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GRUDGE MATCH: Daniel Negreanu, Doug Polk Agree to High-Stakes Heads-up Showdown

Ali-Frazier, McEnroe-Borg, Larry Bird facing Magic Johnson. There are no shortage of big rivalries and showdowns in sports. Another one in poker may be playing out at the online tables soon.

The Daniel NegreanuDoug Polk rivalry reached a peak over the last week. Both players have taken shots on social media and a heads-up matchup online is now in the works.

After same back-and-forth online sparring and negotiation, the matchup looks like it’s officially on. Some details remain to be worked out, but both have agreed to the matchup.

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Details on the Negreanu-Polk online poker challenge

After years of back and forth, the antipathy between Negreanu and Polk seemed to reach a boiling point last week. Negreanu made a comment to a video posted by Nick Schulman featuring Polk in a “More Rake is Better” T-shirt.

Polk responded with a couple shots after Negreanu was banned from Twitch recently. That included a video mocking his MasterClass course.

From there. the Twitter fire picked up with Polk openly challenging Negreanu. After some discussion on the terms of the duel, Negreanu agreed to the matchup.

The action is expected to be streamed online but some of the details have been worked out. So far the plans include:

  • Game – heads-up No Limit Hold’em
  • Stakes – $200/$400
  • Number of hands – between 10,000 and 25,000
  • Number of tables – 2
  • Side bet – unknown as of now
  • Time – to be determined, but expected to be between September and October

“I never thought I’d see the day that this would actually happen,” Polk noted in a video about the challenge on Tuesday.

A look at the rivalry’s history

Charges and sniping have flown back and forth between Polk and Negreanu for several years. Much of that began in 2016 when Negreanu commented on increased rake while an ambassador at PokerStars.

He argued increased rake in some cash games would keep pros away. He believed that would be good for recreational players.

The rake argument didn’t sit well with Polk. He accused Negreanu of becoming a shill for the company rather than representing all players.

The antagonism has included a “More Rake is Better” billboard at the World Series of Poker. Polk also even donned a T-shirt with the phrase while seated next to Negreanu at the 2018 Super High Roller Bowl.

Much of Polk’s antipathy for Negreanu may boil down to this statement in his recent video.

“He changed into someone who doesn’t care about the players,” Polk says. “He’s also someone who belittles people quite frequently and then tries to get his way at whatever cost he can.”

For his part, Negreanu charges that Polk is simply a troll and makes money by producing trolling poker videos. Polk makes videos about other players as well, he argues, and that his Negreanu criticism is warranted.

Negreanu took to his blog site to describe why he accepted the challenge and believes Polk is obsessed.

“So in the end, why am I doing this?” Negreanu says. “To give the people what they want. For many years now this man has made a living off of trashing me on a regular basis, well past an unhealthy obsession, regurgitating the same attack lines over and over. Not because he truly believes I’m an evil monster, but purely for personal gain disguised as standing for some noble cause.”

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A look at the competitors

When it comes to poker skills, Negreanu and Polk both bring plenty to the tables. There will be plenty of that on display when the matchup goes down and here’s a look at both players.

Doug Polk

Polk has $9.5 million in live tournament winnings and that includes three WSOP bracelets. The biggest of those came in 2016, when he won the $111,111 High Roller for One Drop for $3.7 million.

Polk also has considerable online winnings and is a co-founder of the Upswing Poker training site. In 2013, he won a $20,000 buy-in, 15,000-hand challenge against Ben “Sauce123” Sulsky. The two online poker phenoms battled at blinds of $100/200.

In 2015, Polk was part of a group of players taking on an artificial intelligence bot at Carnegie Mellon University. The challenge involved 20,000 heads-up hands and the humans, including Polk, came out on top.

In recent years, Polk retired from poker and sticks to producing YouTube videos. He’ll be coming out of retirement for the challenge.

Daniel Negreanu

On the other side of the table, Negreanu is one of the most recognizable names in the game. He has plenty of skins on the wall with $42 million in lifetime tournament winnings.

Negreanu’s winnings include six WSOP bracelets as well as two World Poker Tour titles. He’s third on the all-time money list and remains a major force in poker.

Beyond his work on the tables, “Kid Poker” was a longtime PokerStars ambassador and now reps GGPoker. He’s currently in Mexico playing in the WSOP Online on GG.

Bristling at the allegation that he’s been a major party to the rivalry, Negreanu believes Polk has been the antagonist. Either way, when the cards are dealt it will be quite a matchup for poker fans.

“Maybe this was all part of his long game plan,” he notes at his Full Contact Poker blog. “Attack me endlessly, bully me, mock me, in the hopes of getting me to agree to a high stakes poker match. If that’s the case, well played. You have your wish.”

Photos courtesy WPT

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