After a three-month battle that, for some, was never in doubt, the “Heads Up Challenge” between Poker Hall of Famer Daniel Negreanu and online legend Doug Polk has come to an end. More than 25,000 hands of poker were played and, in the end, both players were complimentary of the other. Compliments aren’t the scoreboard, however, and that read out that Polk had won the Challenge, finishing with a $1.2 million victory in the event.
Wednesday Action Closes Out the Fight
When the duo came to the virtual felt on WSOP.com on Wednesday afternoon, they knew that this was probably the last day of the battle. With two tables of $200/$400 action going and a little more than 1000 hands left on the clock, the end was nigh with Polk holding a safe edge of over $900,000. The question wasn’t whether Polk was going to win the challenge, it was whether he would break the million mark in doing so.
The opening salvos went in the favor of Negreanu. In a key hand, Polk would river a straight, but Negreanu caught a flush with the same river card to scoop up a decent pot of nearly $40,000. The good fortune would continue for Negreanu as he won by making hands (a full house for over $25,000) and by playing some power poker (a jam on a three-spade, double paired board). Over the first few hours of action, Negreanu was able to chop around $150,000 off the Polk edge.
As typical of the action throughout the Challenge, Polk was able to respond quickly. He was the beneficiary of a four-flush, holding the Ace when Negreanu held the King, and Polk got a key double up in a pot of $180,000. That, along with some other action through the day, would see Polk end up with a $255,722 edge over the final 1718 hands and close out the Challenge.
Newfound Respect Between the Players
After an acrimonious start between the twosome (and some tense moments through the Challenge), the close came almost as a relief to the players. Over his Twitter account, Polk recounted the final score and, in an understatement, simply said “We won, guys. We did it.” Negreanu was also complimentary of the play of Polk, saying over the GGPoker stream, “He played well, no question about that.”
The two players commiserated over Twitter prior to the close of the Challenge and, it seems, they are willing to discuss the overall event in more depth:
Yup. I’d do that. Hopefully we can actually get hand histories and compare. Would love to see some of those early 4x pot river jams in the bet overbet overbet lines.The ones I called and saw were mostly the nuts!— Daniel Negreanu (@RealKidPoker) February 2, 2021
That discussion would be VERY worthwhile.
In looking back at the Challenge, Negreanu obviously made a few mistakes. First off, he probably should have gotten more of the action to be played in a live setting, which is much more his game. Even after a year of retirement, Polk’s game took little time to get into shape and to have nearly all the play at WSOP.com (the first 200 hands were played live on PokerGO) was definitely an advantage for Polk.
Taking on a Heads-Up master like Polk was also an error in judgment for Negreanu. Heads Up poker has never been the Hall of Famer’s forte, whereas it was the very subject that Polk mastered when he was one of the dominant players in the online game. But it is part of poker that someone believes that they’ve got a chance in any game, so you must give kudos to Negreanu for taking the shot. Where do the two men go from here? Polk may just drift back to retirement after backing the truck up and Negreanu will probably be playing poker when he’s 80 (and, like Doyle Brunson, still be playing at a high level). But the two men have given the poker world an entertaining three months of action and, for that, we’ve got to show our appreciation.