Doug Polk finished his heads-up “Grudge Match” vs. Daniel Negreanu in style, winning $250,000 in a roller-coaster six-hour session on Wednesday.
The huge win put him at +$1.2 million over 25,000 hands.
“I’m very happy that I spent so much time preparing and I felt it helped me tremendously and that I got to execute at such a high level for such a long amount of time,” Polk told commentators Jamie Kerstetter and Nick Schulman after finishing play on Wednesday.
Polk had risen through the ranks of the HU online streets early in the 2010s before winning live tournaments and starting a training site, Upswing Poker. He retired from playing poker last year, but the opportunity to play his nemesis (and play a format in which he would be heavily favored) got him back on the felt. He rebuilt his game for months and gave thanks to his group of coaches who helped him on the way.
The match, which started in November, was the result of a yearslong Twitter feud between the two. A surprisingly chummy live session at the Aria kicked off the challenge and the two gained great respect for each other. It wasn’t all smooth sailing, as Polk stayed true to himself with a video trolling Negreanu for complaining about luck.
Negreanu got his revenge shortly after as Polk introduced a limping strategy — not raising preflop — in order to reduce variance and lock in his win. Negreanu, whose preparation for the match did not include responding to a limping strategy, responded by tanking each hand, which drove Polk crazy before they got Phil Galfond to arbitrate and told both to just act reasonably.
Negreanu was about a 4-to-1 betting underdog, but he improved rapidly and impressed most observers, including Polk.
“By far and away, he did a really impressive fucking job,” Polk said. “I did not think he would play this well, at all. … By the end, he was doing so many sharp things — sizes, strategies, frequencies. By the end it was hard to bluff him. He understood bluff frequencies more and more.”
“He was the better player going in, no question about it, he deserved to win,” Negreanu said on GG Poker’s YouTube broadcast. “Here’s the thing, I needed to run above expectation, and that didn’t really happen.”
Despite putting in countless hours studying and training for the match, Polk has frequently talked about how much he hates poker, and says more challenges will not be in his future.