High Stakes Duel on PokerGO: A Comprehensive Guide

high stakes duel poker

What is High Stakes Duel?

High Stakes Duel is a PokerGO creation that pits two intriguing poker players against each other in a heads-up no-limit hold'em battle. Each series of games begins with a $50,000-per-player buy-in and then doubles each round. The contest could reach as high as a $12.8 million pot if the competitors have the gamble, and the money, in them to do so.

The format is different than most heads-up poker challenges, such as the Galfond Challenge. Instead of cash game style, the matches are of the sit-n-go variety and played deep stack from the start. Once either player is out of chips, the match ends and then the losing player has the option to challenge the winner to a rematch.

The exception to that rule is if the winner has taken down three straight matches. In that case, they can cash out and start from scratch ($100,00 pot) against a brand new opponent. For example, if Phil Ivey were to defeat Tony G in Rounds 1, 2, and 3, he could deny his opponent another rematch and take his money and run. Each losing player who comes back for another shot must double the prize pool alone, while the winning player doesn't have to pay a penny for a rematch game.

What is at Stake in High Stakes Duel?

Money, pride, and bragging rights are at stake during each episode of High Stakes Duel, all of which air on the PokerGO app. PokerGO attempts to put together matchups that are entertaining for the viewers to watch, so those who aren't exciting to watch aren't likely to make it onto the show.

high stakes duel hellmuth
Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu competed on High Stakes Duel II.

A series of HSD games starts with two players paying $50,000 to enter. The loser then has the option to challenge the winner to a rematch, and must pay $100,000 to get back into the game, creating a $200,000 prize pool for Round 2. After each round, the same double-up concept applies, as follows:

  • Round 1 - $100,000 Prize Pool
  • Round 2 - $200,000 Prize Pool
  • Round 3 - $400,000 Prize Pool
  • Round 4 - $800,000 Prize Pool
  • Round 5 - $1,600,000 Prize Pool
  • Round 6 - $3,200,000 Prize Pool
  • Round 7 - $6,400,000 Prize Pool
  • Round 8 - $12,800,000 Prize Pool

Once Round 8 ends, the series of games comes to a close. That said, there aren't many poker pros, if any, who'd be wiling to take on the risk of going that far into the game. It will likely take a pair of wealthy investors or entrepreneurs such as Golden State Warriors co-owner Chamath Palihapitiya or social media playboy Dan Bilzerian to go the distance.

Each match takes place inside the PokerGO Studio on the Las Vegas Strip. The shows are recorded and then air on PokerGO the following day. Every hand is shown with hole cards visible so viewers can see all the action.

High Stakes Duel I Recap

Phil Hellmuth vs. Antonio Esfandiari Round 1

phil hellmuth antonio esfandiari
Phil Hellmuth and Antonio Esfandiari

$100,000 Prize Pool

On July 30, 2020, PokerGO debuted the first-ever High Stakes Duel match between Phil Hellmuth and Antonio Esfandiari. Entering the contest, Esfandiari was perhaps a bit overconfident.

In the past, the "Magician" had challenged the "Poker Brat" to a heads-up match "any time, any place," and the winner gets to taser the loser. That wasn't part of the HSD competition, but both players paid $50,000 in what was a lengthy and entertaining battle between two of poker's most popular players.

Key Hands in the Match

Hand #1: With the blinds at 1,500/3,000 and both players at or near 100 bigs, Esfandiari attempted to make a play on the river with {10-Spades}{3-Spades} on a board of {7-Spades}{8-Spades}{2-Hearts}{7-Clubs}{2-Clubs}, a missed flush draw. The 2012 WSOP Big One for One Drop $18 million winner bet 19,000 into a pot of 34,000 and got snap-called by {q-Spades}{q-Diamonds}, putting Hellmuth in a slight lead.

Hand #2: Moments later, the river bet was kind to Esfandiari when he wagered 34,000 with {j-Clubs}{7-Diamonds} on a board of {7-Spades}{10-Clubs}{6-Diamonds}{10-Spades}{j-Diamonds} and took down the pot when his opponent called the bet with {8-Spades}{6-Clubs}, which brought Esfandiari back into the lead.

Hand #3: In the third hand, Hellmuth received perhaps most crucial river card all match. With Esfandiari beginning to take over, he bet 8,000 on a flop of {6-Hearts}{2-Hearts}{6-Spades} with {j-Diamonds}{2-Spades}, and the "Poker Brat" was setting up a bluff later in the hand, so he made the call with {7-Clubs}{5-Hearts}. The turn was the {6-Clubs}. Esfandiari bet out again, this time for 18,000. As mentioned, Hellmuth had a bluff in mind, so he raised to 61,000 before getting lucky on the {5-Diamonds} river. Esfandiari checked, Hellmuth bet 34,000 and received a call.

