Negreanu-Polk Heads-Up Match to Start November 1st

The poker community is mostly a large, global, diverse group of people in various levels and aspects of the game. In a pinch, the majority of them will come together for a particular cause. Not everyone is friendly with each other, though. In fact, some have developed serious animosity toward others during their time in poker.

Enter Daniel Negreanu and Doug Polk.

The two have a reasonably long history of poking at each other, mostly from afar. And it heated up this summer to the point that their feud became a public spectacle. Eventually, they decided to take it to the poker table and battle it out with cards and chips.

History of Bad Blood

Both poker players are outspoken. Negreanu and Polk are well-known in poker as much for their poker accomplishments as for their ability to create waves with one simple action, tweet, or video.

The tiff between Negreanu and Polk seemed to begin back in 2014. Haley Hintze wrote a detailed history of the feud, but this will be a more condensed version.

Someone on Twitter criticized Negreanu’s play at the Big One for One Drop final table that year at the World Series of Poker. When challenged to play a $25/$50 NLHE 6-Max cash game on PokerStars, Negreanu responded that he could study for two weeks and absolutely become a winning player. (He had long been a tournament player.) Polk jumped into that conversation, and it escalated to talk of a high-stakes cash game.

Alas, it never happened.

The next major incident started the following year when PokerStars ended the SuperNova and SuperNova Elite VIP programs. Since Negreanu was and had been the primary member of Team PokerStars Pro for years, many players pressured him to weigh in on the changes at PokerStars. He did that in 2016, when he wrote that higher rake is better for the game of online poker, despite the harm to pro players. “Overall, for the game,” he said, “it’s actually better because pros aren’t playing.”

That didn’t go over well.

Polk took the opportunity to sum that up as Negreanu endorsing the idea that “more rake is better.” When then-sponsored pro Jason Mercier with PokerStars got caught in the middle of social media spats on the topic, Negreanu defended Mercier. Harsh words led to Polk to buy a billboard advertisement to direct people to a website dedicated to calling out Negreanu.

Everything simmered down until this year. During the summer, Negreanu was long gone from PokerStars and the face of GGPoker, which offered 2020 WSOP tournaments on its website in light of the pandemic forcing the Las Vegas series cancelled.

As Negreanu played on a livestream, he went off on a troll who made a comment about Negreanu’s wife in the comments section of the Twitch stream. He flew into a verbally-violent rage that shocked many people. Twitch even suspended him for it.

Polk took the opportunity to get involved, despite a “retirement” from poker. He poked at Negreanu with everything from past comments to Negreanu’s blackface video.

Take it to the Tables

Enter Joey Ingram, poker enthusiast and YouTuber, and a friend of Polk. On July 27, he posed the idea of a heads-up match to settle the differences between the two.

Polk began to play around with the idea of a grudge match, officially challenging Negreanu to a No Limit Hold’em battle the following day. Ingram took the lead to try to nail down the details, though the initial sticking point was the poker variation. NLHE was Polk’s specialty, while Negreanu plays a greater variety of games.

After much ado, the two players agreed to that exact game. It would be at the $200/$400 level, and the number of hands would range from 10K to 25K, playing two tables at a time.

Even so, Negreanu consistently said on various forums that he would be the underdog in the match, as NLHE isn’t his best game. “The cards are stacked against me,” Negreanu wrote, “and I accept that reality.” He also claimed he would do it for poker fans, and it didn’t matter to him if he wins or loses.

That wasn’t the end of the story.

Nailing Down Final Details

It seemed that the main details of the match were finalized by mid-August, but it took until October 1 to for Negreanu to set the start date for November 1.

Negreanu and Polk continued their Twitter arguments about other things well into October. The rules of the match were at the center of numerous debates, everything from using a preflop range chart (Polk wanted to use them, Negreanu did not) to the number of hours to play per day.

They agreed to the following:

  • $200/$400 NLHE heads-up online
  • 2 tables
  • Any stack dropping below 100 big blinds will automatically top-up to $40K starting stack
  • 25,000 total hands, but losing player may quit after 12,500 hands
  • Players can raise stakes at halfway point if both agree
  • 2-hour minimum sessions
  • Neutral parties will “inspect” the players’ setups to ensure no HUDs or preflop charts
  • Kane Kalas will commentate delayed livestreams from PokerGO Studio at Aria
  • Negreanu wants only small portion of hole cards exposed
  • WSOP-com will be the platform in Nevada

Polk has since been playing heads-up quite often on Americas Cardroom to better prepare for the matches. Negreanu set up a table to do the same on and reportedly loaded his online account with $1 million. Polk said he did the same.

Meanwhile, the poker world is already anticipating the action…and placing bets on it. Phil Hellmuth offered a $20K bet on Negreanu at 4-to-1, and Polk took him up on the offer.

Mike Matusow bet $10K (admittedly half of his entire poker bankroll) on Negreanu at 4-to-1.

Other players put up money to bet on Polk at 4-to-1. The lines vary, and the betting seems to be running high all around the poker world. Quite a lot of people – with and without money on the line – seem anxious to see this action finally get underway.


Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell has been writing about poker and gambling since 2004. From her days in the WPT offices to covering summers of WSOP tournament action, she also followed gambling legislation to Washington D.C. and women-only poker to the Bahamas. Meanwhile, she lived in Los Angeles and Las Vegas for many years before moving back to her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. Now, Jen travels less, writing about poker and online gambling from her home with her two dogs watching her every move. In her spare time, she follows politics, works on her never-finished novels, and learns Italian in the hopes of retiring to Italy someday.

If you want to know more, you can follow Jen on Twitter @WriterJen


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