Five Things We Learned in the First 4,651 Hands of Polk vs. Negreanu

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Daniel Negreanu and Doug Polk have finished nearly 20% of their heads-up challenge (PokerGO photo).

FIVE THINGS is a column, written by PocketFives President and Editor in Chief, Lance Bradley that covers pressing topics and current events in the poker world today. It appears periodically at PocketFives.com.

For the last 10 days, the poker world has been tuned in to Daniel Negreanu vs. Doug Polk grudge match. The pair have played a total 4,651 hands and Polk holds a $143,996.16 lead over Negreanu. With nearly 20% of the 25,000-hand challenge (or 40% if the combatant who is trailing at the midway point throws in the towel) now complete, poker fans now have a good idea of what exactly this thing is all about.

Here are Five Things the poker world has learned through the opening salvo of the so-called High Stakes Feud.

It’s Closer Than Expected

In the days leading up to the start of this battle, Polk made it quite clear that he was lookng to put a financial hurting on his opponent and only cared about “backing up the fucking truck”.

While Polk opened up a six-figure lead after Monday night’s lengthy session, that’s only 3.5 buy-ins – not quite yet the thrashing many of Polk’s most ardent supporters were predicting. On the other side of that coin, Negreanu is keeping this heads-up for rolls match close and those who bet on him at 4-1 (or better) are probably feeling pretty good about their wager.

If you want to put on a tinfoil hat and dive deep into a potential conspiracy theory that Sidney Powell would approve of, you might wonder if Polk really believes his edge is massive, why would he want to be up even $1 at the midway mark when Negreanu could simply walk away without losing another cent? Polk might be better served by learning as much as he can about Negreanu’s tendencies over the first 12,500 hands before stepping on the gas pedal of his massive truck and taking home a mid-seven-figure score.

It’s a Viewer’s Utopia

Whether they’re cheering for Negreanu, Polk, or just want to see blood, poker fans have had a plethora of options for how to follow the action as it happens. Rather than tying up the viewing experience with just a single option, Polk and Negreanu allowed the Twitch/YouTube content creators full reign to do as they please with the action. The winner has been the fans.

Polk has been running a livestream on his YouTube channel with the likes of Jamie Kerstetter, Andrew Lichtenberger, Marty Mathis, and others all taking turns calling the action. Negreanu hasn’t done anything on his own, but GGPoker has been running live coverage on GGPoker.tv with Jeff Platt, Niall Farrell, along with GGPoker GGSquad members Kevin Martin and Patrick Tardif, all jumping in at various points to provide analysis and insight. A few days into the challenge, YouTube legend Joey Ingram threw his hat into the ring and fired up a stream of his own. He’s had Nick Schulman and rising star Landon Tice working alongside him. The SolveForWhy crew recently brought their own flavor to the stream game, with Matt Berkey and Christian Soto at the helm.

Can We Pull Back the Curtain Just a Little?

While the live stream options are aplenty, anybody hoping that Polk and Negreanu would give their fans a glimpse at what’s going on beyond the scenes between sessions has been left wanting. Outside of a few post-session interviews with both Polk and Negreanu, the lack of content being produced by these two is somewhat surprising.

Both Polk and Negreanu have a talent group of content creators around them and they have each had a hand in producing some of the best player-created content ever. The stakes being as high as they are – especially when you consider the side action – probably means neither guy wants to give anything away until the session is over. Still, a vlog or two from each camp during the challenge would add a great deal to what we’ve already pointed out is one of the most viewer-friendly experiences in poker history.

Here’s hoping once they’ve played the 25,000 hands that each camp can put out some videos that will take poker fans behind the scenes.

A Cage Match with a Side of Civility

Remember when Negreanu and Polk hated each other? The challenge kicked off with a live session on PokerGO and while Negreanu winning big to kick things off grabbed the headlines, the level of civility these two “mortal enemies” displayed towards each other was also a real talking point. That hasn’t gone away with the shift to the online felt.

Outside of a small needle here or there on social media, there’s been no real hatred – or even dislike – shown towards each other, even as both enjoyed or endured a six-figure swing in the opening few weeks. Fans firmly entrenched on one player’s side were prepped and ready with More Rake is Better memes and oh-so-tired Vanessa Selbst jokes, but for better worse, they’ve been left to follow the lead of Polk and Negreanu who seem to be much too focused on the actual gameplay to spend any time engaging in trash talk at this point.

Bill Perkins Can’t Help Himself

Before the challenge began, we speculated which Karate Kid character Polk was representing in this challenge. While the civility mentioned above makes it difficult to cast Polk as either Daniel LaRusso or Johnny Lawrence just yet, at least one other casting decision has a front-runner.

Bill Perkins, who has gone on record with his six-figure bet on Negreanu, is definitely in the lead to take on the role of Tommy. For those who don’t remember Tommy, he’s the guy that LaRusso easily dispatched in the early rounds before he makes a somewhat memorable appearance during the finals despite not actually being in the match.

On November 17, Perkins, who like Tommy is not actually in this match, took to Twitter to share details of a potential delay in the schedule after a dispute arose over what was and wasn’t allowed in terms of stat-tracking.

Polk quickly went on the offensive and pointed out that there was a private discussion being held between Negreanu, Polk and a few others that Perkins somehow felt was his place to share with his 49K Twitter followers.

The supposed controversy was quickly resolved (apparently thanks to some mediation from Phil Galfond) and the match continued without any delay while Perkins continues to shout from the rail.

The Polk-Negreanu Challenge continues with Session #11 on Wednesday, November 25 and Session #12 on Saturday, November 28.