"Are you kidding me?" a confused Esfandiari shouted. "You want to talk about luck? How lucky are you?"

Hand #4: After Hellmuth bluffed Esfandiari off trip kings in a huge pot, he began to take control of the match. And then with blinds at 4,000/8,000, he raised to 24,000 with {7-Spades}{7-Clubs}. The "Magician,' holding {q-Clubs}{j-Clubs}, was ready to gamble and shoved all-in for 245,000. With very little hesitation, the 1989 world champion called. They both watched the board run out {4-Diamonds}{a-Hearts}{8-Spades}{5-Hearts}{2-Hearts}. That put an end to the three-hour back-and-forth battle, the first ever High Stakes Duel match.

Phil Hellmuth vs. Antonio Esfandiari Round 2

phil hellmuth antonio esfandiari

$200,000 Prize Pool

Within 10 seconds after losing the first game, Esfandiari challenged his opponent to a rematch. Two months later, the two poker legends were back inside the PokerGO Studio to compete for the $200,000 prize pool. This time around, the defending champ was in for quite a tussle against a confident competitor.

Key Hands in the Match

Hand #1: In an early hand, Esfandiari raised to 500 holding the {q-Hearts}{9-Diamonds} and Hellmuth called with the {k-Hearts}{j-Spades} before checking in the dark. Hellmuth then called a bet of 600 on the {k-Diamonds}{10-Hearts}{5-Hearts} flop before checking in the dark again.

The {q-Spades} turn paired Esfandiari and he bet 1,400. Again, Hellmuth called and checked in the dark for the third time. The {a-Diamonds} river improved the “Poker Brat” to the nuts – the Broadway straight – but he gave up his option by checking in the dark. Fortunately for him, Esfandiari went for value with a bet of 3,200.

As expected, Hellmuth came back with a check-raise, making it 9,600 to go, and Esfandiari released. Hellmuth pulled out to an early 111,000-to-88,000 lead.

Hand #2: With the blinds at 200/400, Hellmuth just called with the {a-Clubs}{q-Spades} and Esfandiari checked his option with the {9-Hearts}{6-Clubs}. On the {5-Hearts}{k-Clubs}{9-Spades} flop, Esfandiari checked, Hellmuth bet 1,000, and Esfandiari check-raised to 3,100. Not to be outdone, Hellmuth three-bet it to 12,200 and Esfandiari called with middle pair, which improved to two pair when the {6-Hearts} hit the turn.

Esfandiari checked, Hellmuth bet 15,700, and Esfandiari called to see the {4-Clubs} river. Esfandiari checked for the third time and Hellmuth gave up by checking behind. Esfandiari laid claim to the 56,600 pot and took the chip lead with 114K to Hellmuth’s 85K.

Hand #3: In the next hand, Esfandiari lost a key pot thanks to an unlucky river card that took his ability to bluff Hellmuth off the hand. With the board reading {4-Hearts}{j-Diamonds}{j-Spades}{7-Clubs}, Hellmuth bet out 3,000 with {a-Clubs}{3-Clubs}. With action back on the "Magician," who had {8-Diamonds}{5-Clubs} — nothing but an inside straight draw — he came over the top for 11,300, and this his opponent fired back a raise to 29,000 with ace-high.

Esfandiari still wasn't a believer so he surprisingly made the call in position with eight-high, clearly expecting to jam river. Hellmuth then checked in the dark before the {a-Spades} turned over on the river. Knowing he couldn't win the pot with eight-high, the chip leader put his opponent all-in for about 34,000, who made the call to go from a 2-1 disadvantage to a 2-1 lead.

"If the ace don't come, I'm winning the pot 100% of the time," a frustrated Esfandiari informed the 16-time WSOP bracelet winner.

Hand #4: The match completely turned around in favor of the "Poker Brat" following the previously mentioned hand. He was up 179k to 21k with the blinds at 1,000/2,000. Esfandiari jammed from the button with {j-Hearts}{10-Diamonds} and heard a snap-call with {k-Clubs}{10-Spades}. The best hand would hold up as the board ran out {8-Diamonds}{2-Hearts}{7-Clubs}{a-Diamonds}{4-Clubs}, putting an end to Round 2.

Phil Hellmuth vs. Antonio Esfandiari Round 3

phil hellmuth antonio esfandiari

$400,000 Prize Pool

The pressure was on Esfandiari in Round 3 for a couple of reasons. First off, if he were to lose the match, which took place in October 2020, there was a good chance that Hellmuth would decide to cash out and deny him another rematch. And the stakes were starting to get big even for these wealthy poker players. So, he desperately needed to pull off a victory and avoid going home empty-handed.

