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Gossip Column: Madanzhiev Calls On Salas For a Final “Heads-Up” to Decide the “Real” WSOP Main Event Champion & More

Gossip Column - Stoyan Madanzhiev, Doug Polk, Phil Galfond, Damian Salas, Daniel Negreanu and Chance Kornuth
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  • Namita Ghosh January 10, 2021
  • 5 Minutes Read

We admit it’s been a while since we updated you with all the latest gossipy tidbits from the poker world. So, let’s get you up to speed in our first Gossip Column feature of 2021.

Almost everyone following the WSOP Online 2020 series was left wondering – wasn’t Stoyan Madanzhiev crowned the 2020 WSOP Main Event champion?! The COVID-19 pandemic had forced the annual stop to take place online, and while Madanzhiev won the $5K Main Event at the stop, WSOP surprised everyone by announcing a different hybrid online-live $10K Main Event later in the year.

Madanzhiev didn’t take kindly to having the World Championship title snatched away from him. Questioning the WSOP for holding two Main Events, Madanzhiev recently issued a challenge to the 2020 Main Event champion, Damian Salas, for a “final” heads-up match to settle who among them is the “REAL” 51st World Champion!

While that’s raised quite a storm, Doug Polk remains firmly on top in his ongoing High Stakes Feud against GGPoker Ambassador Daniel Negreanu. This epic heads-up challenge has been underway since November 4. By the time it reached the halfway mark on December 28, Negreanu, who was staring at a massive deficit, had a choice to make – quit or continue playing. Negreanu decided to continue playing, and it’s turned out to be a good decision so far. The six-time bracelet winner has come out on top in the last four sessions but still has a lot of catching up to do. Polk currently commands a lead of $616K, with 14,500 hands of the 25,000-hand challenge done and dusted.

Run It Once Poker supremo Phil Galfond has been dominating his ongoing $100/$200 PLO heads-up challenge against Chance Kornuth, and he hasn’t lifted his foot off the gas. Galfond had a fantastic run in Session #45, registering a whopping $192,000 win – the most massive yet at the challenge. With 23,500 hands of the challenge over, Galfond is a comfortable $544,500 ahead of Kornuth.


Stoyan Madanzhiev Invites Damian Salas for a Final Heads-Up to Decide the “Real” WSOP Main Event Champion

Argentina’s Damian Salas had much to celebrate in the New Year after winning the WSOP $10K Main Event heads-up finale against the WSOP-leg champion, Joseph Hebert. Salas had won the GGPoker-edition for $1.550 Million but shipping the finale awarded him an additional $1 Million, along with a bracelet and the bragging rights of becoming the “51st WSOP World Champion.”

Bulgaria’s Stoyan Madanzhiev, who had won the WSOP $5K Main Event on GGPoker in September, didn’t take kindly to WSOP announcing a separate Main Event after naming him the WSOP Main Event champion. He had objected when the $10K Main Event was announced.

Stoyan Madanzhiev


Many in the poker industry pointed fingers at the unconventional manner in which the WSOP first flagged the $5K Main Event as THE Main Event before announcing the hybrid online-live $10K Main Event.

With WSOP running two Main Events months apart from each other, the debate on who deserves the 2020 WSOP Main Event champion’s title started gaining stream. With WSOP declaring Damian Salas as the 2020 World Champion, Madanzhiev took the matter into his own hands by challenging Salas to a heads-up fight to decide the “real” WSOP Main Event champion!

Damian Salas
Damian Salas


On January 5, Madanzhiev tweeted a post comparing the $10K and $5K WSOP Main Events.

Max Silver responded to Madanzhiev, saying it’s time for a “championship unification fell in the cell cage match.” Madanzhiev responded by saying that he was open to a heads-up match with Salas and agreeable to discuss the stakes.

The poker community at large had varying opinions on this issue.

Cardschat’s Daniel Smyth acknowledging that both Madanzhiev and Salas ran exceptionally well in their events, underlined that none of them could be called a legitimate World Champion.

Veteran WSOP commentator Normad Chad disagreed. Chad responded to Madanzhiev’s tweet by equating the latter to Donald Trump, starting an altogether new controversy.

Polish pro Rafal Gladysz disagreed with Chad that the online tournament was not the official WSOP Main Event.

