Doug Polk Questions the Holz/Malinowski Heads-Up Clash

While live streaming commentary on the first session of a heads-up match between Fedor Holz and Wiktor Malinowski, Doug Polk questioned whether or not the competition was legit. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Polk suggested the match was staged  

Two weeks ago, we reported on the latest trend in poker, namely how the people marketing the game had taken a page out of the book of professional wrestling. Indeed, since that article, the buildup to the duel between Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu has more resembled the build up to a bout between Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage (it’s been a long time since I was a fan of wrestling) than a high-stakes clash between two poker icons. 

Last Friday, while commentating on the Fedor Holz versus Wiktor “Limitless” Malinowski heads-up match on his Upswing Poker channel, Doug Polk took this comparison a step further, suggesting that not only was “the beef” between the two men staged, but so too was the match itself. Polk’s co-commentator Mike Brady was also perplexed by what he witnessed, taking to Twitter right after the stream:

Direct and to the point.

Polk’s disappointment turned into disbelief

Polk is a GTO (Game Theory Optimal) disciple, famous for his forensic attention to detail. As such, he was unimpressed by some of the exploitative lines taken by Malinowski early in the match. At one point, the Polish heads-up specialist raised with 7♥️6♣️ on a J♦️J♠️3♦️ flop, deemed by Polk to be the worst possible hand to choose for such a bluff. Malinowski followed through with that bluff, barreling turn and river, running into Holz’s Q♣️J♣️ and being stacked for a $46,000 pot.

As the outlandish plays continued, Polk’s disappointment turned into disbelief. His assertion that we were all watching “horrible, horrible poker” turned into an averment that “this was a fucking publicity stunt.”

we’re starting to catch on that maybe this was all a trick”

Brady chimed in humorously: “We fell for it, hook, line and sinker…We’ve got nearly 5,000 people watching this on YouTube and Twitch and now, we’re starting to catch on that maybe this was all a trick.”

As the stream progressed and Holz added to his spoils, Polk became increasingly impatient, more and more convinced that Malinowski’s lines were not consistent with those taken by a full time professional player. 

Polk ended coverage early 

In the days before the match, Polk tweeted how he didn’t rate either player: 

He insisted, however, that Malinowski was a big favorite, saying “you can’t even find Fedor on the map.” 

On his appearance on The Rake podcast, Holz responded to Doug’s comments saying “stuff like this still hurts.” He acknowledged the hype around the match as having potentially created a smack talk environment, but it was clear that Holz felt uncomfortable with that style of promotion. 

On commentary, Polk was initially critical of Holz’s play, saying he was “spewy,” but he did begrudgingly give the German tournament specialist some credit around the two hour mark. There was no relenting, though, when it came to Malinowski, who faced harsh criticism throughout, particularly after a strange hand when he folded A♠️9♦️ on a board of A♦️K♦️2♣️5♥️ after Holz had bet the flop and turn. 

Enough was eventually enough for Polk and Brady, who cut the stream off early with Holz over $90,000 in the black.

Not mincing his words, he described the poker spectacle as an endless stream of mistakes, reiterating his belief that the match was contrived and he signed off by calling the whole thing “a shit show.” 

Match under a cloud of suspicion 

GGPoker’s coverage of the match with Joe Ingram enjoyed a ratings bump as lots of Doug’s viewers switched over. Malinowski rallied late to win a chunk back but in the end, Holz was up $37,420.54 over the 459 hand session. The pair are scheduled to play 1,600 hands total but at one-tabling pace, that will likely take place over three sessions this week. 

If Doug is correct, then it was a con conducted in plain sight, a rather implausible scenario.

With hundreds of thousands of dollars wagered on the match and individual bets as big as $50,000 on this session alone, there is no doubt that Doug’s comments have concerned many in the poker community. If Doug is correct, then it was a con conducted in plain sight, a rather implausible scenario. That said, it was only just over a year ago that it was alleged that Mike Postle defrauded his opponents on a livestream at Stones Casino. 

Doug’s evidence is circumstantial and arguably clouded by his own prowess in the format. In reality, players make mistakes, even the great ones. There is no doubt, however, that his narrative will dominate the news cycle and cast doubt over the legitimacy of the contest.

Will there be suspicion of Holz or Malinowski going forward? Will there be a backlash against Doug, whose inflammatory comments could be viewed as reckless? Both are likely, but, as it pertains to betting on this or any other hyped up poker heads-up clash, there is an old Irish saying that seems apt: “Never bet on anything where the horses can talk to each other.”

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