Key Hands in the Match

Hand #1: At the 500/1,000 level, Hellmuth limped the button with the {q-Diamonds}{9-Clubs} and then called when Esfandiari, who had pulled out to a very small chip lead, raised to 3,300 with the {j-Diamonds}{10-Diamonds}. The {5-Diamonds}{q-Hearts}{10-Hearts} flop gave both players a pair but it went check-check nonetheless.

On the {q-Spades} turn, Esfandiari bet 2,700 and Hellmuth just called with trips to see the {8-Hearts} river. Esfandiari checked but wasted little time in calling a bet of 7,000 from Hellmuth, who took back the chip lead after falling behind a bit early.

Hand #2: With the blinds at 600/1,200 and both players hovering around the 200,000 starting stack, Hellmuth limped with {j-Diamonds}{9-Diamonds} and the big blind checked with {8-Diamonds}{2-Diamonds}. The flop of {j-Clubs}{q-Diamonds}{4-Diamonds} was an action board as it gave one player a pair and both a flush draw. Hellmuth bet 1,300 following a check and then Esfandiari check-raised to 4,300. Hellmuth, nearly having his opponent drawing dead, three-bet to 10,000 and got a call.

The {a-Diamonds} was especially brutal for Esfandiari, who bet out 16,200. Hellmuth called to see a meaningless {10-Hearts} on the river. Another lead bet was in store, this one for 33,800, and then got raised another 40,000, to which he simply couldn't fold a flush on a non-paired board, although it was a losing hand.

Hand #3: The duo jostled for a long time exchanging small-to-medium-sized pots, during which time Hellmuth shoved all in more than once over an Esfandiari open such as when the former jammed for 144K with the {a-Clubs}{q-Diamonds} after the latter had opened for 6,000 holding the {5-Spades}{5-Hearts}.

Then, with the blinds at 1,500/3,000, Esfandiari raised to 6,000 holding the {9-Hearts}{9-Diamonds} and Hellmuth defended his big blind with the {7-Clubs}{4-Clubs} to see a {2-Spades}{5-Clubs}{3-Clubs} flop.

Hellmuth checked-called a bet of 6,500 with his straight and flush draws and then checked in the dark headed to the turn, which was the {5-Spades}. Esfandiari bet 15,500 and Hellmuth just folded.

“You call all-in on the flop?” Hellmuth asked. Esfandiari responded that he would have. “I don’t think anyone else folds my hand there.”

Both Nick Schulman and Ali Nejad agreed from the commentary booth.

Hand #4: In what would be the final hand of the match, the blinds were 1,500/3,000 when Esfandiari limped holding the {a-Clubs}{3-Diamonds} and Hellmuth raised to 13,000 with the {a-Diamonds}{10-Diamonds}. Esfandiari responded by jamming for 129K and Hellmuth snap-called.

“Nice hand, Phil,” said Esfandiari. The {9-Hearts}{a-Hearts}{k-Clubs} flop meant Hellmuth’s kicker played, but some a nine would chop it given the king on board. The {j-Spades} turn meant a jack would result in a chop as well, but the {8-Hearts} river was a brick.

With that, the first-ever High Stakes Duel series of games came to a close. Hellmuth declined to offer a rematch and cashed out the $400,000 pot, $350,000 of which was profit.

High Stakes Duel II Recap

Phil Hellmuth vs. Daniel Negreanu Round 1

daniel negreanu phil hellmuth

$100,000 Prize Pool

Phil Hellmuth was back to compete in the second series of High Stakes Duel, this time against Daniel Negreanu, who stepped into the hot seat instead of Tom Dwan due to some bad blood at the time brewing between Hellmuth and the GGPoker ambassador.

Leading up to the match, "DNegs" had challenged the WSOP record holder's legacy. He went so far as to say that Hellmuth isn't a very good heads-up player and predicted he'd win. Negreanu was fresh off losing $1.2 million in a 25,000-hand heads-up challenge to his former rival Doug Polk when High Stakes Duel II began in April 2021. He was looking to bounce back from a tough but predictable defeat against Polk, and it appeared he was heading that way in Round 1.

For the first time in four matches to this point, Hellmuth was outplayed. He was down to just 3,000 chips at one point with 100,000 total in play. And then it all miraculously turned around for the 1989 WSOP Main Event champion.

Key Hands in the Match

Hand #1: The hand that appeared to be the dagger for Hellmuth came with the blinds at 250/500, he limped with {9-Diamonds}{9-Clubs} on the button. Negreanu then raised to 1,500 with {6-Diamonds}{4-Diamonds}, to which the "Poker Brat" limp-raised to 3,700 and both players took a flop.

The flop was {4-Spades}{3-Hearts}{4-Hearts}, giving Negreanu trips and what appeared to be the likely ending of the match. He checked and his opponent bet 4,000 with the over-pair, and "Kid Poker" called. The {8-Hearts} on the turn caused both players to check. When the {5-Spades} hit on the river, Negreanu led out for 5,000 this time and received a quick call from the inferior hand. That left Hellmuth with just 7,000 chips, but he'd soon catch a heater.

