Daniel Negreanu HSD 4 R 1
Daniel Negreanu enjoyed a dominant and friendly victory over Eric Persson as High Stakes Duel returned in style on PokerGO.

The first round of action in the return of PokerGO’s flagship heads-up show High Stakes Duel saw Daniel Negreanu beat Eric Persson after almost three hours of action. Kid Poker took the title amid a friendly atmosphere as Persson, so often the brawling bulldog, saw his claws clipped by the master of smallball control.

With each man putting up $50,000 in the ‘double or quits’ format, Persson had the option of rechallenging for $100,000 each, but mere moments after defeat, the high-stakes cash player conceded overall defeat to the Canadian, who won his first match in the format.

Early Levels See Negreanu Enjoy Pocket Aces

“I didn’t want you to fold…”

Dressed in a fake ‘muscle tee’ and bulging biceps shirt, mocking Persson’s traditional look, Negreanu definitely got the better of the match from the start. Persson, in contrast to his usual appearance, seemed conservatively attired all in black.

The opening exchanges between the two men were convivial and if anything defused any tension that might have lingered from either Negreanu’s former visits to the PokerGO Studio in this format or Persson’s fractious meeting heads-up with Phil Hellmuth. Negreanu and Persson chatted like old friends and with no beef – Kid Poker choosing off the vegan menu as opposed to the Poker Brat – the early levels stayed small.

Twice in the first hour, Negreanu was dealt pocket aces, but couldn’t make much profit on them, quipping to Persson: “I don’t want ‘em now… can I give them back?” to much mirth from his opponent. Persson won an interesting hand where his ace-eight was good enough for two-pair when Negreanu flopped the Royal flush draw.

“You could’a bet more on the flop,” Persson needled, but Kid Poker wasn’t biting. “I didn’t want you to fold. I didn’t just have any [king]-ten, I had ‘the’ ten! I’m excited!”

The opening hour of play had gone with Negreanu, but his advantage was small, up by around 54,000 chips to Persson’s 46,000 as play moved into the middle stages.

Negreanu Charms the Beast

Before taking on Persson, Negreanu was certain he had the right way to play, intending to draw the sting from Persson by setting out on a charm offensive. To all extents, it worked. From stories about shared hands during recent episodes of High Stakes Poker to an anecdote about T. J. Cloutier’s ability to distract when stealing pots, Negreanu’s table personality helped him a huge deal.

One big hand saw the six-time WSOP bracelet winner Negreanu scoop a pot worth 15,800 chips. The board was a low one, coming 6d4s3h7h8h, but with a heart on the flop, turn and river, Negreanu’s Ah9h had made a nut flush. Bluffing all the way, Persson’s KsJs had to be shown, and a big pot was slid over to the Canadian, as he took a 71,600 to 28,400 lead.

Persson may have been losing but he knows what he is doing around the felt and where some have underestimated his durability in cash or heads-up poker, Negreanu did no such thing. There was an impression throughout that Negreanu took no lead for granted and he came out for the final hour of the battle without the muscle shirt, wearing a simple maroon tee, and a determined look on his face as he meant to close it out.

Eric Persson Laughing
Eric Persson may have been smiling during the High Stakes Duel bout, but Negreanu had the last laugh.

Persson Fights Back, Losing a Big One

After two hours of battling, Eric Persson had gathered a little of the ground up as he chased down ‘DNegs’, battling back to a stack of 40,000 to Negreanu’s 60,000. Talk was frequently going from larger topics earlier in the battle to the minutiae of hand histories, each man happy to shed a layer under the lights.

Negreanu won another with a flush after going to the river with a straight flush. Persson once again held a bluff, his KsJs no good on a board of Qh7d2c9h2h against Negreanu’s JhTh.

“Look at the turn card, where do you want me to go?” asked Negreanu. “Just have a little straight flush draw!”

Persson talked about whether he would have bet if a king came on the river, and Negreanu, friendly as ever, mined for information in breaking down the hand. That happened a lot more as the finish line approached, and while Nick Schulman and Ali Nejad were way off in stating “this one could run deep” at that point, their analysis of the action was on point throughout, two of the best in the business bring the game to life in style.

Persson picked a terrible time to bluff as the pivotal hand of the match played out. There was 5,000 in the middle when a flop of 3h2d2c landed. Negreanu bet 2,500 pre-flop and he c-bet with 7d7c post-flop for 2,000, Persson calling with just 7h5h. The turn of Qc saw Negreanu bet 3,000, and Persson saw his chance to raise, which he did to 9,000 with 20,000 behind. Kid Poker called to the river of a 9c, and with 27,000 in the middle, two checks saw Persson elicit “you win”.

Negreanu Seals the Deal in Style

“If you look back, it wasn’t close.”

Those two words ‘you win’ would apply to the match as well as that hand. Holding 7h7c, almost an identical hand, Negreanu got another pre-flop raise called then this time folded by Persson on the flop. The Maverick Casinos owner needed a double-up desperately, down to just 18,500 chips to Negreanu’s 82,500 and a cooler was about to freeze his hopes of recovery.

Negreanu held AsKd and raised to 1,500. Persson three-bet to 3,500 and Negreanu’s four-bet to 8,000 saw Persson shove. Negreanu quickly called, and with 36,400 chips in the middle and Round 1 on the line, Persson needed to see a lady or diamonds to prevent the loss. The flop of JhTh7s could hardly have been much worse but the Jd did at least give Persson hopes of a chop. That hope fell with them all as the 6s river came and the two men shook hands.

“Card distribution, if you look back, it wasn’t close,” said Negreanu, as humble in victory as he could possibly be.”

“I have a feeling Persson will be back.” Said Schulman on comms.

“Undoubtedly,” agreed Nejad. “The next round is for $100,000 a man, $200k in total. We’ll see what their two calendars have in store.”

As it happened, Persson was about to disappoint the watching fans.

“In the event, I consider you a friend.” Eric Persson said of Negreanu after his defeat to the Canadian. Kid Poker’s ability to charm the victory from his opponent was there for all to see. Whoever he takes on next may well be minded to resist those charms in order to keep their own hopes alive.

If you’re a PokerGO subscriber, you can watch the whole Round 1 match play out in all its glory right here.