hellmuth vs negreanu

Hellmuth Crushes Negreanu’s Soul with 8♣ 3♣ (Analysis by Polk & Negreanu)

Sometimes you see a hand that makes you think: “what the hell am I looking at right now?”

This hand between Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth is a perfect example.

Half of the analysis in this article is directly from Daniel, as he explained his thought process on a recent episode of the Doug Polk Podcast. The other half of the analysis is Doug’s — we’ll wrap up each street with his thoughts.

Here is the video of the hand (read on for a written recap and the analysis):


Game: High Stakes Duel

Format: $400K Heads Up Sit ‘N Go

Blinds: 300/600

Hellmuth: 268bb
Negreanu: 393bb


Daniel raises to 2.5bb from the Button with 2 2♣. Phil 3-bets to 8bb from the Big Blind with 8♣ 3♣. Daniel 4-bets to 21.7bb. Phil 5-bets to 58.3bb. Daniel calls.

Preflop Analysis

Daniel’s Thoughts:

“No chart is going to show you that deuces are a 4-bet there. But part of why I gave deuces more value is because he’s 3-betting a lot of trash. A big part of his range is composed of bluffs, just complete nothing. The rest is Aces, Kings, Ace-King, etc. What it doesn’t have any of is pocket pairs in between that.

With deuces, in theory, I should get 8♣ 3♣ to fold. So I pick up a nice little chunk [of EV]. He’s not going to 5-bet me with Ace-Queen. He’s probably not going to do it with Ace-King that deep based on what I know about how he plays. He flats with those hands.

We hadn’t had a 5-bet the entire match so I wasn’t worried about that. Part of what I was going to do in the third match was expand my 4-betting range because he was 3-betting with all of that garbage. I felt deuces were a pretty decent candidate that plays well deep and because I can discount pocket pairs threes through jacks. But when he 5-bet, I didn’t see it coming, but we were still way deep enough that I feel like, in position, I can call with the price that I was getting.

I was [4-betting] because I thought it would get the fold. He had not once called a 4-bet in the first two matches. Every single time I 4-bet, he folded. I was planning on overdoing it, but I didn’t expect to get 5-bet.”

Doug’s Thoughts:

“I still dislike the way deuces plays in a 4-bet pot. You are in position, so you have that going for you. But unless you hit a deuce, you’re gonna get so many really tough spots like this one where you just don’t improve.

You can’t even semi-bluff [in many postflop spots] because if you jam and get called, you have only two outs. Also when you have deuces, you block him from having a high card-low card hand too, so he’s a little less likely to be bluffing. You obviously thought he was weak and you went for it. And he was weak, to be fair.”

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The Advanced Solver Ranges for cash games — one of five sets of preflop charts in the Upswing Lab.


The Pot: 116.7bb

The Flop: J♣ T 6♠

The Action: Phil checks. Daniel bets 35bb. Phil calls.

Flop Analysis

Daniel’s Thoughts:

“I don’t think he’s 5-betting with Jacks or Tens, so I can discount him flopping a set. In past hands, I’ve checked back in these spots a decent amount. I think he’s perceiving my range that calls the 5-bet as very strong and will usually hit a flop this coordinated. In theory, my bet should get his range to fold.”

Doug’s Thoughts:

“The flop is so weird to me. Usually, when there’s a 3-bet or a 4-bet, it’s easy to think about who the flop favors. Like with 4-betting, if you 4-bet and I call, the caller is doing good on this board. This is a board I would be leading sometimes. It gets really weird when there’s a 5-bet.

When he 5-bets, he is so polar. I think after 5-betting, you’re supposed to c-bet almost all of the boards a lot. His check-call is just strange on this flop. It’s a strange line.”


The Pot: 186.7bb

The Flop: (J♣ T 6♠) 6♣

The Action: Phil bets 70bb. Daniel folds.

Turn Analysis

Daniel’s Thoughts:

“Here’s the weird thing about the turn. He bets 70bb. I am very strongly feeling that my deuces are good. That’s why I used the timebank. I took extra time. Part of the problem was that I laid -150 in this match. So I’m thinking he has turned a flush draw, with maybe a gutshot or something like that.

The problem is, if I jam, he’s actually priced in to call. And he can hit a 3, 8, Jack, Ten, or a club. If I had a Jack or Ten I would jam. But because deuces are so vulnerable, after using the time bank, I was quite certain he was bluffing. I wonder what he would have done. Would he have YOLO called? I think he folds actually.

I was going over what his range looks like. There’s a big chunk of it that’s flush draws, gutshots, and things like that. I eliminate Jacks and Tens completely. He could have a 6. He could have done this with K6 or Q6.

The other possibility you have to think about is Aces or Kings. Not Queens because he would have been to scared to check and have an overcard come. Against that range, in theory, you can get it in with deuces. I was concerned about him correctly calling. Let’s say he did have clubs and he had to call. Then I’m getting it in with a close spot while laying -150, which was problematic.”

Doug’s Thoughts:

“I don’t even know what to say. The way (Hellmuth) played his hand, which street do you like? I guess I like the turn the best. It’s really tough in these situations to think about what you would do because these are hands that are so far off the beaten path. This is not a situation that anyone has run sims on or studied for. Nobody is thinking how to deal with turn leads in a 265bb deep 5-bet pot.”

What do you think is crazier?

  1. How Hellmuth played his hand
  2. The fact that Daniel and Doug had an amicable conversation for two hours.

Let me know in the comments below.

That’s it for today. If you want to watch/listen to the entire podcast episode, check out the Doug Polk Podcast here.

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About the Author
Patrick Harvey

Patrick Harvey

Graduate student trying to make money in poker so that I don't end up having to drive Knish's truck.

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