Tom Dwan was able to finally end Phil Hellmuth’s winning streak on “High Stakes Duel” on PokerGO Studio in Las Vegas on Wednesday, 25 August. After seven straight wins, Phil Hellmuth suffered a defeat from Dwan who was able to bust him by cracking pocket aces. The exact same way he did at the 2008 NBC Heads-Up Poker Championship. As a reminder, all the way back in 2008, Dwan took the poker world by storm on Full Tilt Poker. He was able to beat Phil Hellmuth, the 2007 Poker Hall of Fame inductee, with pocket tens in the first round of the heads-up poker. This sent Hellmuth into the most memorable rant of his career. “We’ll see if you’re even around in five years,” said Hellmuth in 2008. After 13 years, Tom Dwan is not only “around”, but continues to dominate in poker tournaments. Moreover, he was able to win a long-awaited heads-up rematch against Phil, ending the six-hour duel in the most spectacular way possible. Read on to find out what exactly happened that night.
Phil Gets An Early Lead
Phil Hellmuth entered the duel against Tom Dwan with an impressive record of 7 wins and 0 defeats on “High Stakes Duel.” He was able to defeat Antonio Esfandiari three times in 2020, three against Daniel Negreanu this year, and once against a sports talk show host Nick Wright in July. Wright has decided to decline a rematch after he lost $50,000 in Round 1, which allowed Tom Dwan to take his place in Round 2. The buy-in was $100,000 (100,000 chips) making a prize pool of $200,000.
As the duel started, Phil was able to quickly gain an upper hand. It was quite unusual for him, as in previous matches he would be the one catching up. By gaining this early game advantage, Hellmuth built a nice momentum and seized several small pots. His stack grew from 100,000 to 125,000 chips as a result.
But it is important to keep in mind that “High Stakes Duel” is the game of the marathon variety. Even though Hellmuth won the first few battles, he was unable to win the war. On the other hand, Hellmuth is a very persistent poker player. He ground for six full hours and did not surrender his stack, as opposed to many of his rivals. Phil was able to apply this strength of his against Dwan. He would not lose a huge pot unless he has a bad beat. This made life more difficult for Dwan, as he was unable to maximize value out of his big hands.
Dwan Comes Back
Later on in the game, Tom Dwan was able to even things out by winning several smaller pots. And it did not take long for him to jump ahead of Phil. On the 124th hand, Dwan was able to gain an advantage and become the leading player. With 2,400 in the pot and a flop of 5 10 Q, Hellmuth decided to bet 800 with his K 9 which had the potential for a straight or a flush. Tom Dwan responded with a raise of 3,000 with his Q 10. With 6 on the turn, Dwan decided to bet 4,800 which was called by Hellmuth. A 3 came up on the river. Dwan continued to push and bet 13,300 without any action. Nevertheless, he was in the lead now for the first time during this session. An hour has passed and Hellmuth lost a large pot to Dwan’s ace high. It was evident that Hellmuth was losing momentum. And his frustration grew stronger as Dwan took control of the session.
Being a poker professional, Phil was able to remain realistic and prevent his emotions from taking over. He allowed Dwan to take smaller pots in order to avoid losing large, which has proved to be a winning strategy for his WSOP bracelet in the past. However, his bluffs just did not seem to work against Tom Dwan. He was also unable to gain much value from large hands. This trend was unusual for him throughout the “High Stakes Duel”.
Soon after, things began to turn south even more for Phil. At the approximately three-hour mark, Hellmuth got an A 4 with 9 9 8 J on the board. He decided to bet 12,000, which was almost half of the pot. This move turned out to be unfortunate for Phil, as Dwan had 10 7 with a straight and moved all-in. Hellmuth could only fold at this point and became down 3-1 in terms of chips count.
For a brief moment, it seemed as if Hellmuth began to fight back and had a real chance to flip the game in his favor. He continued his battle for smaller pots and was able to catch up at one point in the session. However, as the blinds kept growing and the time was running out, Dwan was able to consolidate his leading position. But suddenly, Hellmuth was able to get pocket aces just like in 2008 at the NBC Heads-Up Poker Championship. At this point, Phil was only down a couple of blinds, so it was a perfect striking opportunity. Hellmuth decided to take it slow and Dwan checked in the big blind with his 9 3. The flop was 5 2 3. Dwan decided to bet 5,000 and was met by an all-in from Hellmuth. As it was a great opportunity to end the game, Tom decided to go all-in as well. The turn was 9, giving him a two pair.
The streak was over in this decisive hand. For the first time in a while, Phil Hellmuth is the one who needs to call for a rematch. If he indeed decides to go for a rematch, he will have to pay $200,000 for Round 3. On his way out of the PokerGO Studio, Hellmuth said “I don’t know if I’m going to rematch now.” On the other hand, it could be his emotions taking over. To be fair it was a difficult and frustrating game for him. If Hellmuth declines the rematch option, his seat will become available for another opponent. This time against Dwan.