It had to happen at some point. After defeating some of the toughest players in the game – and an amateur who took his shot – Phil Hellmuth’s streak in the made for streaming poker show High Stakes Duel ended. In the resumption of High Stakes Duel III, poker professional Tom Dwan was able to defeat Hellmuth, taking home the $100,000 stake that Hellmuth had brought to the felt.
Not an Easy Battle for Either Player
Sitting on a seven-match winning streak, Hellmuth allowed Dwan to step into High Stakes Duel III without a resetting of the stakes. In the previous match of the third installment, Hellmuth had defeated Fox Sports commentator and amateur player Nick Wright for a $50,000 payday. Wright chose not to continue the match, however, leading to the insertion of Dwan into the match with the stakes moving up to $100,000 for each player.
On the felt in the studios of PokerGO in Las Vegas, Hellmuth and Dwan settled in for what would be an extremely intense five-plus hour fight. Dwan would draw first blood in the battle, working his way to a nut flush on the very first hand to take a small advantage, but it wouldn’t last long. Hellmuth’s approach to this match saw him win several smaller pots to slowly grind his way into a chip lead.
The situation changed about three hours into the battle. After working his way back to a slight edge, Dwan would raise the action from the button with Big Slick. Hellmuth chose to take a different tack than he had earlier in the match with a three bet while holding pocket sevens. Just as surprising, Dwan would fire back against Hellmuth, pushing his stack to the center and putting Hellmuth to a decision for his remaining chips.
Although Hellmuth had a slight edge in the hand, roughly a 52/48 favorite to win, it wasn’t the automatic call that many might think. With roughly 70 big blinds in his stack, even if he folded Hellmuth would have plenty of ammunition to fight onward. In the end, Hellmuth let the hand go and, as it would turn out, the match would get away.
Hellmuth would grind back to a slight disadvantage (Dwan’s 130K in chips to Hellmuth’s 70K), but he would never again see the lead. On the final hand, Hellmuth tried to trap Dwan by limping in with pocket Aces and Dwan would oblige by checking his 9-3. A trey would come on the flop and Hellmuth’s stack would go to the center, which Dwan called. Looking to dodge another trey or a nine, Hellmuth’s luck would run out when a nine hit the turn, giving Dwan nines up and the lead. When the river blanked, Dwan became the first player to defeat Hellmuth in High Stakes Duel competition.
Extension of Rivalry Between Hellmuth and Dwan
The High Stakes Duel battle between Hellmuth and Dwan is perhaps an extension of the rivalry between Hellmuth and Dwan. Back in 2008 at the National Heads-Up Poker Championship, Hellmuth was defeated in much the same manner – his pocket Aces cracked by Dwan’s minimal holdings – which brought a then-usual tirade from Hellmuth. Dwan, then just considered an online phenom, challenged the former World Champion to a heads-up fight at any stakes. The High Stakes Duel showdown, thirteen years later, would seem to be a resumption of those hostilities.
Dwan has been the first person to defeat Hellmuth in this competition. In late 2020, Hellmuth took the fight to Antonio Esfandiari and vanquished him in each of their three matches. He would earn a $350,000 payday for that effort. Earlier this year (after Hellmuth belittled his play in another heads-up match), Hellmuth was successful in three more matches against Daniel Negreanu, scoring another $350,000. Most recently, Hellmuth went up against Wright and won, adding another $50K to his bank.
As far as a third match – where the stakes would be $200,000 for each man – Hellmuth remained noncommittal immediately following the conclusion of the event. “I’m not sure if I’m going to challenge,” Hellmuth stated to PokerGO president Mori Eskandani on his way out the door. “I need to go watch the match and then I’ll decide.” According to the rules of the match, Hellmuth has 72 hours to decide whether he wants to up the stakes, so there should be some word before the end of the weekend on whether Hellmuth will continue onward.
(Photos courtesy of PokerGO.com)