On Wednesday, the third and final round was held of the High Stakes Duel match between Phil Hellmuth and Antonio Esfandiari. Hellmuth was victorious in a third straight match to win the $400,000 winner-take-all prize.
The High Stakes Duel was first introduced in July and streamed live on PokerGo PokerGo, which requires a premium subscription.
The format of High Stakes Duel
Each player bought in for $50,000 for each of the three rounds. Poker Central explains the format in the following way:
The loser in each round receives the option to challenge the victor for a rematch prior to the next round of the game being offered to any player willing to put up the money required. The stakes will double with each round, resulting in a potential total prize pool of $12,800,000 in Round 8. In order for a player to walk away victorious, they must win 3 straight matches before Round 6 or 2 in a row from Round 5 onward. If there are no challengers within 30 days of the previous match, the most recent winner also walks away victorious.
The buy-ins for each of the three rounds were $50k, $100k and $200k, respectively. With Hellmuth choosing not to continue after his victories, High Stakes Duel will resume with a brand new match-up for a $50,000 buy-in. There is no current word on who the next two participants will be or when that will take place.
Hellmuth stated that while he would not want to face Esfandiari for $400k, he is up to challenge somebody else for $50,000.
“I hope that somebody else challenges me for $50,000, and I’ll try to win another three-in-a-row. There are some great players out there that want a shot. I hope I can open Season 2. But we’ll see. It depends on what Mori says. But I’m ready to open Season 2 in a month, or a couple of weeks, whenever.”
Watch High Stakes Duel
To watch the final episode of High Stakes Duel you will need a PokerGo membership, however you can watch the first two rounds below:
Since the start of the match first aired last summer, Hellmuth has been receiving high praise for his performance during the High Stakes Duel. Phil Galfond was among those impressed with how he played in the match, saying that his perception of Hellmuth’s game changed dramatically with the viewing. “What I saw wasn’t a HUNL technical mastery. It was an uncanny ability to assess and adapt to every spot he found himself in.
Galfond posted his full thoughts on Twitter:
We so often criticize the plays we see on TV from the comfort of our couches. I think it’s only fair to also give credit where credit is due.
— Phil Galfond (@PhilGalfond) October 7, 2020
To be fair, some “new school” players didn’t agree with Galfond. Oliver Busquet said it was “easily one of the silliest things I’ve ever read from someone I respect.” Fedor Holz also weighed and effectively agreed with Busquet, albeit in a more diplomatic way:
He punted every 300k I’ve seen him play in so I don’t share your view 🙃 I think he’s a clear losing player in tougher lineups and mostly plays a style that exploits vs. tighter weaker opponents and WSOP & oldschool player tendencies.
I find it entertaining to play against him.
— Fedor Holz (@CrownUpGuy) October 7, 2020
In a preview of their Round 3 match, Hellmuth and Esfandiari sat down with Nick Schulman in an interesting discussion about today’s poker, some of the best players in the game and how Phil thinks he compares to some of today’s greats.