Just a couple days after losing nearly $300,000 in his $200-$400 heads-up no-limit hold’em grudge match against Doug Polk, putting him in a seven-figure hole, Daniel Negreanu cut the total deficit by nearly 40% and had the biggest winning session of the entire challenge.
On Friday afternoon, the two pros squared off in their 31st session of the challenge and Negreanu dominated the match. They played their longest session of the challenge, battling for more than four hours with Negreanu winning $390,032 over 1,042 hands.
With 18,924 of the 25,000-hand challenge completed, Polk is still holding a $612,563 lead over Negreanu. Before Friday’s landslide victory for the six-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner, Polk held the record for most money won in a session with $332,000 in their 12th session.
After Polk’s massive victory last Wednesday, Negreanu was in a massive hole and had time running out on him. In his post-game interview on the GGPoker YouTube channel, Negreanu said that the $1 million hole he was in caused him to play much different than normal.
“I guess the way I’ll describe it is like this,” said Negreanu. “You got two choices. Lay down like a p***y. Alright, you lost. Match is f***ing over. Let’s play some small pots and just try and play properly and all that shit. Or you can go balls to the wall and play like a complete jackass. Which is exactly how I felt like I played today. Absolutely horrifyingly… I won’t even let my guys see the shit that I was doing today.”
He elaborated on his statement and clarified that he just wanted to increase the variance and play larger pots. Negreanu claimed that he was bluffing much more often than normal and was deviating from what a solver would say is an optimal decision.
“[I have to] be willing to give away EV and play hands sub-optimally in order to increase variance so that it gives me a better chance to win the match,” said Negreanu. “I was a monkey just going click-click with buttons today.”
While Negreanu was self-deprecating in his own evaluation of the way he played Friday, there was at least one high-stakes pro that liked the moves he was making.
On Doug Polk’s YouTube channel, Dan Smith was doing commentary on the match and complimented Negreanu on his play. Smith is fifth on poker’s all-time money list and has won $36.7 million in live tournaments alone.
Negreanu’s nearly 10-buyin score was the largest of the challenge thus far, but according to Polk, this is a swing that should’ve been expected.
“I was hoping it wasn’t going to happen to me in this challenge,” said Polk in his own post-match interview. “But early on when I talked about variance in heads-up and what can happen in a session, I said it a bunch of times. It happens that people win or lose 10 buyins in a session. I feel that because it hadn’t happened yet this challenge, it feels like it wasn’t really possible.”
While Negreanu is clearly riding momentum heading into the three sessions scheduled for this week, he’s not even close to out of the woods yet. He is still stuck about 15 buyins with 6,076 hands remaining in the challenge.
“Going forward now, we are going to have to see how far behind I am and see if I can afford to play like not a jackass,” said Negreanu.
He used a football analogy to describe his play on Friday, saying that he was throwing a Hail Mary to try and get back within striking distance. His team and coaches might tell him to abandon the strategy he was using. In fact, Negreanu claimed that he was receiving messages that were advising him to quit. But if he does keep up the hyper-aggressive style, the Toronto native thinks these swings could become the norm, given Polk’s style of play.
“We had so many sessions where he won a buyin, I won half a buyin,” said Negreanu. “If I play like a jackass and he just plays like he plays… 10 buyin swings are going to happen. He’s not a guy that is trying to nit it up and play careful.”