Hand #2: The first big jump for Hellmuth came when he had about 11K in his stack and defended the blind from a min-raise with {q-Clubs}{6-Clubs}. Negreanu held {10-Clubs}{5-Clubs} and Hellmuth check-raised all in with a superior draw over a small c-bet on {4-Clubs}{2-Clubs}{3-Diamonds}. Negreanu called saying he figured he was 50-50, but Hellmuth's hand held as he hit a straight on the {5-Diamonds} turn to all but seal it.

Hand #3: The lead finally changed hands when Negreanu raised his previously lucky {k-Diamonds}{9-Diamonds} — he'd won three times with it already — to 3,000 at 500/1,000, and Hellmuth gave him action with {9-Hearts}{6-Hearts} after limping. Hellmuth called a small bet of 1,500 on the {k-Hearts}{10-Hearts}{q-Diamonds} flop then 5,000 more on the {6-Spades}. Negreanu blocked for 6,000 on the {3-Hearts} and Hellmuth made it 17,500. Negreanu let it go but was down to 36,000.

Hand #4: Negreanu only had about 15,000 left when he was all in with {7-Hearts}{6-Hearts} but had this time run into a huge hand in {9-Spades}{9-Diamonds}. Negreanu seemed confident a sweat was coming but the {8-Hearts}{5-Hearts}{j-Clubs} was probably better than he could have hoped to see. The {k-Clubs} didn't help him on the turn, and neither did the {8-Spades} on the river and the incredible comeback was complete. Hellmuth moved to 4-0 on High Stakes Duel.

Phil Hellmuth vs. Daniel Negreanu Round 2

daniel negreanu phil hellmuth

$200,000 Prize Pool

The two Poker Hall of Famers returned to the PokerGO Studio in May 2021 with Hellmuth seeking a fifth consecutive win on the show, and "Kid Poker" in search of avenging his previous loss. This match was quite different from Round 1 in that Negreanu didn't dominate the bulk of the match.

He did, however, build a bit of a lead during the early and middle stages, albeit a smaller one than in Round 1. But once again, he couldn't hold onto that lead against a determined opponent.

Key Hands in the Match

Hand #1: Action slowed for a bit following an intense first hour, and then Hellmuth picked up his aggression level. Negreanu simply didn't have many hands with which he wished to contest big pots, either via bluffing or for value, and Hellmuth got several bluffs through to creep closer.

He had a shot to get close to even when he opted to limp {a-Hearts}{a-Clubs} and Negreanu checked {k-Hearts}{10-Clubs}. Negreanu check-called 600, half the pot, on {9-Spades}{3-Clubs}{j-Clubs}. He check-called 1,500 more on the {6-Diamonds} and river was the {5-Diamonds}. Negreanu checked, Hellmuth bet 4,000. Negreanu made it 17,000 and Hellmuth pretty much snap-folded. Had he called, he'd have been down only about 107K to 93K.

Hand #2: On the very next hand with blinds at 400/800 and Negreanu up 126k to 74k, the match turned around big time. Negreanu raised to 2,000 with {q-Diamonds}{10-Diamonds} and then called a three-bet to 8,000 against {10-Spades}{9-Spades}. The flop of {q-Spades}{8-Spades}{2-Diamonds} mysteriously brought about two checks. When the {9-Clubs} hit on the river, Hellmuth led for 9,000 and his opponent made the call. The {4-Spades} brought about a flush to the "Poker Brat," so he bet out 18,000. After some thought, the six-time WSOP bracelet winner simply couldn't find a fold and Hellmuth jumped out to the lead.

Hand #3: After Negreanu battled back into a slight lead, he picked up the dream scenario but may have missed out on an opportunity to finish off the match. Negreanu raised to 2,000 preflop with {k-Diamonds}{4-Diamonds} and received a call from {10-Diamonds}{8-Diamonds}. The flop came out {2-Diamonds}{5-Diamonds}{6-Spades}, both players drawing to a flush. Negreanu bet 1,600 and Hellmuth made the call with the smaller flush draw. The turn was gin for Negreanu — {q-Diamonds}. He bet 3,600 and his opponent called. When the {6-Spades} on the river paired the board, Negreanu bet 14,400 (size of the pot) and Hellmuth snap-called instead of raising, which saved him chips and kept him in the game, although he was down big again.

Hand #4: Shortly after, Hellmuth would take full control of the match and held a 3-1 chip advantage entering the final hand, a very lucky hand for the poker legend. Negreanu raised to 4,000 with {8-Spades}{8-Clubs} and then Hellmuth jammed all-in with {a-Hearts}{4-Clubs}. The GGPoker ambassador realized he'd be nuts to fold a middle pair in that spot given his chip stack (45,000), so he called and watched an unfavorable board of {j-Hearts}{9-Hearts}{9-Clubs}{6-Hearts}{k-Hearts}, giving Hellmuth the nut flush and a second straight win over Negreanu, fifth consecutive on High Stakes Duel.

