“What a long, strange journey it has been,” The Grateful Dead once claimed. It is doubtful that they saw the rivalry between Doug Polk and Daniel Negreanu on and off the online poker table.

But that line seemed obvious when the two titans of the poker world finally ended their month-long grudge match of the century on Wednesday.

We have followed the game in this column as much of the poker world has, as the cards were finally dealt out in late 2020 after years of building.

On Wednesday, when they were both finally getting a bit tired, Polk and Negreanu snuck through over 1,700 real money poker hands to finally hit the limit of 25,000 hands set at the beginning of the challenge. The final record: Polk won over $ 1.2 million from Negreanu.

In many ways the last days of action were anti-climactic. Since the matchup was initially set to 25,000 hands, there was always a kind of ticking clock in the whole affair. And as the week began, that clock essentially rang Negreanu’s downfall

Daniel Negareanu lost over $ 736,000 in the week without enough hands to play to have a decent shot to overtake Polk. When Polk cemented his reputation on Monday with a session win of over $ 200,000, the only questions left were how high the margin would be and whether they would end it next time. And they definitely answered that.

Apparently, the two decided on Wednesday that they would try to sort things out once and for all. Negreanu showed some life early on by moving forward over $ 100,000 in the session. But it was short-lived as Polk tore out profits in pieces before closing the session by adding another $ 255,000 to his grand total.

The final lead was the widest that existed between the two of them during the entire game. If you just look at that, you could say that Negreanu definitely got the worst of it. But in many ways these two guys turned out to be winners when all was said and done.

The beginnings of the grudge game

Interestingly, the rivalry between Polk and Negreanu hasn’t really improved because of the poker table game. In fact, they rarely crossed paths at tournaments. This was literally a social media battle especially in the 21st century.

These two guys have very different styles of poker that seemed to rub each other in the wrong direction. From Negreanu’s perspective, he likely saw Polks sniping on social media (and he was very effective at it) as a lack of respect, considering that Negreanu was certainly one of the first generation of poker stars who emerged from the game’s television boom in the 2000s Years ago.

And Polk seemed to see Negreanu as an establishment figure who needed to be unhooked.

The specific problems that flared up between them now seem to pale in comparison to this simple fact that they seemed to get under each other’s skin. Then there was the lengthy run-up to the actual game, which involved a lot of insults and haggling over the rules. It seemed like the bad blood would overwhelm any poker that is played.

But when they finally calmed down to achieve this, the two remained cordial, with the exception of a few late game flaws (which we’ll get to in a moment).

They played the very first session Negreanu won in the same room before switching to an online format. This format was largely what made the Grudge Match a safe game for both men in many ways.

Polk and Negreanu agreed to an online, multi-hand head-to-head battle against Texas Hold’em, a style Polk had made a name for and to which Negreanu, known for his tournament play, was a relative newbie. Hence, Polk had a huge advantage, which is why he was a 4: 1 favorite with most betting sites. And that meant both men had some kind of fallback.

Negreanu, always the most likely to lose, could always claim the disadvantage. And Polk, who would probably always win, could play with the certainty that he would most likely be ahead. If anything, Polk took some risk, as Negreanu Disorder would have seriously damaged his reputation.

When the poker cards were dealt

When the game started, Negreanu, known as Kid Poker among the game enthusiasts, was neck to neck with his opponent for about a week. But in the second week of the game, Polk put together a series of wins to take control of the process.

From then on, the ebb and flow of the action ensured that the status of the game jumped between “Polk has it in his pocket” and “Kid Poker could make a comeback”.

As the weeks went by, the faint glimmer of hope that Negreanu held onto slowly began to darken. In his defense, most of the game’s avid spectators seemed to agree that Polk made the most of it in terms of luck in the draw. A Friday session in which Negreanu scored the game’s biggest win of the day seemed to give him one final boost.

Doug Polk Pro poker player

However, this session also led to the errors mentioned above and the reappearance of bad blood. Polk came out the following Monday and suddenly changed his aggressive betting strategy in favor of limping in many hands. In what appeared to be an aggravated response, Negreanu came out in the next session and took forever to make decisions. Polk stormed out temporarily in protest.

The theatrical performances soon subsided, however, leaving the table set for Polk’s graduation on Wednesday.

After the final hands, the two players didn’t fire any final shots, they simply looked back at what had happened. Negreanu repeated that he wished he had had a little better luck at times during the game, while Polk admitted how much his opponent had improved.

Hoping for a rematch, Polk said he simply didn’t have the time to study to play another match like this (he had largely cooled his poker activities before the match.)

But even if it isn’t these two, the hope is that this fight has inspired more of the top poker pros to do the same and try it in a one-on-one fight. The head-to-head format is really one that players can use to cement these brands.

As great as the tournament game may be, final tables often consist of largely unknown players. While this can be exciting in its own way, rivalries are what define the sport. Think Yankees-Red Sox or Duke-North Carolina.

Can we add Polk-Negreanu to this list? Maybe not yet. The fact that it is even a consideration shows that this grudge game of the century was a win-win for these two fighters.