High Stakes Duel III: What To Watch For In Dwan v. Hellmuth Rematch

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Tom Dwan and Phil Hellmuth battle once again in High Stakes Duel III (Round 3) on Wednesday, January 26. (photo courtesy: PokerGO)

PokerGO’s High Stakes Duel III returns this week as Tom Dwan and Phil Hellmuth sit down for a rematch of the heads-up battle that saw Dwan end Hellmuth’s seven-match winning streak and seize control of the High Stakes Duel title.

On Wednesday, January 26 at 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m PT), Dwan and Hellmuth will go at it again. The biggest difference this time around is that the stakes are doubled. Both Dwan and Hellmuth will put up $200,000 for a $400,000 prize pool and the winner will move on to Round 4, where, depending on who wins, a brand new situation will arise.

In the last round, Dwan and Hellmuth had no trace of their 2008 NBC Heads Up Poker Championship feud. Instead, the pair exchanged compliments before putting on an entertaining five-and-a-half-hour match in which Dwan wore down Hellmuth with some surprisingly straightforward play.

So what’s on tap for the rematch? Here are a few items to keep in mind while tuning in to Round 3 this week.

Hellmuth’s Confidence At An All-Time High

While poker players and pundits have debated Hellmuth’s style of play over the years, no one has ever questioned his confidence. His supreme belief in self is part of the show when putting “The Poker Brat” on the air for all to enjoy. And even though he lost to Dwan in the previous round, one must assume that Hellmuth’s hubris is at an all-time high after his inarguable excellent 2021 World Series of Poker performance.

For those that need a refresher, not only did Hellmuth bink WSOP bracelet #16 in the $1,500 2-7 No Limit Lowball Draw, the one tournament on his bucket list that he really wanted to win (“I wanted that bracelet so badly,” he said at the time) but he also made the final table in seven different events. That included the $50,000 High Roller PLO ($734,807) and the $10,000 Dealers Choice ($153,493) both of which he finished as the runner-up. If a card or two falls differently, we could be talking about Hellmuth looking forward to bracelet #20 and having an eight bracelet lead on his closest competition.

Even though the majority of his 2021 WSOP success was mixed games (he had two NLHE results, neither were deep runs) it’s not as if Hellmuth has been transitioning to mixed games full time. When he hasn’t been sitting courtside at Golden State Warriors games, making profitable football picks, or hitting the gym, Hellmuth has been occasionally splashing around in high limit No Limit games. As he was here with Dwan himself:

In short, look for Hellmuth to arrive in both bravado and style, perhaps even more than his usual fanfare. Ready to continue his vibe from 2021 right into 2022.

Will Tom Dwan let his inner ‘Durrrr’ come out to play?

The last time these two matched up in High Stakes Duel, there was a decidedly different Tom Dwan from the reputation he gained from his days in High Stakes Poker over 10 years ago. Dwan’s approach was rather measured, forsaking some of the high-flying plays he crafted during his online poker days playing under the ‘Durrrr’ pseudonym that brought him a reputation that is likely going to land him in the Poker Hall of Fame one day.

So while Hellmuth will be looking to employ some #WhiteMagic and #POSITIVITY, fans might wonder if Dwan counter by putting Hellmuth in tough spots with a variety of creative plays. Or will he stick to the script of his original victory and let the game come to him, picking his spots here and there and while letting a potentially volatile Hellmuth simply blow up if things don’t go the way of the Brat.

The dynamics of heads-up Sit & Go’s are different than that of full or even short-handed cash games, but the mere thought that Dwan might draw up and pull off a play as he did back in the day is one of the reasons he continues to be a fan-favorite to this day.

Here’s what’s REALLY on the line.

PokerGO is selling this heads-up match as a $400,000 battle with each player putting up $200,000. But in reality, it’s much more than that. This is High Stakes Duel III (Round 3) and according to the previously laid out rules, a champion needs to win three times in a row (before Round 4) in order to cash out. Hellmuth did this when he ran the table on both Esfandiari and Negreanu. If that doesn’t take place a champ needs to get (at least) back-to-back victories beginning in Round 4.

With that in mind, Dwan has only won once. So, at a minimum, if Dwan wins this upcoming match, he’ll need to win in Round 4, at double the stakes, in order to cash out. Round 4 will have a total prize pool of $800,000 easily making it one of the largest televised heads-up matches, save for situations like the Super High Roller Bowl where the money separating the final two can stretch into seven figures.

There would be even more pressure on Hellmuth if he wins. It’s three wins in a row, so his victory in Round 1 over Fox Sports personality Nick Wright doesn’t play. In order for Hellmuth to cash out he needs to get to a minimum of Round 5 where, according to the rules, the buy-in would be $800,000 – $1.6 million on the line.

That’s 2.5x the buy-in of the SHRB, an event that Hellmuth has repeatedly skipped over the past couple of years. It’s closing in on Big One For One Drop money. What makes Hellmuth’s rematch of Dwan so surprising is, if he wins, is he willing and able to go the distance to cash out for the third time?

Finally, what’s on the dinner menu?

Aside from the poker, one of the highlights of each of the previous matches has been Hellmuth’s appetite at the table…and we’re not talking about poker chips.

Sushi, turkey sandwich, burgers, and, of course, a can of BreinFuel and a super-sized bag of Sour Patch Kids. Who knows what it will be this time but whatever Hellmuth’s tableside snacks are Ali Nejad and the commentary team should have plenty of ammo to crack a few jokes as Hellmuth fuels more than his hunger for action at the table.

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