Just when it seemed all was lost for Daniel Negreanu in his $200/$400 heads-up no-limit hold’em match with Doug Polk, a monster session left him with a fighting chance.
After he won a whopping $385,000 — the largest either player has managed to drag in a single session — on Jan. 22, Negreanu cut his deficit by almost 40%. He was down about $1 million at two different points, but he’d given himself a fighting chance.
Any dreams of a Galfond-like comeback were dashed over the next three sessions, though, as Polk booked three wins in a row to seal Negreanu’s fate. The last two came across marathon sessions of a combined 3,400 hands, leaving less than 1,700 to play and sucking any drama out of the final proceedings. With Polk up $945K, the only question remaining is whether he wins seven figures or merely six to finish off the rivalry.
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The day started off with an early indication Negreanu was about to have an epic winning day, as right off the bat, he won a stack when he continued for $3,199 on as the preflop three-bettor. Polk called and then called $9,644 on the turn. On the river, Negreanu put in the $23K left and got snap-called, but his had been in a dream equity spot against from the jump.
Polk got it right back moments later in a cooler when he pipped Negreanu with a nine-high flush over a seven-high one — the eight was on board. He then won a $28K pot and $43K pot without showdown, shoving river both times and not getting a call. He went up about a buy-in.
Polk went for a monster hero call on a board of . He had bet $3,451 on the flop and $11,451 into $15K on the turn before checking river. With $28K left on the end, he check and called when Negreanu crammed all in. Negreanu showed for rivered top pair and was way good against .
In a single-raised pot, Polk brought the heat with some big aggression. He bet $1,519, just under pot, on , then $7,339 on the . Negreanu checked the and Polk blasted all in for $48,443 effective, more than twice the pot. Negreanu tank-called with and was rewarded when Polk showed for almost the nut low.
With Negreanu already up about two buy-ins, an absolutely massive pot went down. Polk three-bet to about $3,700 preflop and then continued for $3,164 on . Negreanu peeled, bringing a . Polk sized down with $4,574 and was met with a big raise to $16,080. On the , Polk checked and snapped a pot-sized jam of $46K, creating a pot of almost $140K. Negreanu showed for a straight that Polk couldn’t beat with .
Negreanu kept climbing and was past $150K in profit for the day in the next big spot, which would see a brief raising war on end in a cooler shown down as Negreanu’s was smashed by . The turn gave both players full houses but Polk’s was better and he dragged the $81K pot.
Then, Negreanu four-bet preflop and c-bet small in position on only to get shoved on for a massive $31K over his $2,159 bet. He was only too happy to call with and had the of Polk smashed. The brought a little help for Polk but he didn’t improve on the river.
An interesting hand came up on an flop, with Polk having three-bet preflop and continued for $2,300 on the flop. Negreanu came along and Polk checked to him on the . Negreanu bet $5,127 and they went to the river, which was the . Polk checked, Negreanu shoved for about $28K effective, a little over the pot, and Polk found the call button to see Negreanu’s airball. Polk took it with .
They were almost $60K deep when Negreanu got max value in a four-bet pot. He was the aggressor and bet $5,399 on then $9,718 on the . Polk called pretty quickly, and on the river, he check-called off the remaining $32,390. His was no good against . That edged Negreanu up past $200K in winnings.
They played a slightly bigger one even when preflop, flop and turn action was identical with Negreanu using the same sizings a flop then an turn. This time, Polk shoved over the turn bet for $42,543 and got called instantly by . He had for a flopped monster draw and the would see the $117K pushed to “Kid Poker.”
Negreanu peaked around +$400K when he three-bet pre and continued for a bigger sizing of $5,358 on . Polk called and then faced another sizable wager of $12,538 on the . He called again then called the last $25K on the river, but Negreanu had the goods with , rendering Polk’s almost worthless on the turn.
Negreanu bluffed back one final stack on a board of when he bet $2,021 into $3,017 in position on the river, only for Polk to make it $6,751. Negreanu ripped in Polk’s remaining $31K but Polk had an easy call with . Negreanu had an airball with .
Still, the marathon session had proven very lucrative for Negreanu when they quit moments later.
Hands Played: 1,000
Results: Daniel Negreanu +$385,000
Full session video
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This much shorter session began with a very tame first hour or so as Polk inched out to a $25K lead but neither player seemed that inclined to play many huge pots, and stacks didn’t go in at all.
Polk did announce before the match he was bringing a change in strategy, and that change seemed to be limping preflop at some frequency, which he did in several spots. Overall, it did expectedly lead to less big pots, if the first hour of it was any indication.
Finally, a huge pot occurred, and a surprising hand was shown down as Negreanu slammed in a five-bet shove for $52K preflop. Polk called him with and was up against , with the small pair nailing a set on the flop and sealing the deal on a blank turn.
They were almost $70K deep when another big pot was built as Polk four-bet to $12,000 preflop and Negreanu called. Polk continued small for $4,799 on and Negreanu called, bringing an . Polk bet small again with $11,086 and Negreanu stuck around for the . Both players checked and Polk had to be glad he did so when Negreanu showed .
