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It has finally happened! Phil Hellmuth finally met his match in the iconic poker pro Tom ‘Durrrr’ Dwan! The 15-time WSOP bracelet winner went head-to-head with Dwan in Round 2 of the High Stakes Duel III on Wednesday, and after 298 hands, Hellmuth’s unbeaten streak was beaten.
Dwan, who was a -128 favorite on Pokershares.com before the match started, held the lead for most of the five-and-a-half hours’ long match, then took over completely when he called with bottom pair to snap off Hellmuth’s bluff with ten-high. Taking on a 7:1 chip lead, Dwan was in the driver’s seat, and this time around, Hellmuth could not bounce back.
Perhaps knowing that this wasn’t a match he was going to win, Hellmuth said, “I think I’d like to play you heads-up forever,” after the failed bluff.
The match saw an epic final hand when Dwan cracked Hellmuth’s pocket aces to become the new High Stakes Duel champion!
Before we get into what transpired in Round 2, let’s do a quick recap of what all happened leading up to this iconic match.
Hellmuth’s Seven Match Heater
Before facing Dwan, Hellmuth had already proved to all his naysayers why he was the best in the business. The Poker Brat defeated Antonio Esfandiari and Daniel Negreanu in three straight rounds in the previous High Stakes Duels.
His third opponent was Fox Sports broadcaster, Nick Wright. Round 1 of the High Stakes Duel III played out on July 28 at the PokerGO Studio at the ARIA Resort & Casino. Given that Hellmuth had already beaten Esfandiari and Negreanu, a relatively less experienced Wright wasn’t much of a challenge.
After losing in Round 1, Wright had the option to play Round 2 for a $100,000 buy-in. On July 31, Wright announced that he would not be facing Hellmuth for another round. He said: “I feel like I really blew it with some poor play in the middle. I don’t know if it was fatigue or lack of experience or whatever. But I had a plan, I was executing it and I strayed from it… I can’t justify to my wonderful wife and kids laying out another $100,000 to take on one of the greatest players in the world. Even though I really think I can beat him and I should’ve beat him.”
Hellmuth was under contract to play two more matches before he could quit the challenge. With Wright stepping out, there was speculation as to who would be Hellmuth’s next opponent. After crushing Wright in Round 1, the poker brat had asserted that he would prefer to battle a professional player next time around since he could “lose some legacy points” if he lost the next match to an amateur.
Names of poker legends like Phil Ivey, Tom Dwan, Tony G, and Johnny Chan was floated around. On August 4, PokerGo made the official announcement stating that Dwan would be Hellmuth’s next opponent.
Hellmuth vs. Dwan: High Stakes Duel III – Round 2
Going into the match, Hellmuth admitted he felt more pressure facing Dwan as an opponent.
“Tom is just a great player. He does weird things, he’s very interesting. He might call off half his stack with seven-eight suited and get there.”
When asked what he expected from Dwan, he said, “I really don’t know. I did play five or six hours with him the other day with MrBeast. Over the two-day session, Tom and I didn’t win basically any money from MrBeast. We ended up small winners. I’m kind of a counter puncher.”
Dwan seemed more confident from the get-go, even announcing that he was excited about playing Hellmuth. “I’ll be looking forward to it if I win.”
When asked what a win over Hellmuth would mean to him, Dwan said, “It’s much better than a loss, so I’m going to try and win. I’m never going to hear the end of it if I lose.”
Whether it was fatigue from playing seven heads-up matches before or Dwan being the superior opponent, it just wasn’t Hellmuth’s day. Dwan took control of the five-and-a-half hours long match right to the end.
On the final hand, Hellmuth called with pocket aces, and Dwan checked with nine-three in the big blind. On a flop of five-three-deuce, Dwan bet 5,000, Hellmuth went all-in for 18,000, and Dwan called. A nine fell on the turn to put Dwan in the lead with two pair, and a six on the river landed him the victory.
You can watch the first 30 minutes of the match below. The complete match can be watched on subscription on PokerGO.
“I just knew I was going to get needled if I lost, so I was trying to avoid the needle,” Dwan told PokerGO after the match was over.
“I think I adjust how I play more than most people do depending on what other people are doing in the game,” the 35-year-old added. “So, I definitely made some unconventional plays there. Some I think were good; some I think were bad.”
The 57-year-old Hellmuth has a right to a rematch at double the stakes, but he has not yet decided whether to exercise the option. Either way, Round 3 promises to be another thriller.
Cover Image Courtesy: PokerGO.com