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The latest PokerGO show to come back to our digital screens, High Stakes Duel kicked off with a classic on Monday night as Daniel Negreanu beat Eric Persson for $100,000. After losing the Round 1 match to Negreanu, Persson cited ‘schedule challenges’ as the reason why he was pulling out of the duel after just one defeat.
The Maverick Casinos owner and self-proclaimed leader of his ‘Maverick Nation’ came into the High Stakes Duel bout on the back of several high-profile successes, but as Daniel Negreanu detailed to us before the match in our exclusive interview, he would neutralize Persson’s natural aggression by playing it cool. One of the nicest guys in poker, Negreanu proved with a series of superb plays that knows exactly how to play that to his advantage at the felt.
They say it’s hard to hate anyone who makes you laugh and if that’s true, then Negreanu’s charm offensive worked.
If there is one movie collection that Negreanu takes inspiration from, it’s the Rocky canon, and if this first High Stakes Duel bout was to emulate any of those movies, it was perhaps the third. In that, Rocky Balboa puts the aggressive and impudent challenger to his heel and while he did it in a charming fashion, that undoubtedly happened here. Persson led for only a few moments of the match overall, with Negreanu never relinquishing his advantage once he built a considerable lead.
The early levels went with Negreanu not only in terms of the chips but table control too. As the two men swapped poker anecdotes, Negreanu got Persson to show cards, reveal what he might have done in alternative situations and perhaps most crucially. They say it’s hard to hate anyone who makes you laugh and if that’s true, then Negreanu’s charm offensive worked. His attire, was a fake ‘muscle vest and biceps’ sweater that disarmed the usually combative Persson.
The format of High Stakes Duel is a simple yet brilliant one. Each player puts up $50,000 in Round 1, with any subsequent rematches costing double for the loser to arrange. Win two in a row and you can walk away with the money. Fail to rechallenge inside 30 days and the seat is open to all and any challengers.
Negreanu was in control and early on, got premium hands too. Pocket aces arrived not once but twice. Two flushes came in during the first half of the show as well, but Kid Poker wasn’t as happy as you might assume. Those big hands are ones you want late, and he joked that he’d like to ‘hand them back’ for later.
Persson, to a large extent, relied on his ability to call with two high cards and use his betting style to impose himself on the betting action. Negreanu, however, has led from the front and counter-punched in his career and had the stones to make several key calls early on. At the halfway point, he had a slim but important lead, holding 54,000 chips to Persson’s 46,000.
“I have a really solid and deep understanding as to how to win the psychological battle.”
Negreanu’s words to us here at Tight Poker before the match took place were telling.
“I’m very familiar and comfortable with player types like these,” he told us last week. “I have a really solid and deep understanding as to how to win the psychological battle.”
Negreanu showed he could back those words up, and not just during hands, where his placative style of conversation disarmed the usually volatile Persson.
This was Negreanu the snake charmer, hitting the right notes throughout in order to keep control of the dangerous animal. He shared old stories of poker legends such as T.J. Cloutier, he referenced Persson’s appearances on High Stakes Poker – a television poker set the two men have shared on numerous occasions in the months leading up to this duel. Everything Negreanu said had a point, to keep Persson calm, and get him talking.
Persson lost to a Negreanu flush in a big hand that saw the six-time WSOP champion pile up a 70:30 lead. Persson barely seemed conscious of it, happy to discuss other hands during different shows, all the while revealing nuggets of information about how the cogs in his mind turn. Negreanu was a sponge, soaking up information, and squeezing out friendly banter.
A queen on the turn changed nothing, but Persson represented it.
Having worked his way into a substantial lead, Negreanu’s next course of action was protecting it. Persson battled back bravely and had evened up the scores to a chip deficit of 40,000 to Negreanu’s 60,000 inside the next hour, but although it looked like the match might be going into the small hours, the opposite was in fact true.
“This could run deep!” Said Ali Nejad, sharing the commentary booth with the recently announced High Stakes Poker ‘color’ commentator Nick Schulman. As it happened, Persson’s frustrations at his intimidation tactics falling flat led in part to his downfall in short order. After a flop of 3-2-2 fell, Negreanu, who held pocket sevens, led post-flop as he had before the first three community cards dropped.
Persson took the bait, calling with 7-5, only a backdoor flush or running straight cards his hope. A queen on the turn changed nothing, but Persson represented it, raising Negreanu’s bet of 3,000 to 9,000. Kid Poker, so often above the surface during the match, descended into the tank.
Negreanu made the crucial call.
A pot of 27,000 had built, more than a quarter of the chips in play, but two checks saw Persson elicit ‘you win’ as he tossed away his long hand. Negreanu hadn’t only won that battle, the war had gone his way and in some way, Persson knew it. Soon, it was all over, Negreanu’s ace-king dominating Persson’s ace-queen as all the chips went into the middle pre-flop.
Although there were over a third of the total chips in the middle, the pot never looked likely to be won by the Maverick Casinos owner. Round 1 was decided after the board came J-T-7-J-6, leading to Negreanu standing up and Persson joining him. The two men shook hands, with Negreanu admitting that the cards went his way. Persson credited him with a good win, but Kid Poker continued as the gentleman.
“Card distribution, if you look back, it wasn’t close,” he said Negreanu, nodding at his opponent. Perhaps Negreanu was hoping that Persson would immediately rechallenge, but nothing could have been further from the truth.
“He won’t be in the shadows for long.” – Nick Schulman.
If the end of the match seemed to symbolise only the beginning of friendly hostilities between Negreanu and Persson, that was exactly the wrong read, made by viewers and commentators alike. As Negreanu basked in the glow of lights and glory, Persson was cast in silhouette at the periphery of proceedings.
“He won’t be in the shadows for long,” Nick Schulman elucidated on Persson. “I have a feeling Persson will be back.”
“Undoubtedly,” agreed Ali Nejad, stating that the next round would be for ‘$100,000 a man, $200k in total’ as if it was already a done deal.
Sadly for poker fans, that was not the case. Persson immediately took to Twitter to congratulate Negreanu and concede defeat not just in the round, but incredibly, the match too.
Congrats on kicking my ass @RealKidPoker . Look forward to playing with you in the future!! @PokerGO @BuffaloHanks pic.twitter.com/eED3Okgz1x— Eric Persson (@IAmMaverick888) May 9, 2023
Congrats on kicking my ass @RealKidPoker . Look forward to playing with you in the future!! @PokerGO @BuffaloHanks pic.twitter.com/eED3Okgz1x
— Eric Persson (@IAmMaverick888) May 9, 2023
“Daniel, congratulations on kicking my ass,” he began. Quoting ‘scheduling conflicts’ Persson admitted his inability to rechallenge was maybe for the best given how the bout went. Despite it all, Persson said that he considered Kid Poker ‘a friend’.
You can watch all of the action on PokerGO if you’re a subscriber. The three-hour High Stakes Duel saw Daniel Negreanu take his first match in the format and thrilled poker fans, especially those rooting for Kid Poker to conquer the ‘Maverick Nation’, which he did in fine style.
Jackpot! You’ve flopped a winning hand! This article has surely added some extra chips to your stack. Tune in for more valuable insights and pro-level strategies!
Looks like you’ve been dealt a bad beat. We’ll shuffle the deck and try again.