With yet another win Wednesday night, Phil Hellmuth swept Daniel Negreanu with three consecutive victories and was crowned the champion of High Stakes Duel II.
Per the format of the PokerGO series, the buy-in doubles with every passing match. Following a Hellmuth win in a $50,000 buy-in match in April, the 15-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner took down the $100,000 buy-in round in May. Wednesday’s match featured a buy-in of $200,000 with Hellmuth coming out on top after a long, see-saw battle between the two legends.
His three consecutive victories netted him a tidy profit of $350,000 and mimicked his series in the first-ever High Stakes Duel where Hellmuth battled Antonio Esfandiari. Hellmuth swept Esfandiari in three matches as well, which gives him a six-match winning streak and a profit of $700,000 dating back to the fall of 2020.
“Where’s the window, baby?” Hellmuth said after the match. “I know Mori [Eskandari] is not happy to hear that, but I would like to go to the cash out window.”
Hellmuth had the option to let his winnings ride and let a challenger play a $400,000 match in round 4 but decided to take the option to collect his money and call it quits. Every High Stakes Duel series must go a minimum of three matches.
In Hellmuth’s first battle against Negreanu, a six-time WSOP bracelet winner in his own right, the Wisconsin native mounted a massive comeback after Negreanu opened a huge lead.
It looked like he was going to need to pull out another come-from-behind victory on Wednesday as Negreanu got out in front early in a nearly identical start to their first go-around. But unlike the first match, Hellmuth amped up the aggression before he got too short on chips.
He took the chip lead back when five-bet 83 preflop against Negreanu’s 22. Hellmuth floated the jack-high flop with nothing but eight-high and led the turn when he picked up a flush draw. Negreanu mucked his hand after using several time extensions and Hellmuth took over the chip lead.
PhilIvey</a> is from a different planet, <a href="https://twitter.com/phil_hellmuth?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">Phil_Hellmuth is from a different universe. High Stakes Duel is still live: Watch now -> https://t.co/V3wHLWg9jH pic.twitter.com/OnVWGUtact
— PokerGO (@PokerGO) June 24, 2021
The hand was one of the most memorable hands of the match, despite happening in the first 90 minutes of a more than five-hour war. It was reminiscent of a hand played by Phil Ivey during his title run in the World Poker Tour heads-up championship just a few days earlier. Ivey three-bet 9-7 offsuit preflop against Chris Kruk’s 2-2.
Ivey bet the 10-high flop with complete air and shoved all in when Kruk raised him. Kruk folded.
Feeling pretty good about how I played my deuces now. Thanks @RealKidPoker
— Chris Kruk (@chriskruk4) June 24, 2021
I might get in trouble for telling you this, but we talk a lot about how to put people on 22 in our poker Phil meetings.
— Phil Galfond (@PhilGalfond) June 24, 2021
Negreanu took back the lead when he turned trips against Hellmuth’s failed turn bluff with 9-high, but Hellmuth regained it when he fired another multi-shell bluff with 108 on K6274. He forced Negreanu to fold 54 and pulled back to even.
Negreanu won a few pots to open a small lead, but Hellmuth struck again in a big way when he three-bet Q3 and flopped trips on a 332 board against Negreanu’s 99. Hellmuth check-called the flop and check-raised all in on the 5 turn. Negreanu thought for quite a while before calling. Hellmuth’s trips held up and he possessed about 330,000 of the 400,000 chips in play.
Unfortunately for Hellmuth, despite holding a huge chip lead, the big blind was still 1,000. Negreanu was facing a big chip disadvantage, but still had plenty of playability with a 70-big blind stack.
Playability didn’t matter, however, when both players picked up pocket kings preflop. All the chips got into the middle, with Negreanu tabling KK and Hellmuth showing KK. An all-diamond flop gave Negreanu a freeroll, which he drilled when the 8 came on the river.
Just like that, stacks were about even.
Over the next couple of hours, there were no major showdowns, but Hellmuth won the majority of the pots. With the blinds getting bigger, those pots added up and Hellmuth opened a nearly 2:1 chip lead without much fanfare.
But once again, Negreanu found a key double-up. With the blinds of 2,000-4,000, Hellmuth raised to 11,000 on the button and Negreanu moved all in for 83,000. Hellmuth called with A-Q and was in the lead against Negreanu’s K-3.
The flop was queen-high leaving Negreanu drawing very thin, but a king came on the turn to put him back in the match, facing a much smaller deficit.
Eventually, a cold deck went Hellmuth’s way, and he finished off the Canadian. Negreanu limped in on the button for 6,000 with 65 and Hellmuth checked his option with 106.
The flop was 972 and Hellmuth check-called 6,000 from Negreanu. The turn was the 8, giving both players a straight, but Hellmuth’s was bigger. All the money got in and Negreanu was drawing dead to a chop. He didn’t hit a 10 on the river to stay alive and Hellmuth collected his money, along with his second consecutive High Stakes Duel belt.
“Good game,” said Negreanu after the river card was dealt. “You played great. You deserve it.”
“I think you’re one of the all-time greats,” responded Hellmuth. “I really mean that.”
The exchange was a definitive change in tone from the drama that sparked this heads-up match. Following Negreanu’s $1.2 million loss to Doug Polk, Hellmuth criticized Negreanu’s play.
“I was disappointed in the way he played,” said Hellmuth last February.
The comment drew ire from Negreanu, who responded on Twitter with some criticisms of Hellmuth’s poker strategy and challenged him to a heads-up grudge match of their own. Although Negreanu seemed to want to play a high-stakes cash game match, they eventually agreed to play on High Stakes Duel.
Photo Credit: PokerGO/Antonio Abrego