Four-time WSOP bracelet champion Jeff Madsen was quite vitriolic in his response and called Chad’s tweets as “garbage.” He wrote: “Wow Chad… Why compare with trump? Actually @Stoyan_Mad has a good point. It was sold as the main event, and many peeps invested many bullets to become the champion. a few weeks later, there is the real main event in one go…”


Chad was not backing out, and the duo kept taking digs at each other.

Madanzhiev pointed out how everyone thought that the $5K Online Main Event was the real deal.

Chad was quick to criticize that.

Madanzhiev later told CardsChat – “I would play Salas! Even if it’s not an official match, I would love to do it in the name of the game.”

Salas has kept quiet all this while. The question is, will he accept Madanzhiev’s call for a heads-up decider?


Negreanu Posts 4 Back-to-Back Winning Sessions, Polk Still $616K Ahead

Last we talked about the Daniel Negreanu vs. Doug Polk Grudge match; they had run past 20 sessions in their High Stakes Feud, with Polk ahead for $696,327.92. Another five sessions have been played since and while session #21 went Polk’s way, Negreanu staged quite the recovery by winning four back-to-back sessions. The latest of them, Session #25, saw Negreanu coming out on top for $27,945.80.

Daniel Negreanu & Doug Polk
Daniel Negreanu & Doug Polk


Negreanu has chipped away Polk’s lead, cutting it down to $616,722.56. The ongoing heads-up battle has already completed 14,500 hands. Let’s take a quick look at the last few sessions.


Sessions #21 to #24

Polk booked a six-figure profit of $114,140.26 after 904 hands-on Christmas eve, consolidating his overall lead to $810,468.18. The challenge had completed 12,221 hands.

Polk tweeted that the final session of 2020 would take place on December 28.

The challenge was edging close to the halfway mark, at which point, Negreanu, who was the losing player, had the option to call off the challenge or choose to go on for another 12,500 hands.

Negreanu tweeted about it.

Negreanu closed out the 279-hand Session #22 with a profit of $35,000. Polk admitted it was him trying to bluff through two hands that lost him the session.

So did Negreanu call it quits once that the challenge was officially halfway through? No! “That is not going to happen,” Negreanu stressed in his post, announcing that the next session would take place on January 4.

The GGPoker Ambassador definitely started the second half of the challenge on a winning note. He won $27,000 through 500 hands in Session #23.

Polk tweeted an update.

Come Session #24 on January 6, and Negreanu continued to close the distance with Polk. He won a whopping $98,579.92 through a four-hour, 750-hand duel.

Polk admitted later that it was a tough day for him. He told Joey Ingram, who was covering the session – “I think this is the most card dead I have been in any session of the entire challenge.”


The Latest – Session #25

Speaking to GGPoker commentators Patrick Tardif and Brent Hanks after Session #24, Negreanu discussed a few standout hands from the session and underlined that he was charged and ready to take on Polk and needed on an average of 1 buy-in over the remaining sessions to pull ahead of the retired pro.

The latest session played out on January 8, and once again, Negreanu persisted with his winning form to win $27,945.80 after 750 hands.

Watch highlights of Session #25 below.

As we said, Polk still enjoys a lead of $616,722.56, and that keeps him very comfortably ahead of Negreanu. So far, 14,500 hands have been played in the challenge, so there is still a lot left to unfold.


Phil Galfond Registers Biggest Win in Ongoing Galfond Challenge Against Chance Kornuth

Another action-packed heads-up challenge that has kept the poker community on edge is the $100/$200 PLO Galfond Challenge between Phil Galfond and Chance Kornuth.

Our last update brought you highlights till Session #41, where Galfond was $300K ahead after a winning run through four consecutive sessions.

Phil Galfond and Chance Kornuth
Phil Galfond & Chance Kornuth


Both Galfond and Kornuth agreed to break off for the holidays and resumed their challenge on January 5, after a good 18-day gap. Kornuth won Session #42 for $33,000, and $46,500 through Session #43, bringing his deficit down to $272,500.

He tweeted the updates.

Just when it looked like Kornuth was on the verge of a turnaround, Galfond walloped him for $80,000 in Session #44. However, Kornuth’s most crushing defeat was to come in the next session. The duo played a 500-hand session on January 8, and Galfond booked the biggest win of the challenge so far, winning a whopping $192,000.

The PLO legend has firmly planted himself in the sunshine with an intimidating $544,500 lead.

Run It Once (RIOP) tweeted an update.

Watch Day 45 highlights below, where Nick Steiner and Nathan Gamble discuss some critical spots of the day with Galfond.

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