High Stakes Duel IV

The return of High Stakes Duel  is no surprise to anyone. In fact, poker fans have missed the intense, personal nature of the one-on-one action for several weeks. After Jason Koon walked away with the $1.6 million prize in High Stakes Duel III, the only surprise has been how long it’s taken for two challengers to step forward and start the $50,000 first round action in the follow-up.

After months of waiting, the two players have been revealed, and High Stakes Duel IV  has been confirmed, beginning with a clash between Maverick Casinos owner Eric Persson, and the man who many claim to be the biggest name poker has ever had – Daniel Negrenau. We caught up with ‘DNegs’ at Tight Poker and found out exactly what he has planned for the man behind the ‘double bird’.

High Stakes Duel IV

Revenge for Poker Brat Defeat

While Eric Persson hasn’t featured on High Stakes Duel yet, ‘Kid Poker’ has already played three matches, all against the same opponent, long time poker frenemy, Phil Hellmuth. Here are the highlights from the series that ended 3-0 in favour of Hellmuth.

Negreanu isn’t motivated by revenge and processed the performance with more importance than the result.

“It was pretty brutal the way it played out, but it didn’t impact how I approach the game.” Says Negreanu. “These matches ultimately come down to short-ish stack play and by then you just hope to have a lead when you get there. I did in all three matches before blinds got high.”

Eric Persson has, of course, famously clashed with Hellmuth himself, flipping the double bird in a high-profile WSOP heads-up clash that saw the Poker Brat livid with the ‘Maverick’ player. What does Negreanu feel about Persson’s style and the man himself?

“I rewatched that match and Eric was masterful in tilting Phil more so than I think I’ve ever seen before! He represented the amalgamation of all the players Phil has berated over the last few decades, giving it back to Phil in spades. It was something to watch for sure!”

Winning against Persson is Negreanu’s aim, but doing so isn’t limited to this first bout of High Stakes Duel. If Round 1 doesn’t go to plan, expect Negreanu to double the stakes rather than walk away.

“I wouldn’t quit I don’t think, but who knows. It will be tough to sweep so I imagine this will go three rounds or more.”

Memories of Heads-Up Matches of the Past

Negreanu has won an incredible 46 ranking live poker tournaments in his career, with only 31 second-placed finishes, meaning that 59.7% of the time, Kid Poker takes the crown when heads-up. It’s an impressive record, but who is the player he’s found most difficult in his career when playing heads-up for a title?

“Playing John Hennigan heads up for a stud bracelet was a special challenge,” Negreanu recalls. “I was really proud of how I played and he even said he felt like I played better but ultimately he made hands in key spots and won the match.”

High praise indeed from another of the game’s greats. Negreanu has a wealth of even happier memories of heads-up conclusions to major poker tournaments, including a landmark victory which remains his favorite.

“It has to be my first bracelet in the first WSOP event I’d ever played,” says Negreanu, referring to the $2,000-entry event back in 1998. “It was Pot Limit Hold’em, a game I’d not really played before, and I was heads up with a U.K.-based player named Dominic Bourke. He was certainly the favorite. We played an all-in flop where it came Q-J-2 with two clubs. He had jack-ten of clubs and I held ace-queen of hearts. Turn and river blanked out and I became the youngest WSOP bracelet holder at the time.”

Negreanu’s Recent Heads-Up Legacy

In recent years, Negreanu’s high stakes heads-up clashes with personalities such as Hellmuth, Doug Polk, and of course Eric Persson on May 8th and 9th have raised the profile of the one-on-one format that shot to popularity during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown. How much does Negreanu think those big clashes have improved his heads-up game?

“I’m much happier with my play than I am with the results!” the Canadian laughs. “I feel really comfortable playing heads up, especially live poker and don’t feel restrained or handcuffed by GTO rules.”

PokerGO is undoubtedly a brand – and a studio – where Negreanu has plenty of recent happy memories – he won a Super High Roller Bowl in October of last year for $3.3 Million by way of an example. He enjoys returning to one of his favlorite places to play.

Daniel Negreanu Winning a Tournament for 3.3 Million dollars

“If you would have told me when I started out in the 1990’s that there would be a state-of-the-art poker studio smack dab in the middle of the strip I would have laughed!” he says.

“It’s truly amazing to play there and a result of the studio existing and regularly running higher buy-in tourneys on the PokerGO Tour (PGT), I’m playing more poker now than I have since I was grinding in my twenties.”

Taking on the Talkative Eric Persson

Eric Persson is a combative player at the felt and his presence is a large one to say the least. As recently as last week on High Stake Poker, he resurrected the ‘double-bird’ for Jean-Robert Bellande. Clearly, the man knows no fear. He’ll meet his match in the form of the ever-positive Negreanu.

“I’m very familiar and comfortable with player types like these,” says the man who has six WSOP bracelets. “I have a really solid and deep understanding as to how to win the psychological battle and it’s likely not what you would think. I don’t look to escalate things, quite the opposite.”

The return of High Stakes Duel really feels like a move that is ‘for the fans’. Maybe it’s that side of the duel that appeals to Negreanu. With $50 million in live tournament earnings alone, the most well-known name in poker doesn’t need the $50,000. It’s the prestige of winning, the legacy of success that sparks his fire.

“That’s really [what] these are about for me – offering people entertainment.” He says. “The stakes aren’t really that high and I have some fun tricks up my sleeve as always!”

It turns out that the bout almost never happened. Not because Negreanu – perhaps poker’s biggest Rocky fan didn’t fancy the fight, but because, unlike the infamous Rocky Balboa taking on Apollo Creed or Ivan Drago, he had no major problem with Persson.

Eric Persson pointing his finger

“Originally I declined to play because I really don’t have any beef with Eric at all!” says Negreanu. “I figured there might be more matches that have the animosity built in, a la Nik ‘Airball’ and [Matt] Berkey. But they really wanted me to play, so I obliged. It isn’t a war or bloodbath with anything on the line outside of the money.”

It may not be a war, but Daniel Negreanu will change the moment that first card is spun into the air above the purple felt at the PokerGO Studio at ARIA. His competitive nature commands it, his legacy demands it and the strategist within him embraces it.

Kid Poker still can’t help wanting to test himself against the biggest names in the game – whoever they are.

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Paul seaton

Paul Seaton, a poker luminary with over a decade of experience, has reported live from iconic poker events, including the World Series of Poker, European Poker Tour, and World Poker Tour. He's not just a spectator; he's been the Editor of BLUFF Europe Magazine and Head of Media for partypoker. Paul's poker insights have graced publications like PokerNews, 888poker, and PokerStake, where he's interviewed poker legends such as Daniel Negreanu, Erik Seidel, Phil Hellmuth, and The Hendon Mob’s, entire lineup. His exceptional work even earned him a Global Poker Award nomination for Best Written Content. In the poker world, Paul Seaton's expertise is a force to be reckoned with, captivating enthusiasts worldwide.
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