There hasn’t been a lot to talk about in terms of actual poker action over the past few months, especially since the conclusion of the World Series of Poker online event. Obviously, world events have forced the cancellation or postponement of many live events. And what events that have taken place haven’t always gone so well.
It’s a good thing that professional poker players have the kind of dynamic personalities that can often create news where there seems to be none. That has certainly been the case for Daniel Negreanu and Doug Polk. The two have sustained an intense rivalry even though they’ve spent precious little time staring each other down across the felt.
Well, lo and behold, the two have not only agreed to meet in a head-to-head matchup, but have even set a date. And that date is November 1, meaning that the whole poker world will be watching.
We already have enjoyed the build-up, providing us news when there wasn’t much else in the poker world for us to get excited about over these past few months. Now it’s time to see if the actual contest lives up to the hype, which, quite frankly, might be an extremely difficult thing for it to do.
How We Got Here
If we were to detail every time Negreanu and Polk traded verbal jabs in the last few years, we’d have a small novel. Instead, let’s concentrate on the high points.
First of all, the introductions: You have Negreanu, Kid Poker himself, who was one of the leading figures in the real money Texas Hold‘em explosion of the early 2000s. He is a charismatic figure, one of those guys you either hate to love or love to hate. As years passed, he became an unofficial promoter for the sport, albeit in sometimes controversial fashion.
Polk is more of a new-school guy, somebody who was sort of scuffling along in various tournaments before finding a niche in head-to-head money games, where he quickly became a legend. He also learned the self-promotional tools of social media, which he used to build his brand and, occasionally, give his two cents on the actions of other players.
Indeed, the social media world has been the setting for most of this rivalry. It began when Polk questioned Negreanu’s assertion to another player that he could indeed become a force in cash games if he was just given a little time to practice them. The fuse was officially lit.
The tension kept simmering until this past summer, when Polk again started applying pressure to meet Negreanu head to head. Negreanu surprised everyone by suddenly accepting, finally putting an end to all the back-and-forth so that they could settle it with the cards. But first, they would have to agree on the particulars, which, unsurprisingly considering these two, caused even more drama.
Setting the Ground Rules
Because it is a head-to-head matchup, which is Polk’s area of expertise (even though he has scaled back his play dramatically in recent years), concessions would have to be made for Negreanu to finally agree. Seemingly every detail of the match was up for negotiation, from the amount of hands to be played to the online venue that would be hosting.
Two of the biggest sticking points indirectly demonstrate the differences between the two men in terms of styles of play. First of all, Negreanu insisted there be no use of pre-flop charts. These charts, which can give players a mathematical heads-up about when to fold and when to push forth, are part and parcel of online play.
On the one hand, they really aren’t that different from a baseball manager using statistical information in a dugout to decide what pinch-hitter or relief pitcher to put in the game. On the other side of the coin, Negreanu seems to see it as a high-handed way of cheating, and there are a probably a lot of players who agree with him.
Negreanu eventually agreed to make use of the cameras for part of the match. As far as we know, we think that we’re all set for a start on November 1st, with action you can view at WSOP.com. But with these two, we shouldn’t take anything for granted.
Action on the Action
In case you’re wondering, Negreanu is a 4 to 1 underdog according to poker websites. Some high-profile names, including Phil Hellmuth and Mike Matusow, have already put in their money behind Kid Poker. Maybe it’s a sign of faith, or maybe it’s a case of the odds being too juicy to pass up.
Whatever the case may be, it appears that the preliminaries are just about complete. There is nothing left to do but to shut up and deal. We’ll all find out who the better player is, at least in this setting for this amount of time.
You could say that it’s an event that the poker world has been waiting for and that it’s about time. But there will also be people who are hoping that the rivalry off the felt continues even after they go head to head in this showdown. After all, the verbal warfare has been pretty entertaining stuff in its own right.