Phil Hellmuth vs. Daniel Negreanu Round 3

daniel negreanu phil hellmuth

$400,000 Prize Pool

It was now or never for Negreanu. Either win Round 3 or leave with a $350,000 loss and a soul-crushing three straight defeats to the poker player whose heads-up game he'd criticized. Pride was certainly on the line for one of poker's all-time greats in this match. But again, he was facing a determined opponent who really wanted to stick it to him. How'd the cards play out? Let's take a look.

Key Hands in the Match

Hand #1: In the first key hand of the match, Hellmuth took a wild line with {8-Clubs}{3-Clubs} and won a massive pot on a bluff. The hand began with Negreanu raising to 1,500 with {2-Diamonds}{2-Clubs} and then Hellmuth surprisingly three-betting his junk had to 4,800, which turned out to be just the start of the preflop action.

Negreanu then four-bet to 13,000, which convinced Hellmuth to five-bet it to 35,000. Refusing to fold his small pair, Negreanu came along for the ride. The flop was {10-Diamonds}{6-Spades}{j-Clubs}, helpful to neither player, but Negreanu bet 21,000 following a check. Hellmuth made the call with nothing but eight-high and a backdoor flush draw. When the {6-Clubs} appeared on the turn, Hellmuth picked up a flush draw and bet out on a semi-bluff for 42,000. Negreanu couldn't find a call and the "Poker Brat" took down a 154,000-chip pot to take the lead.

Hand #2: In the next featured hand, Hellmuth again got frisky preflop, this time with {q-Hearts}{3-Hearts} when he three-bet to 11,000 but was up against {9-Spades}{9-Clubs}. Fortunately, for him, the flop of {3-Clubs}{3-Spades}{2-Spades} was a dream come true because it not only gave him trip, but also left Negreanu stuck on a over-pair that would be tough to fold.

Negreanu bet 7,000, and then Hellmuth check-raised to 25,000, which earned him a call. The {5-Clubs} on a turn brought about a second flush draw, and Hellmuth checked again. Similar to the flop, Negreanu bet out, this time for 35,000. Hellmuth, who trailed, snap-jammed all-in for 126,000. Negreanu used a pair of time extension chips before making the call only to find out the bad news. The {10-Hearts} on the river was of no help to "DNegs," who was in a massive deficit.

Hand #3: On the ensuing hand, the breaks turned back in Negreanu's favor. With Hellmuth holding {6-Hearts}{5-Spades} on a {3-Spades}{4-Diamonds}{9-Hearts}{2-Hearts}{3-Hearts} board, a small pot seemingly brewing, he bet out 2,000. Negreanu, who rivered a flush with {k-Hearts}{j-Hearts}, raised to 15,000 and got the call he was looking for. He was still in a deep hole (4-1 in chips), but was starting to make up some ground.

Hand #4: After Negreanu twice sucked out all-in to stay alive, the fortune reversed course on the final hand of High Stakes Duel II Round 3. Hellmuth had {10-Diamonds}{6-Diamonds} and Negreanu held {6-Spades}{5-Spades} on a board of {2-Diamonds}{7-Spades}{9-Diamonds}{8-Hearts}. Hellmuth wagered 11,000 into a pot of 55,000, and Negreanu moved all-in for 160,000. Hellmuth, of course, made the call with the higher straight and then shipped the pot after the {3-Spades} appeared on the river. And that was the official end of High Stakes Duel II as Hellmuth declined to offer another rematch, so he cashed out the $400,000 pot for the second straight time.

High Stakes Duel III Recap

Phil Hellmuth vs. Nick Wright Round 1

nick wright phil hellmuth

$100,000 Prize Pool

Hellmuth came back for High Stakes Duel III, but he faced a different type of opponent this time around. Instead of battling against a fellow poker pro, he took on FS1 sports talk personality Nick Wright, who put up quite the fight. Few expected an amateur with limited poker experience to compete with one of the all-time greats, especially considering Hellmuth was 6-0 on High Stakes Duel entering the match.

Wright, as expected, played an unconventional style of poker, but he performed at a higher level than anyone could have reasonably anticipated. He pulled off a number of impressive bluffs and confused his opponent often by lying about the hand he had. Eventually, though, Hellmuth began to catch on.

Key Hands in the Match

Hand #1: Wright had all the momentum early and had nearly triple the stack of Hellmuth before 'The Poker Brat' came storming back to bring the stacks closer. Wright once again appeared to be in control after picking off the following bluff with quads.

