Phil Hellmuth to Duel Tom Dwan With Erik Seidel Waiting

Phil Hellmuth teased us

Two days ago, Phil Hellmuth asked the poker public to guess who would be his next victim opponent on High Stakes Duel, offering a quartet of big names, all of whom offered the prospect of a fascinating encounter. 

Ever the hype man, Hellmuth’s teaser got the brain juices flowing as matches versus each man were debated all across social media. Would it be ten-time bracelet winner Phil Ivey, hot on the heels of his victory in the WPT PokerKing $25,000 Heads-Up Championship hybrid event? How about high-stakes cash game player Tom Dwan? A mano y mano confrontation with poker player, entrepreneur, and former politician Tony G would certainly wet the whistle. Or perhaps it would be a replay of the 1989 WSOP Main Event heads-up clash with Johnny Chan?

A Hellmuthian tirade

Last night, PokerGO kept us in suspense no longer, breaking the news on Twitter:

With this announcement, one was instantly transported back in time to the 2008 National Heads-Up Championship when a fresh-faced Dwan got it all-in with pocket tens, running into the pocket Aces of Hellmuth. Dwan spiked a ten on the turn and when the river blanked, a tirade ensued that was positively Hellmuthian.

“Son, I will tell you this much, I would never have put in more than three thousand with a pair of tens,” said Hellmuth.

“I was going to say good game, sorry for the suck-out,” replied Dwan, “but when you phrase it that way, it makes me not wanna!” 

Incandescent with rage, Hellmuth threw up his arms, muttering “horrible play” over and over. 

Dwan just shrugged. “That’s why you lose money online.”

You played the hand bad, that’s the truth.” 

The back and forth continued. 

“You played the hand bad, that’s the truth,” said Hellmuth.

“Sorry for the suck-out. Now pick your stakes heads-up, we can play right now if you want,” replied Dwan.

Hellmuth shot back: “You’re the sucker, you just put in 20,000 on two tens.”

“It’s standard,” explained Dwan, “learn to play heads-up No-Limit!”

And then came the line that we are sure to hear repeated over and over again in the coming weeks, the parting shot from Hellmuth so delicious, so quotable and so…whatever the opposite of clairvoyant is:

“We’ll see if you’re even around in five years time.” 

Thirteen years later

On August 25, Hellmuth and a very much still around Dwan will square off on High Stakes Duel on PokerGO, rekindling their old rivalry. As is always a possibility with the self-styled “Poker Brat,” sparks could fly in this $100,000 buy-in, heads-up No-limit Hold’em encounter. Hellmuth reigns undefeated on the show after two three-match whitewashes of Antonio Esfandiari and Daniel Negreanu and most recently a one-and-done versus sportscaster and pundit Nick Wright. 

If Hellmuth emerges triumphant once again, one would expect Dwan to request a $200,000 rematch. If Hellmuth wins that match, he will presumably cash out and start a fresh match from the bottom step of the High Stakes Duel ladder. However, should Dwan win either encounter, it is likely that Hellmuth will bow out, making way for another big name who is happy to start a three-match sequence from a higher rung. 

Dwan, now 35 and an ambassador for PokerKing, has amassed over $5m in career tournament winnings despite being a high stakes cash game phenom who is rumored to have played numerous eight-figure pots in nosebleed private games over the last decade. 

Seidel waiting in the wings

If Hellmuth does manage to extend his winning streak to nine consecutive matches, there will no shortage of players clambering to be next. Aside from the players listed, all of whom expressed an interest in taking on the 15-time WSOP bracelet winner, one huge name came out of the woodwork this week.

Erik Seidel is a poker legend. He is poker royalty. With eight WSOP bracelets, one WPT title and one National Heads-Up championship, there is no doubt that he sits at poker’s top table. In his first major poker tournament, he was the runner-up to Johnny Chan in the 1988 WSOP Main Event, the final hand immortalized in the 1998 movie Rounders. The very next year, he made the final table again, this time finishing 4th. 

During a career now spanning five decades, he has amassed almost $38m in live tournament winnings. In 2011, Seidel was first place on the all-time tournament money list and ten years later, he is still in 4th place on that list, having won a whopping $20.7m in the last decade.

Speaking with Vegas Slots Online News, the best-selling author of The Biggest Bluff and Seidel protégé Maria Konnikova was willing to throw down the gauntlet on her mentor’s behalf.

I think If Phil wants a real challenge, that’s the match to take.”

“Erik has never lost to Phil heads-up, and if I know Erik, he’s not about to start. I think If Phil wants a real challenge, that’s the match to take,” she said.

With Esfandiari, Negreanu, and Wright in his rear view mirror, Dwan right in front of him, and legends like Ivey, Chan, and Seidel waiting in the wings, Hellmuth is turning High Stakes Duel into The White Magic Show. Can he pull another rabbit from the hat later this month


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