It was set to be one of the most anticipated poker events of 2021, at least this far. However, it seems that the poker world is going to have to wait a couple more weeks for it. It was announced this afternoon that the battle between 15-time WSOP bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth and fellow Poker Hall of Famer Daniel Negreanu on the PokerGO program High Stakes Duel has been postponed.
Postponed Due to “Non-Player COVID Concerns”
According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Jim Barnes, the made-for-television event was supposed to be played out on Tuesday. PokerGO, citing a “non-player COVID concern,” postponed the event on Sunday afternoon until March 31. PokerGO has not elaborated on this issue at this time and neither have the combatants in the tournament.
High Stakes Duel was supposed to pit Hellmuth and Negreanu against each other in a potentially escalating cash game match. The first match would see both players sit down with $50,000 each and play would commence until one player had all the cash on the table. There would be an option to stop there but, if the duo decided to play again, the stakes would rise to $100,000 from each man, with the same goal to go until one player had all the cash.
This would be the second battle in the High Stakes Duel series. Last year, Hellmuth squared off against Antonio Esfandiari with the same format. Hellmuth would simply dominate throughout the entire battle, winning three consecutive matches to take $350,000 off Esfandiari. Hellmuth was ready to continue the fight with “The Magician,” but Esfandiari apparently did not want to take the chance in upping the stakes to the required $400,000 for a fourth match.
Animosity Spikes Rivalry Between Hellmuth and Negreanu
In the Hellmuth/Esfandiari match, there was not any acrimony between the two players. This is completely different when it comes to the battle between Hellmuth and Negreanu. In fact, the animosity has reached a fever pitch in the days before the match was delayed.
While Negreanu was going about his “grudge match” against Doug Polk – one in which he dropped slightly more than $2 million – Hellmuth was one of the loudest critics of Negreanu’s play. He berated Negreanu’s play on many occasions in very public settings, indicating that Hellmuth knew the coaches that Negreanu had. In those complaints, Hellmuth insinuated that Negreanu was ignoring his coaches instead of following their instructions.
This did not sit well with Negreanu. He fired back at Hellmuth, issuing the challenge to play heads up and Hellmuth readily accepted the challenge. Since then, Negreanu has been extremely vocal about Hellmuth’s skills, both in cash games and in the high stakes community.
Back at the start of the month, Negreanu stated that he did not think Hellmuth could hang in the “High Roller” events. Negreanu proposed a prop bet that Hellmuth could not emerge in the black after 50 $25,000 Aria “High Roller” tournaments. Negreanu was so confident that he wagered $400,000 against $200,000 from Hellmuth. As there are currently no $25,000 High Roller events on the Aria calendar, we might have to wait a bit for this one.
But that is on the back burner right now. The newly rescheduled High Stakes Duel event will be played out on March 31. How much more vitriol will flow between the duo remains to be seen.