Wright with {q-Hearts}{q-Diamonds} opened to 750 with blinds at 150/300 and Hellmuth called from the big blind with {7-Diamonds}{5-Diamonds}. Both players checked after the {2-Spades}{q-Spades}{8-Clubs} flop gave Wright a set.

The {q-Clubs} on the turn improved Wright to quad queens. Hellmuth bet 900 and Wright snap-raised to 2,000. Hellmuth fired in an ill-timed three-bet to 5,500 and Wright was Hollywooding with a small tank including using a time-extension token before he called.

Hellmuth then bet 7,200 on the {3-Spades} river. Wright raised to 27,000 and Hellmuth snap-folded.

Hand #2: Hellmuth limped the button with {10-Hearts}{10-Diamonds} and Wright checked back from the big blind with {j-Diamonds}{9-Hearts}. The {9-Diamonds}{4-Diamonds}{10-Clubs} flop gave Wright middle pair but he was well behind Hellmuth's top set. Wright checked before opting to call a min-bet of 500 by Hellmuth.

The {7-Hearts} turn also gave Wright a gutshot straight draw and the sports radio talk show host check-called a bet by Hellmuth for 1,000.

Wright improved to two-pair on the {j-Spades} river and checked once again. Hellmuth bet 1,400 and won the pot after Wright called.

"That could have been so much worse," Wright commented after the hand. "Oh my God."

Hand #3: Hellmuth, who had pulled out to a big lead following an early deficit, limped the button with {q-Hearts}{j-Spades} with the blinds at 400/800. Wright made a monster over-raise from the big blind with {5-Spades}{5-Diamonds} for 12,200 and Hellmuth called.

If Hellmuth was able to win the flip, the match would have ended right there and then. But this was not to be as Hellmuth was nearly drawing dead after the {5-Hearts}{3-Diamonds}{3-Clubs} flop as he needed running queens or running jacks to win the pot.

Wright secured the hand after Hellmuth was drawing dead on the {a-Spades} turn and was awarded the pot and trimmed Hellmuth's lead to a 3:1 chip advantage after the {8-Diamonds} completed the board.

Hand #4: The final hand was a huge cooler for Wright with blinds at 800/1,600. Hellmuth limped the button with {8-Clubs}{5-Clubs} and Wright checked back with {7-Clubs}{6-Clubs}. The {k-Clubs}{5-Spades}{a-Clubs} flop gave both players a flush draw. However, Hellmuth had the advantage with not only the better flush draw but also connecting his five for bottom pair.

Wright check-called for 2,000 before the action {10-Clubs} on the turn gave both players a flush. At this point, it was evident that the match would likely be over, it was just a matter of whether the chips went in on the turn or the river. Wright was still alive on the turn thanks to slow-playing his flush with a check-call of 3,000 when facing a bet by Hellmuth.

The {8-Diamonds} river didn't change the dynamic of the hand by adding a fourth club on the board. Wright checked and Hellmuth bet 7,400. Wright jammed for 22,000 and the match was over after Hellmuth called. Wright lost the match after a hard-fought battle and then took a few days before deciding that he wouldn't challenge Hellmuth to a rematch.

Phil Hellmuth vs. Tom Dwan Round 2

phil hellmuth tom dwan

$200,000 Prize Pool

With Wright out of the way, Hellmuth needed a new opponent, and that turned out to be the great Tom Dwan, one of the greatest online poker players ever. Dwan was required to pay $100,000 to replace Wright to enter at the Round 2 stage, creating a $200,000 prize pool.

Hellmuth had a 7-0 High Stakes Duel record to protect, but he knew it wasn't going to be easy against a skilled opponent such as "durrrr." That said, he's faced and beaten plenty of difficult foes over the years, so why would this be any different?

Key Hands in the Match

Hand #1: The first game between these two poker giants didn't have many fireworks. Both players had to grind for every chip. Early on, with Hellmuth out to a slim lead, he picked off one of the patented "durrrr" bluffs, mostly because he had a big hand. After Dwan had semi-bluffed his {9-Hearts}{7-Diamonds} open-ender on the flop of {q-Hearts}{6-Hearts}{8-Diamonds} and then {2-Spades} on the turn, he tried once again when the {a-Clubs} hit on the river. The only problem was Hellmuth, who just check-called throughout, was sitting there with {q-Clubs}{6-Clubs} for two pair and wasn't going anywhere. That gave the "Poker Brat" a 126k to 74k lead.

Hand #2: Speaking of failed bluff attempts, in this hand Hellmuth min-raised Dwan's 1,000-chip bet with {2-Clubs}{9-Spades}{9-Clubs} with {k-Spades}{j-Diamonds}. That didn't scare his opponent away, who was holding {9-Diamonds}{8-Clubs}. The turn was the {8-Diamonds}, filling up Dwan. Hellmuth continued to bluff and fired out 2,800 with king-high. The former Full Tilt Poker pro continued to play it slow. When the {q-Spades} turned over on the river, Dwan hoped his opponent would fire out another bet, but Hellmuth wisely checked it back. Dwan still pulled out to a sizable chip lead.

