How Hellmuth Got Out of Line Against Negreanu in the High Stakes Duel

Daniel Negreanu

Phil Hellmuth’s 7-0 run in the High Stakes Duel may have come to an end at the hands of Tom Dwan, but his run was impressive nonetheless. That included a 3-0 record against Daniel Negreanu, against whom he played a number of interesting hands.

In one, Hellmuth got out of line after flopping a full house when he check-raised on the flop. Following a lot of pressure by Negreanu, will Hellmuth see a showdown, or is was his boat destined to sink?

The hand took place with the blinds at 800/1,600 when Negreanu (117,000 / 73 BBs) raised to 3,500 from the button and Hellmuth (83,000 / 51 BBs) defended his big blind with the {2-Diamonds}{2-Clubs}, which led to an all-four flop of {4-Diamonds}{4-Clubs}{4-Spades}.

Hellmuth checked and Negreanu continued for 1,600. Why so small? Isn’t that suspicious? Not really as this is a board that favors the preflop raiser’s range as they are more likely to have overpairs as they raised preflop and the big blind did not opt to three-bet. For this reason, Negreanu should often continuation-bet on this flop using a small size.

Hellmuth opted to check-raise to 7,000 and Negreanu called. Listen, Phil, when Negreanu calls this check-raise it is extremely likely that you are behind. He can easily fold his bad hands and is only going to call with hands that probably have you beat. He could even have the case four as Negreanu is loose and aggressive, so it’s foreseeable he would raise preflop with a lot of hands that contain a four.

Phil Hellmuth
Phil Hellmuth

Hellmuth does not need to use a large raise size to get worse hands to fold this flop. A smaller raise would help him minimize his loss if Negreanu were to have a strong hand. In other words, he could accomplish his objective by betting smaller.

Negreanu did call and Hellmuth responded by checking in the dark before the {q-Spades} appeared on the turn. Negreanu responded by betting 10,000. This is the problem with putting in the check-raise on the flop with a hand like pocket deuces. He should check-raise on the flop with hands that are capable of beating more than just Negreanu’s bluffs.

As there are very few draws available, Negreanu is either going to be way ahead or way behind Hellmuth, who called to see the {5-Clubs} river. Hellmuth checked and Negreanu bet 40,000 into the 41,000 pot. What do you do with pocket deuces in this scenario?

  • Fold
  • Call
  • Raise all in for 62,500

This is a nasty spot, but I think the clear answer is to just fold. Why? Think about what it looks like Hellmuth has. He check-raised the flop, so he probably has something. He check-called the turn, so he probably has something. Given the way Hellmuth has played this hand, Negreanu should be able to define Hellmuth’s range as having a full house or better. So, if he knows this and he’s betting, I would venture to say that Negreanu can beat most of the full houses.

Hellmuth did let it go, and while he is a wizard, I don’t think this laydown was all that magical. As it happened, Negreanu had the {4-Hearts}{5-Hearts} for quads!

If Hellmuth had check-called the flop then all of Negreanu’s bluffs would have had the opportunity to keep bluffing. However, by check-raising the flop Hellmuth removed the vast majority of Negreanu’s bluffs, so it was no surprise to see him roll over a monster.

For more on this hand, check out my breakdown in the following video:

Jonathan Little is a professional poker player and author with over $7,000,000 in live tournament earnings. He writes a weekly educational blog and hosts a podcast at Sign up to learn poker from Jonathan for free at You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanLittle.

*Lead image courtesy of PokerGO.

  • PokerNews Strategy: @JonathanLittle examines a big hand between @RealKidPoker & @phil_hellmuth.

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