Polk hit a strong finish when he three-bet and tripled off on with and got a call from to reduce his loss to just under $50K.
Hands Played: 350
Results: Daniel Negreanu +$48,000
Full session video
Day 33 kicked off in unusual fashion. Not because of any result of a hand, but because Negreanu opted to go ahead with a pre-planned strategy of tanking in nearly every decision. Polk was less than thrilled with this development.
“This is completely f****** pathetic,” he said. “This is pathetic. Unbelievable. This is just a complete loser move.”
Polk chose to go to arbitrator Phil Galfond about the slow play.
Play continued nonetheless for a bit as Negreanu went up about about a buy-in, most notably picking off a bluff of $12,883 into about $19K on with against . Then, about 30 minutes into play, they took a break with Polk sitting out. Presumably, both players presented their cases during this time.
About 25 minutes later, play resumed, and Polk appeared to shelve his limps for the moment.
Despite the more aggressive preflop bent though, not too terribly much occurred in the next 90 minutes. Polk slowly flipped from down about a buy-in to up about a buy-in but the process was more a tale of accumulated paper cuts than a monster death blow or two.
Finally, the big pot came when they were about $50K deep and saw an flop with Polk three-betting preflop. He continued for half the pot, $4,108, and Negreanu called. Polk barreled big for $12,202 on the and Negreanu shoved for $42,523. Unfortunately for him, Polk had him smashed with over .
Right after that, they played another big one with Negreanu as the three-bettor continuing small for $2,159 on . Polk called, bringing the . Negreanu fired again for $12K and Polk peeled, bringing the . Negreanu slammed the last $25K in and Polk snapped with for trips, revealing Negreanu’s bluff.
Negreanu got a big chunk back when he three-bet jacks, faced a four-bet and got it all in for about $52K. Polk showed up with sevens and failed to overtake the superior pair.
They closed with one final notable pot, Negreanu three-betting pre and then slowing down with a check on . Polk took the opportunity to bet $1,599 and Negreanu called, bringing a . Negreanu check-called about $7,500 this time and then checked the . Negreanu check-called a last barrel of about $17K and watched the $61K pot go to Polk and his for running trips.
After the session, Polk said Galfond didn’t make a decision yet on the slow play.
Hands Played: 560
Results: Doug Polk +$136,239
Full session video
Polk had some success early on and built about a $50K lead before they just went all in preflop for the first huge pot of the day. Negreanu five-bet shoved for about $42K and got snapped off by . It was a flip with Negreanu holding and the fours held despite a double-Broadway flop that gave Polk a straight draw.
The fours worked less well just moments later in a three-bet pot when Polk bet big on and called a shove holding . Negreanu’s proved less successful as it ran , .
Negreanu fell behind as much as about $80,000 before he started bringing it back again by winning several pots between $20K and $40K, almost all without showdown as Polk folded to river bets.
Finally, when the cards were revealed, Negreanu had three-bet and continued small on before checking the . Polk bet $8,251 into $12,316. Negreanu called and checked the . He checked and Polk shoved for $38,187 effective. Negreanu looked him up with but ran into to drop the $105K pot.
A four-bet pot not long after that would see Polk check back a flop for an turn. Negreanu led into him for $8,671, about 40% of the pot, and Polk called. On the river, Negreanu crammed for just under the $39K pot and Polk snapped it off with and prevailed easily over .
After a period of battling that saw no stacks go in and Polk maintain an edge around $120K, Negreanu four-bet and then continued small for $5,399 on . Polk called and then check-call another $9,718 on the . The double-paired the board and both players checked, with Negreanu unable to beat to drop another pot of $51K.
Polk dragged a couple of more pots around $30K to cross the $200K mark in winnings.
Negreanu began righting the ship in the lengthy session starting with a huge pot where he three-bet and went for a check-raise on . Polk bet $2,639 and Negreanu made it a massive raise to $15,917. Polk called, bringing the . Both players checked and the completed the board. Negreanu bet $26,687 and Polk called with something worse than .
They were about $60K deep when Polk three-bet preflop to about $4K and continued for $3,353 on . He bet just under pot with $13,820 on the and they went to a river. Negreanu had pot to play and snap-called that $40K off with for a backdoor flush, winning against .
Negreanu then won a $40K pot without showdown and also a $25K pot shoving for about twice the pot on the river. Suddenly, Polk’s edge was below $50K. Negreanu continued winning and actually took the lead for a minute as they neared the five-hour mark.
Then, one final massive pot. Negreanu three-bet pre and continued for $2,159 on . Negreanu then potted the for $12,318 and Polk called again. On the , Negreanu potted for $36,955 and got quickly called. His had backed into two pair but wasn’t enough against . They then quit with Polk booking a small win.
Hands Played: 1,384
Results: Doug Polk +$34,855
Full session video
In what would set the tone for the high level of variance to follow, Negreanu four-bet and called a five-bet stuff right off the bat with . He was dominated by and dropped a stack when he didn’t improve his hand.