Hand #3: Once again, Hellmuth's aggressiveness came at the wrong time. On a flop of {9-Diamonds}{9-Spades}{8-Spades}, he raised Dwan's 5,000 bet to 10,000 and his opponent called with {10-Spades}{7-Clubs}, chasing an open-ended straight draw, which he hit thanks to the {j-Hearts} on the turn. Hellmuth continued his aggression and threw out 12,000 chips. Dwan reacted to that bet by moving all-in and Hellmuth snap-folded, giving Dwan a 3-1 chip lead.

Hand #4: On the final hand, with Hellmuth down to just 22,000, he picked up {a-Hearts}{a-Clubs} but just limped on the button. Dwan checked his option with {9-Spades}{3-Clubs} with the blinds at 2,000/4,000. The flop showed {5-Clubs}{2-Hearts}{3-Hearts} and "durrrr" led out for 5,000. Hellmuth, who was sitting on just 4.5 bigs, moved all-in and got snap-called. He was in great shape to double-up until the board finished off {9-Clubs} and then {6-Clubs} to end the match and give Hellmuth his first defeat in eight games. Days later, he challenged Dwan to a rematch.

Phil Hellmuth vs. Tom Dwan Round 3

phil hellmuth tom dwan

$400,000 Prize Pool

In January 2022, five months after the initial match between these two, Round 3 aired on PokerGO. For the first time, Hellmuth was attempting to avenge a loss and was required to pay $200,000 to get back in the game. In between the two matches, Hellmuth won his record-extending 16th WSOP bracelet and set a WSOP single-series record with seven final table appearances. So, Dwan was facing a hot opponent on a heater who was playing with confidence.

Key Hands in the Match

Hand #1: With both players near even in stacks and the blinds at 300/600, they each limped — Hellmuth holding {10-Hearts}{10-Diamonds} and Dwan with {k-Clubs}{4-Clubs}. The flop was {j-Clubs}{3-Clubs}{9-Hearts} and Hellmuth fired out a min-bet only to have his opponent check-raise to 2,500. When the {q-Spades} hit on the turn, Dwan added a gut-shot straight draw to his flush draw, and he bet 5,200. Hellmuth, with a pair and an open-ender, called to see the {6-Clubs} on the river. Dwan bet 8,700 and Hellmuth made the correct fold.

Hand #2: In the next featured hand, we again cover a couple of drawing hands. Hellmuth started with {k-Hearts}{10-Hearts} and Dwan with {k-Diamonds}{2-Diamonds}. Both players were about even in chips, and this was one of the most crucial hands of the competitive match. Dwan raised to 2,800 preflop and his opponent called. The action flop of {7-Hearts}{4-Hearts}{10-Diamonds} turned over and Hellmuth check-called a 3,600 bet.

The turn was the {a-Hearts}, both players now with a flush draw. Dwan bet out 9,600 and then called a odd min-raise bet. A {9-Spades} appeared on the river, improving neither hand. Both players were content to check and Hellmuth moved into the chip lead.

Hand #3: This next hand was essentially the match, or at least the most crucial hand of the day. Hellmuth limped for 800 with {7-Hearts}{4-Diamonds} on the button and Dwan made a huge raise to 5,600 with {10-Diamonds}{10-Hearts}. The 16-time bracelet winner got a bit frisky and popped it to 21,000, and of course, his opponent wasn't going away.

The flop came out {j-Spades}{2-Hearts}{7-Diamonds} and both players checked. When the {7-Clubs} hit on the turn, the match instantly became Hellmuth's to lose. Dwan again checked and then Hellmuth, holding trips, bet 17,000, which didn't scare "durrrr" away so he called.

Following the meaningless {9-Hearts} on the river, Hellmuth bet out 37,000 and received a crying call. That put the former poker world champion out in front 3-1 in chips.

Hand #4: On the final hand, Dwan raised to 7,000 with {8-Hearts}{8-Clubs} and Hellmuth jammed all-in for 70,000 effective with {a-Clubs}{k-Spades}. The board ran out {5-Diamonds}{2-Hearts}{k-Diamonds}{6-Hearts}{6-Diamonds}, giving Hellmuth top pair to finish off the three-hour match.

Phil Hellmuth vs. Scott Seiver Round 4

scott seiver phil hellmuth

$800,000 Prize Pool

Dwan had challenged Hellmuth to a rubber match, but was stuck competing in some Triton high roller events and was unable to make it to Las Vegas in time for the May 13 scheduled date. PokerGO found a quick replacement, Scott Seiver, and the two poker stars battled for an $800,000 pot a few days later.

