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What’s being called the Grudge Match of the century is finally underway! Sworn rivals Daniel Negreanu and Doug Polk played the first 200 hands of their 25,000-hand $200/$400 ‘Grudge Match’ live at the PokerGO studio at the Aria, Las Vegas on November 4, with Negreanu drawing first blood.
Bookmakers have tipped the “retired” Polk to be the overwhelming favorite to win this High Stakes Feud given his long-established prowess in this format. Still, Negreanu happens to be one of the best all-round poker players to have ever played the game. And all of that experience was at display last night as the six-time bracelet winner booked a convincing six-digit profit to end the four-hour-long session ahead by $116,000.
The remainder of the heads-up challenge will be played online on WSOP.com and will resume on Friday.
There has been a lot of anticipation building around this challenge, and rightfully so. This isn’t just any other high-stakes duel. Negreanu and Polk enjoy a massive fan following and have crossed swords on several occasions in the past. Polk, a self-confessed Negreanu fan starting out, hasn’t shied away from taking potshots at his erstwhile idol. The most prominent of them was his tirade against Negreanu’s “more rake is better for the game” comment. He took things a few steps further by taking a dig at Negreanu’s recent outbursts during the WSOP Online series. Wanting to ‘settle it’ with Negreanu once and for all, Polk, who’d all but retired from poker, volunteered to come back to the felts for this challenge. Negreanu agreed, and it’s been a continuous round of taunts and counter-taunts since.
But with all the animosity thrown in, Negreanu and Polk had a tough time agreeing on the “rules of engagement.” What started out with the duo discussing the challenge’s format soon took a different route as they both had differing views on the use of preflop charts and notes during the match. For some time, it seemed that the challenge would be a no-go but much to the delight of poker fans around the world, the Grudge Match that was earlier scheduled to start on November 1 finally took off at the PokerGO Studio on November 4.
Negreanu took an early lead on the opening day at the Aria, but Polk was always on the chase, even coming out on top for some time. Eventually, Negreanu closed out the day with a significant lead.
In his post-match interview, the GGPoker Ambassador said – “I know we have a long road ahead, and I’m going to be walking into his arena, which is online and a couple of tables. I’m super pleased with the start. Played well, executed my strategy, and it worked out as good as it could…”
He even tweeted about it.
I have a question for those of you who watched tonight? pic.twitter.com/ffVa5L9uXR
— Daniel Negreanu (@RealKidPoker) November 5, 2020
Polk, who has been riding high on confidence to win this challenge, said that he felt good about the way he played despite the loss.
Felt good about my play tonight despite going -$116,500. Couple hands were slightly loose (first hand of the night I misread the board to be totally honest lol)
Looking forward to not getting stacked bluffing into trips next session.
— Doug "Truck Driver" Polk (@DougPolkVids) November 5, 2020
The live session of the match was live-streamed on GGPoker TV and PokerGO. You can watch the highlights below.
Session 1 – Highlights
Multiple bracelet champions Daniel Negreanu and Doug Polk aren’t exactly friends, so when the two finally met in person at the PokerGO studio to play the LIVE session of their Grudge match, many expected the air to be crackling with tension! Surprisingly though, both players had a pleasant exchange of words before they sat down to play.
Negreanu tweeted just before the match that they had agreed over the use of preflop charts and notes.
It all starts tomorrow.
I will not be using preflop charts at all during the 25k hand match. I’ll just be taking notes.
I think he is both using preflop charts and taking notes.
It has been agreed upon. https://t.co/3t6lv05Qd3
— Daniel Negreanu (@RealKidPoker) November 3, 2020
Negreanu won the first hand to take a lead of $9,500. He couldn’t help quipping, “All right, thanks for playing. That was a blast. I’m done. Just quit.”
Just six hands later, Polk’s two-pair was dominated by Negreanu’s flush, bringing the former down to only $19,000 from his initial $50,000 buy-in.
Polk had to top up, and a back-and-forth ensued, with Polk grinding away to close the gap.
Another big pot went Negreanu’s way, and he moved ahead by $13,150. “I don’t like that!” said Polk, but he took most of it back on the 95th hand of with a rivered nut straight versus Negreanu’s straight. At this point, Negreanu’s advantage had narrowed down to only $7,450, with 125 hands done and dusted.
The players went on a break, and when they returned, Polk quickly charged ahead of Negreanu by $750. He pulled further forward to take a $13,475 lead.
A confident Polk tweeted that he found it hard to see Negreanu winning the challenge.
Its starting to look like this thing's a wrap. Maybe the odds were wrong, but at this point its hard to see Negreanu winning.
— Doug "Truck Driver" Polk (@DougPolkVids) November 4, 2020
On the 170th hand of the match, Negreanu collected his biggest pot of the day, moving into a lead of $13,200. He continued to hammer down, and by the 185th hand, Negreanu had increased his advantage to $50,525.
Polk suffered the most significant blow of the day when only eight hands remained to be played. His queen-jack suited lost out to Negreanu’s ten-six that improved to trip sixes. He had no option but to rebuy for $50K, and the session concluded soon after, with Negreanu ending the day with a profit of $116,500.
Betting Markets Go Crazy on Grudge Match
Poker players loving gambling, and this Grudge Match has provided a lot of fodder to punters looking to sweat the high-stakes challenge with serious money on the line.
Polk – arguably one of the best online heads-up NLHE players – has been listed as a firm favorite to win the challenge on PokerShares.
However, many in the poker community have voiced that Negreanu was overtly pegged as a 1:4 underdog. And several among them have put up their money to support that belief. Mike Matusow is one of the Negreanu supporters who claimed to have bet $10K of his $20K bankroll on Negreanu at 4-to-1 odds.
Even Phil Hellmuth said he’d bet on Negreanu if anyone offered. Even though Negreanu doesn`t have any publicly disclosed side bets riding on the outcome of the match yet, many responded to his tweet inviting bets.
The match has also got other betting lines open like whether one of them will slow-roll during the live session, the size of the biggest pot, to who would get stacked first. Many also bet on whether Polk would return to playing poker after the challenge, etc.
The remainder of the 23,000 hands will now be played online on WSOP.com, and both Polk and Negreanu have decided to play four sessions every week, ensuring the poker community enough thrills in the days to come.
Negreanu might have taken the early lead, but online play is considered Polk’s specialty, so things can change fast. We can`s wait to see how this pans out!