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Forget the schoolyard trash talk and cheat sheet squabbles for a hot minute, and let’s focus on the poker. Doug Polk and Daniel Negreanu will be going head to head in a knock-down drag-out war commencing on November 1, with millions on the line and at least one ego cruising for a bruising. As a former Heads-Up No Limit Hold’em specialist, Polk enters the $200/$400 ring as the clear favorite. But this battle isn’t Daniel vs Goliath. It’s Goliath vs Goliath 2.0. The fan favorite of the past 20 years against the fan favorite for a new generation. They truly hate each other and are out for blood. And like us, we’re sure you’ve got questions. Polk made his preparation public, but what has Negreanu been doing to ready himself for battle? Like Negreanu sunbathing in skimpy swim shorts, Polk has left nothing to the imagination when it comes to his preparation for the challenge. For the past month or so he’s been battling a bunch of players--including Bill Perkins and Landon Tice--at stakes ranging from $5/$10 to $50/$100, while also issuing one-off high-stakes challenges to Matt Berkey, Christian Soto, and Luke Schwartz. On Joey Ingram’s Poker Life Podcast back in August, Polk said: 'I’ve honestly been working around the clock trying to improve my game." He admitted to getting "rekt", but who wouldn’t after so long out of the game? (OK, so Fedor Holz probably wouldn’t. That guy can’t help but win. The entire high-stakes community put on their best Teddy KGB impersonation when Holz emerged from "retirement": “Kid’s got al-eee-gay-torr blood. Can’t get rid of him.") Polk has since reported some winning sessions, and it seems like his heads-up game is getting to where he wants it to be before the battle with Negreanu begins. But aside from posting a few casual, often comical strategy polls to his 486,000 Twitter followers, Negreanu has kept the world in the dark as to what he is doing to get himself in fighting shape. https://twitter.com/RealKidPoker/status/1309244477232406530 For a while there, the answer was probably nothing, and understandably so. As a GGPoker ambassador, Negreanu was in Mexico for a month to play the World Series of Poker Online events in a bid to win his sixth bracelet (he bet plenty of money on himself to do so too, but we’ll get to that in a minute). When he returned to his Las Vegas home, he probably needed some rest. I mean, who among us doesn’t like to relax and play round after round on our top-of-the-range golf simulators after a few busy weeks at the office? But the time to relax is over. As we edge closer to the November 1 kick off, Negreanu has started hinting at what he’s been up to behind the scenes. On October 6 he tweeted that he "most definitely needs to start practicing". The whole cheat sheet pre-flop chart debacle (which we won’t go into now, but you can read about here) will have no doubt inspired Kid Poker to revise ranges. https://twitter.com/RealKidPoker/status/1313600198086549504 And nobody should be surprised if they find out Negreanu has hired coaches. That might seem inconceivable to your casual Joe Bloggs poker fan (“Why would Negreanu need coaching? HE CAN CALL OUT YOUR EXACT HAND!”) but Negreanu has always been humble about his own abilities and openly sought coaching when he felt he was falling behind in the Super High Rollers. It paid off big time, too. Keeping up with the Jason Koons, Stephen Chidwicks, and Michael Addamos of the world might not be a priority for Negreanu in 2020, but he enjoyed a long stretch where he was right in the thick of it, finishing second in the $300,000 Super High Roller Bowl for $3 million (May 2018), and second again in the WSOP $100K High Roller for $1.7 million (July 2019). He even released a MasterClass based on everything he’d learned (with some sandwich-based tells thrown in for extra bite). One thing we know for sure? Negreanu is rolled for the road to rail heaven. He recently tweeted that he will be loading up his WSOP.com account with $1 million (25 buy-ins) “to start”. There’s obviously a whole lot more in Negreanu’s bankroll should he need it. A million bucks could seem a paltry amount when all is said and done. https://twitter.com/RealKidPoker/status/1313961969171324929 Does Negreanu have anything to lose (aside from money)? Indulge us for 20 seconds while we tell you what you already know about Negreanu. He’s a legend and first-ballot hall of famer. He’s played and won at the highest stakes across multiple decades (shhh, we won’t mention his record on High Stakes Poker). He’s third on the all-time money list with $42 million in career earnings. He’s one of the best ambassadors the game has ever had. And he’s always, ALWAYS your friend’s favorite poker player. You shouldn’t put anything past him when it comes to playing poker. But in this contest, he’s a clear underdog. He’s admitted that. After all, he has agreed to