The Daniel Negreanu-Doug Polk duel got off to a surprising start on Wednesday, as Negreanu, roughly a 4-1 underdog in the betting markets, booked a $116,500 win in the match’s 200-hand live portion at the Aria in Las Vegas.
But more shocking is that the two, who have feuded for years on Twitter and YouTube (capped off with plenty of talk trash during negotiations for the match) were exceedingly gracious and even downright friendly.
“Are we watching High-Stakes Feud or How to Win Friends and Influence in 2020?” PokerGo commentator Kane Kalas asked his broadcast partner, Ali Nejad.
“It was refreshing to see how well they got along at the table,” Kalas told Deadspin. “With everything going on in 2020, with all the contentiousness in our country, of course when you’re hanging out in person they’re going to vibe more than going at each other’s’ throats. It’s good to see, especially since neither Doug nor Daniel are bad guys.”
The match got off to a good start for Negreanu, known as “Kid Poker,” as he slowplayed top pair and called a big river bluff from Polk, who admitted it was a bad spot. Negreanu, the live pro, quickly took a $31,000 lead, but Polk whittled it down with his “game-theory optimal” (GTO) based style, putting constant pressure on Negreanu, and taking the chip lead at hand 127 with a flopped flush. Negreanu played a mostly passive, trappy game, with one notable exception. At hand 170, Negreanu put in an aggressive four-bet preflop with K9 offsuit, and showed he came to play as he unloaded the clip unimproved, going all-in on the river and forcing Polk to fold Ace-Queen high.
Top pros like Polk generally don’t suffer from tilt, but he definitely amped up the aggression after Negreanu indicated he had been bluffed. The wheels came off at hand 193 as he tried to pull a big bluff, but ran into a hand Negreanu couldn’t fold.
The match, scheduled to go for 25,000 hands (the player who is down after 12,500 hands has the option to quit), resumes today in the pants-optional, two-table environment at WSOP.com.
“Obviously Polk is a heavy favorite,” said Kalas, a high-stakes pro himself who won the biggest pot in televised poker history. “I thought that Daniel definitely played some spots interestingly, and over the course of 25,000 hands if he continues to play with that degree of passiveness, that’s not going to work well for him. But I’m in the camp that Negreanu was just kind of like false advertising over those first 200 hands.
“I think Negreanu did show some things we didn’t necessarily know about him. He’s willing to go to the streets with the K9 four-bet, and the triple-barrel all-in and certainly did show some acuity in other spots.
“For Polk he did show some things that were very, very good. But by the end of the broadcast we saw that Polk is capable of letting his emotions get to him a bit. Because we saw him taking very low 3-bet candidates, like five percent 3-bet hands, and just 3-betting them all the time because he’s stuck.
“Once we move online though, I wonder if we’ll see Polk just random-number generated with the 46 suited in the big blind.”
Update: With the action moving to the virtual felt on Friday, Polk posted a $218,000 win over 424 hands of $200/$400 heads-up play.
Negreanu suffered a couple of “coolers,” extremely unlucky situations, where he ran big hands like Ace-Queen and 10-10 into Polk’s QQ twice, with all the money going in preflop.