Not long after, Negreanu three-bet to $4,000 and got a flop that he c-bet small for $2,159. Polk called and the turn was the . Negreanu continued for $3,326 and Polk again called. On the river, Negreanu slowed down with a check. Polk overbet shipped for $30,715 into the $18K pot and received a call by , which he’d flopped dead with .
Negreanu kept pushing, and when they were $50K deep, he four-bet and called another five-bet shove. He showed up with a pair this time but was smashed by and Polk turned him dead with a king.
Things continued in much the same manner when Negreanu three-bet and continued for $2,159 on and Polk called. Negreanu checked over on the and called a bet of $8,251 then check-called a pot-sized shove of $28K on the . Polk showed , having had Negreanu’s all but dead on the flop.
Polk took an unusual line when they were about $55K deep as he called a four-bet then led into Negreanu on all three streets on a runout of . The first two bets were small, then Polk shoved river for $27K effective, about half the pot. It did not work out for him as Negreanu showed down , with Polk only mustering .
Negreanu earned another massive pot of $116K with over on a nine-high board, betting twice and calling a check-shove on the turn. Suddenly, he had erased most of his early deficit.
Unfortunately for Negreanu, flopped trips once again sank him on . This time, he three-bet and check-called three barrels all in, running into with to see a $105K pot pushed to Polk.
He earned most of that right back three-bombing himself with king-queen on , Polk having looked him up with and losing with his inferior kicker.
An absolutely monster pot went down after Negreanu three-bet to $4K and flopped. Negreanu continued for $3,199 and Polk called, bringing the . Negreanu bet big with $9,644 and Polk continued to the river. Negreanu checked and Polk went for a huge overbet rip for $68,602. That was a bit more than twice the pot and Negreanu awhile before calling with . It was no good on the river as Polk showed for a $170K pot.
The swings continued with a $122K pot, ace-king of Polk against the tens of Negreanu. The pair held to keep Negreanu from getting completely buried.
Polk tried turning two pair into a bluff with a massive check-shove on , but Negreanu had the and snapped off for $43K over his bet of about $6K into a $15K pot. Polk’s lead was below a buy-in at that point.
Then, a huge cooler on a board of . Negreanu had flopped trips with but was crushed by . Negreanu check-raised the turn and bet-called river for $66K, seeing the the $150K pot head to Polk.
Negreanu began showcasing an aggression level he hadn’t displayed up to that point in the match. He started overbetting some flops after three-betting and began firing off some big sizings with river overbets and shoves as well. He actually took the lead briefly approaching the four-hour mark but then lost a stack with top pair versus middle set and dropped a couple more big pots to get back in a six-figure hole.
The rare double check-raise came out when Negreanu three-bet and flopped. Negreanu checked, Polk bet $3,039, and Negreanu made it $10,078. Polk called and Negreanu checked on the . There was pot to play and Negreanu checked again. Polk bet small with $9,290, Negreanu shoved, and Polk called with . He’d been caught on the turn by but his tripping ways continued with improvement on the river.
The combatants pushed toward the five-hour mark as it became clear Negreanu was going to do his damndest to play the longest session of the match by far.
Negreanu four-bet and checked back a . On the turn, Polk led for $14,470, two-thirds of the pot. Negreanu just shoved for $66,758 more and Polk, who had joined the commentary team while playing live, groaned and swore. He stuck in the rest with but could not overcome the held by Negreanu. Kid Poker swept up the $184K pot.
The wild swings continued as Negreanu bluffed off almost $50K into Polk’s kings full on , showing down . Polk lost that right back though as he went for an overbet shove of twice the pot on with only to run into .
They were 200 blinds deep on both tables after Polk earned a stack picking off Negreanu’s missed flush draw that shoved river. Negreanu went for another flop check-raise on after three-betting, and Polk called for $13,597. Negreanu continued for $23,579 on the and ripped in the last $41K on the . Polk called off his half-pot stack but nines were beaten by pocket queens.
Negreanu’s efforts brought him all the way back from stuck more than $200K to close to even when he found a flopped set up against Polk’s kings-up two pair. He inched ahead as they dragged past six hours, but Polk rallied to the finish line.
By that point, it stopped being about getting stacks in with both players deep on both tables and became more about river play. Polk got a river bet paid with a straight to scoop $99K and check-shipped all in for a $63K pot without showdown.
Then, Negreanu got it in stone dead on . He checked the flop after three-betting and faced $2,399 from Polk, who called the raise to $11,998. Negreanu had just over pot to play with $37K and slammed that in on the turn with but ran smack into .
The day’s final blow came when Negreanu again three-bet and continued big for $5,358 on . Negreanu barreled again for $12,538 on the . He had $33K to play with $43K in the middle slammed that in on the river but Polk again awaited with a straight: . Again, he beat , and this time, Negreanu waved the white flag for the day down $200K.
Hands Played: 2,000
Results: Doug Polk +$209,000
Full session video