Seiver, as the new challenger, was on the hook for the entire $400,000 added to the pot. He became Hellmuth's fifth opponent on High Stakes Duel and hoped to put a stop to the 1989 world champion's impressive 8-1 record on the show.

Key Hands in the Match

Hand #1: Hellmuth three-bet for essentially the third time in a row holding the {9-Clubs}{5-Hearts} and Seiver called with the {a-Clubs}{5-Clubs}. Both players checked the {k-Diamonds}{7-Clubs}{7-Diamonds} flop and then Hellmuth bet 48,000 on the {8-Hearts} turn. Seiver called, the {3-Diamonds} appeared on the river, and Hellmuth bet 120,000. Seiver seemed suspicious and gave it some thought but eventually conceded the 290,000 pot, which gave Hellmuth the chip lead.

Hand #2: Not long after, Seiver raised to 11,000 with the {k-Diamonds}{9-Clubs} and then called when Hellmuth once again three-bet, this time to 38,000. Both players checked the {3-Spades}{2-Spades}{q-Spades} flop as well as the {2-Clubs} turn. When the {q-Hearts} doubled paired the board on the river, Hellmuth bet 23,000 with his ace-high and Seiver debated long and hard before paying off with king-high. With that, Hellmuth won a 120,000 pot and pulled out to a more than 2:1 chip lead.

Hand #3: Hellmuth seemed a bit tilted and three-bet with the {10-Diamonds}{9-Spades}, which prompted Seiver to call with his {a-Spades}{10-Clubs}. Hellmuth continued for 44,000 on a {4-Spades}{a-Hearts}{9-Clubs} flop, which paired both players, and Seiver called to see the {3-Diamonds} turn. Action went check-check and the {q-Spades}completed the board on the river. Hellmuth bet 22,000 and Seiver just called and won a 216,000 pot, which essentially gave him a 3:1 lead.

Hand #4: On a flop of {2-Spades}{10-Clubs}{3-Spades}, Seiver bet 16,000 after flopping top pair with his {10-Diamonds}{6-Hearts} only to have Hellmuth, who had smashed the flop with his {3-Spades}{2-Hearts}, raise to 60,000. Seiver moved all in for 226,000 and Hellmuth quickly called. The {q-Spades} turn gave Seiver extra outs but the {5-Spades} river was not one of them.

Hellmuth clapped his hands, hugged it out with Seiver, and told him, “I had more fun playing with you than anyone else … I just enjoy the way you handle yourself.”

Phil Hellmuth vs. Jason Koon Round 5

jason koon phil hellmuth

$1,600,000 Prize Pool

For the first time ever, the pot reached $1.6 million when Scott Seiver backed out of the match and left the door open for Jason Koon to step in. And for just the second time in 11 matches, Hellmuth took a defeat.

Koon put on a dominant performance from start to finish and he never really was challenged. Part of the reason he was able to control the game was due to the cards. Hellmuth ran bad and the deck constantly smacked Koon in the face. But the fact of the matter is, he also outplayed and outclassed Hellmuth in every facet of the game. It was one of the most dominant heads up performances between two poker pros you'll likely ever see.

Key Hands from the Match

Hand #1: Early in the match, Hellmuth attempted what proved to be a costly bluff. He picked {q-}{6-} as a prime candidate to five-bet preflop and take down a huge pot that would have given him some early momentum. The only problem is his opponent was sitting on {a-}{a-} and went in for a six-bet jam, forcing Hellmuth to fold and drop to a huge deficit.

Hand #2: Koon raised to 10,000 preflop with {q-Hearts}{j-Spades} before his opponent three-bet to 32,000 with {7-Spades}{4-Hearts}, once again trying to force the action with a mediocre hand. The flop would come out {8-Clubs}{j-Diamonds}{10-Spades} and both players checked to see the {q-Spades} on the turn, giving Koon top two pair, and Hellmuth would bet it for him (14,000). He made the call and when the {5-Spades} appeared on the river, they each checked and Koon took down a 92,000-chip pot to extend his lead.

Hand #3: Moments later, Hellmuth three-bet with {q-Hearts}{j-Spades} but ran into {a-Diamonds}{q-Diamonds} and ended up losing a monster pot following a failed bluff attempt into ace-high on the turn.

Hand #4: Not long after, Hellmuth couldn't find a fold on a four-to-a-straight board with a rivered second pair facing a 56,000-chip bet. Koon, who flopped middle pair, rivered the straight and sent Hellmuth down to just 300,000 chips.

Had Hellmuth won the match, he could have cashed out and taken a $1,350,000 profit following three straight wins (four out of five in the series of games). Koon is now waiting for a challenger to step in for Round 6, a $3.2 million pot. If Hellmuth wants back in, he has that option but would have to pay $1.6 million to enter.

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