter and YouTube? That’s the speculation, but Negreanu has shot down any notions of that idea.

“No, it was as simple as this. He threw out a challenge, we’re locked down here. I’ve got nothing else to do, so I might as well learn to play heads-up poker from the best. I’m doing that, I’m learning from the best possible sources, and they’re teaching me a strategy to win this match. I’m getting more confident in what they’re teaching me every single day, and we’re making fewer mistakes. My team is judging me harshly because there are no excuses for dumb mistakes.”

That’s what champions do; they step up. And now, he’s got the lead on one of the best heads-up players in history, in Doug Polk. It’s still early, again only slightly more than 10 per cent of the challenge is complete. And they could be going at it well past Christmas, perhaps even into the New Year. The High Stakes Feud is heating up. If you have a substantial amount on Polk, you have to be at least getting a little antsy.

The showdown continues today, and it marks the first time they’ve faced each other on three consecutive days.

Derrick Oliver

Derrick Oliver

Derrick Oliver Dewan is the founder of High Roller Radio and has interviewed a number of the world's top poker players and gamblers. A former radio and television broadcaster, Derrick was brand manager for Poker Pro Canada magazine and has written for a variety of publications, including the Toronto Star & Windsor Life.

News

WSOP Winter Online Circuit Set to Begin December 13

WSOP Winter Online Circuit Set to Begin December 13

Jennifer Newell
December 4, 2020

Major Shareholders Unimpressed by Apollo-GCG Deal

Major Shareholders Unimpressed by Apollo-GCG Deal

Jennifer Newell
December 2, 2020

Picking up on Poker Patterns

Picking up on Poker Patterns

Dave Golokhov
November 30, 2020