play arguably one of the best heads-up No Limit Hold’em specialists of all time at heads-up No Limit Hold’em. For all his humor and on-camera charisma, it’s worth remembering just how good at poker Polk truly is, or at least was in his prime. He came up in the pre-solver era, when players had to forge ahead and build their own strategies based on hand histories and experience rather than memorizing what play a computer says is perfect and unexploitable. That’s exactly what Negreanu did in tournaments and cash games back in the day alongside his crew of Phil Ivey, John Juanda, and Allan Cunningham. Whatever happens in the challenge, Negreanu’s reputation in poker will not be damaged. The man’s not perfect. He’s made mistakes. But his hall pass will forever be laminated. And if all he stands to lose is a few million bucks, can he really lose? Negreanu is used to wagering large amounts on himself. He locks in hefty WSOP bracelet bets at $100,000 or more a pop every single year against countless opponents and never seems to lose face (he might lose close to seven figures at times, but his face remains intact). Perhaps all of this puts even more pressure on Polk. He’s the favorite; the expert; the man who’s only here to "back up the truck", take Negreanu’s cash and drive off into the sunset. https://twitter.com/DougPolkVids/status/1316092457478615040 So, what if Polk loses? He’ll be just fine financially. Polk is a super-smart guy - you simply have to be to rise to the top of poker and have as much success as he’s had - and from cryptocurrency to YouTube to UpSwing Poker, he’s done very well for himself. You may wonder how he’ll be remembered in the poker world if he loses this heads-up challenge though. He’ll always be one of poker’s best content creators, but his legacy on the tables isn’t as cemented as Negreanu’s. Polk has won millions in tournaments and cash games, but it’s undeniable his poker identity is built on the foundation of his elite skills in heads-up play (an identity Polk probably couldn’t care less about). Look, both of these guys will be fine, whatever happens. It’s just that, if Negreanu loses, nothing changes. That’s what most people think will happen. There will be no surprises. But if Polk loses, it’s going to be a long, cold drive home in that big empty truck. What happens if we see a bloodbath on Opening Day? The poker world is very interested to see if either of these guys has a breaking point. After Day 1 of the Galfond Challenge, Phil Galfond was down €72,527 against 'VeniVidi1993', and they were playing €100/€200 PLO, a much more volatile game. So, let’s say, hypothetically, that Negreanu gets stuck $160,000 (four buy-ins) after the Day 1 sessions. We know his account is loaded with another $840,000, so he’ll be back to battle the next day. But how he sleeps that night will depend on how well he thinks he played. If variance punched him in the face he’ll be out like a light. He’s used to bad luck. But if he feels he was simply outmatched, it could be the beginning of a nightmare. Then what happens if he’s down a cool milly after, say, Day 4? That’s an enormous mountain to climb, both mentally and financially, even for a player of Negreanu’s calibre and bankroll. We saw Galfond complete a monumental comeback from a €900,000 deficit against 'VeniVidi1993', but that was only after some time off during which he considered quitting. After his break Galfond decided he wanted to continue, not only because he felt he could close the gap and even win (which he did, incredibly), but because it was him who initiated the challenge in the first place. In this case, Negreanu accepted the challenge. You can’t help but wonder what Negreanu’s threshold for pain is. It’s probably safe to say he’s one of the richest pure poker players around, and it wouldn’t be absurd to assume he’ll have 100 percent of himself. So, will he continue to play Polk if he’s, say, $1.4 million in the hole? $1.7 million? $2 million?!! That would be enough to make even the coolest individual feel the heat. And the scary thing? The challenge might still be far from over. https://twitter.com/DougPolkVids/status/1316096706711183360 On the flip side, what if Negreanu rips Polk a new one on opening day? Poker media will flock to their keyboards, bettors will rush to Mike McDonald’s PokerShares to examine the changes in odds, and Twitter trolls who haven’t emerged from their caves since PostleGate will run rampant. It would get more people paying attention, that’s for sure. Polk obviously has a lot of his own money, but may have sold action for this challenge. That safety net might help keep the wolf from his door if he finds himself buried early on. Still, it will be interesting to see if there’s a number at which he simply wouldn’t be able to continue. And if he does quit, whether we’ll ever see him play poker again. https://twitter.com/DougPolkVids/status/1316089776781488128