Daniel Negreanu and Doug Polk ended their heads-up challenge last Wednesday with Polk winning the challenge by a convincing margin of $1.2 million.
Through 3 months, 36 sessions and 25,000 hands of play, poker fans were entertained three times a week with compelling and drama-filled heads-up play between two of poker’s greats. It wasn’t usually close throughout the match, but there were enough ups and downs to keep the result in question — at least for a little while.
In recent post interviews, Doug Polk has been quick to praise Negreanu’s heads-up play by saying that he adjusted much better than he expected him to. He also mentioned that by the end of the match, Negreanu was playing at a “pro” level, which on the surface should be obvious, but by Negreanu’s own admission heads-up play was not his strongest game.
Late last week after some time to reflect, Doug Polk shared more in-depth thoughts about how he felt Negreanu played throughout the match. He gives Negreanu a rough grade of how well he thinks Negreanu played, leaks he had, the way he played and other general thoughts.
You can check out that video in full here, which includes some analysis on hands to demonstrate some of his findings.
What were some of the more notable things that Polk said his thoughts about the match?
Here are key time spots of the video:
What he thinks of Negreanu’s play overall: 0.57
What Polk thinks of specific parts of Negreanu’s game: 6.42
Polk goes over specific hands to illustrate his point: 16.39
Overall ideas and thoughs on Negreanu’s play: 35.38
Final thoughts: 44.24
Polk thinks that Negraenu played “exceptionally well”
Doug Polk starts off his commentary by saying that Negreanu played “exceptionally well” compared to what he expected from someone from his background. “It’s a completely different beast when you play heads-up.”
Polk noted that he didn’t think Negreanu was ready for the degree of battling in heads-up that was required to win. But despite that his background in tournament poker and other non-heads-up situations that he held his own.
“I felt that he played relatively good in most situations.”
In terms of an overall grade, Polk gave Negreanu a B or a B+ at heads-up No Limit Hold’em during the challenge. “Daniel would beat anybody that is not an experienced heads-up No Limit pro.”
Negreanu’s downfall was being too conservative
Polk noted there was one primary attribute of Negreanu’s play that held him back, especially in the first half to two-thirds of the challenge. It was “being too conservative with being willing to put in all of the money.”
Once Negreanu realized that if he didn’t make some moves, “he was going to lose,” said Polk. That’s when Negreanu started to become a more formidable opponent to Polk.
As far as frequencies, Polk believed that Negreanu’s call-frequencies appeared to be better than his bluff-frequencies.
“He just wasn’t bluffing enough or being aggressive enough .” In doing so, Polk said that these errors snowballed in other areas of the game.
If Negreanu had played the aggressive way he did at the end of the challenge throughout the match, Polk says that it would have been much closer overall.
“I do think that it would have been more competitive if he had not been so limited by some of the framework of trying to make sure he picked the right spots to bluff. I think that really might be what it boils down to.”
Strengths, weaknesses and areas of exploitation
Polk noted that Negreanu did an “extremely good job” preflop with ranging and sizing. Negreanu also did a good job with the button, where he chose a lot of good flop sizes. “I like the sizes he was choosing to bet on some of these different boards.”
“I am going to give him an A on the tripling aspect of his game.”
As far as some of his weaknesses, Polk I thought his river probe was one of his weaker attributes. “Another thing that I think really haunted Daniel in this challenge was just being afraid to get check-raised.”
Polk said that despite some of Negreanu’s weaknesses there weren’t a lot of leaks to exploit from Negreanu. “The delayed c-bet was one. Bet, check, 3-bet pot, he folded too much there. In position, he needed to be a little less afraid to value bet because I think that hurt his frequencies.”
“At the end of the day, he was not winning enough pots. If we go birds-eye view, if we can ever get these hand histories, he just got buried in non-showdown.”
Negreanu could have done better in the coaching department
Polk said that one area Negreanu could have done better was his choice of coaches, who Polk was not familiar with.
“If he had wanted the best chance of winning this, He should have gone with some real heads-up no limit pros that knew what they were doing.”
“I don’t see why you would go to people that don’t play heads-up to learn heads-up.” Polk did note that Negreanu’s coaches did do a good job with some of their implementation and changes, but said he should have went with the guys who crush the no limit hold’em games.