Just a week ago, in this column, we relayed the news that Phil Ivey—one of the preeminent names in the world of real money poker for the past few decades—would be returning to a heavier slate of action at the tables after some years spent dealing with legal issues.
Well, Ivey didn’t waste any time making his presence felt. Earlier this week, he topped a field of 32 of the game’s best to win the World Poker Tour Heads-Up Championship.
Phil Ivey Is Back in a Big Way
The invitational field met in a bracket-style elimination tournament, and each had to cough up a buy-in of $25,000. Other big names in the field included Tom Dawn and Doug Polk, along with some non-professional celebrities added in just to mix things up a bit.
Each match featured a best-of-three scenario, with winners continuing to advance and losers sent packing.
The final match came down to Ivey and Patrik Antonius, who had dispatched Polk, known for his heads-up prowess, along the way. Organizers stretched the final match to a best of five, but it didn’t slow down Ivey in the least.
He swept all three games to end up the champion, earning $400,000 for this trouble, with Antonius and semifinalists Sam Greenwood and Chris Kruk also ending up in the money.
As if it weren’t a busy enough week for Ivey, he topped it off by later announcing the release of his own NFTs (non-fungible tokens). The Royal Flush collection comes in a set of five digital cards, each one depicting a key moment in Ivey’s illustrious career.
One wonders if the next set he releases will feature his victory over Antonius, as it proves for certain that Ivey is ready to compete again at the highest levels of the game.
Phil Hellmuth Over Daniel Negreanu (Again)
There have been many so-so poker players throughout history who have been able to talk a good game. The greats are able to back it up more often than not. Phil Hellmuth has always talked as much as anybody, but lately, he has been backing it up with impressive regularity.
Alas, for Daniel Negreanu, his heads-up woes continued. In the most recent and final iteration of their High Stakes Duel series at PokerGo this past week, Hellmuth once again dusted Negreanu.
It was a back-and-forth affair that witnessed many shifts in momentum over the course of five hours of gameplay before Hellmuth eventually prevailed.
That win gave Hellmuth a three-in-a-row sweep since the format only allows a loser to call for two rematches. Hellmuth could have continued on with the series to face another performer, but he decided to literally quit with he was ahead.
After tallying up the escalating buy-ins that he took from Negreanu during the three wins, he walked away with $350,000 for his troubles.
Don’t forget that just last year Hellmuth completed the same sweep over his longtime rival-turned-friend Antonio Esfandiari. So, if you’re counting, that means Hellmuth is now 700 grand to the good in the High Stakes Duel format, with a record of 6 and 0 in the individual matches.
Any other comers might want to think twice before challenging him in the near future.
As for Negreanu, it continued a rough stretch for him in head-to-head combat. He lost the Grudge Match of the Century to Doug Polk a few months back. That was a much longer affair that was stretched over 25,000 hands and ended with Polk over $1 million in front.
At the start of this match, betting sites favored Negreanu, feeling his experience against Polk would give him the edge. But Hellmuth, buoyed by a big comeback win in the first match, had other ideas.
We’ll be watching closely to see if these two titans of the sport sign up for another duel with others, Hellmuth to continue his hot streak, Negreanu to stem the tide.
Wynn Millions Tournament Gets Underway
The busy week for high-stakes action continued on Friday with the beginning of the Wynn Millions tournament in Las Vegas. And these stakes were seriously high. Tournaments organizers guaranteed $10 million of purse money for the no-limit Hold’em event.
To make sure that they would reach that guarantee without having to dig into their pocketbooks, Wynn officials needed at least 1,000 entries ponying up the buy-in fee of $10,000.
As of press time on Sunday after two of the three opening flights had been held, the number of entries was up to 652. That meant that they were just about on pace to reach their target.
Sunday marks the last of the three opening flights. On Monday and Tuesday, the field will get knocked down even further, before winnowing for a final table takes place. That final table is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, July 3.
Rebuys are available for players in the opening flights, which many top players availed themselves of on Saturday after failing to get through Friday’s opening flight.
As of Saturday’s action, the chip leader was the decorated tournament pro Bryn Kenney, albeit with a chip advantage of only 45,000 over his nearest rival. Momentum swings should come fast and furious over the next few days of action.
That opened up a nice big gap on the schedules to players that they were gladly able to fill with the Wynn event.
Most experts believe that the guarantee is the biggest ever in the history of poker in Vegas. Now, it just remains to be seen which player ends up with the largest share of that $10 million (at least) in purse money. By this time next week, we should know the answer.
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