Are Heads-Up Grudge Matches the Future of Online Poker?

6 months ago
Are Heads-Up Grudge Matches the Future of Online Poker?
08:36
08 Mar

The online poker landscape changed a lot last year. When casinos around the world closed their doors around March all that we were left with was the online arena.

It wasn’t long before traffic figures were hitting five-year highs and people were saying the game was looking as good as it had in a long time. We had hit the jackpot out of a bad situation.


Heads-Up for Rollz

Something else that we saw start last year was the reinvention of the heads-up battle. Phil Galfond issued a public challenge to anybody brave enough to battle with him in a heads-up match playing high stakes PLO. It wasn’t long before we had a list of challengers.

Heads-up for rolls challenges aren’t exactly a new concept. In the early days of online poker they were the playground equivalent of starting a fight over nothing. But that doesn’t get away from the fact that they are, in fact, one of the best measures we have in testing a player’s skill.

While Galfond was grinding his way to a 3-0 lead against top quality opposition others began to take interest in what was going on. Primarily, we guess, because of all the attention it was getting.

Doug Polk and Daniel Negreanu didn’t take long to negotiate their High Stakes Feud. Some might say Negreanu was a little hasty to give Polk everything he wanted/needed with regards to the format. Others praised his bravery. To take on Doug Polk in his favoured format was actually incredibly brave. Especially with the limited time to prepare to face a guy who was once considered to be the best in the world at that format.

Whoever came out looking the best from the rules negotiations, both players had done their job in talking up their chances. The fans were hungry to see this. In the modern internet age we have so many quality options for viewing the match with commentary. It’s as if the internet was made for this kind of thing.



Starting Off a Trend

By the time Doug Polk was heading back into retirement with a couple of million extra dollars, the high stakes world was full of action seekers looking to fill this new gap in the market. The fans love this heads-up fighting.

So, next up into the limelight was none other than German tournament crusher Fedor Holz and Polish cash wizard Wiktor “limitless” Malinowski. For this battle we don’t know where to start, because it was born out of what looked like a joke.

Around six months ago, Malinowski told Joey Ingram on his podcast that he would take on Fedor Holz at any stakes he wants, and he will get drunk while he is playing. Holz took to social media to challenge “limitless” while he was losing badly in his other match against Stefan "Stefan11222" Burakov.


The cat is now out of the bag, as we say. These matches have become so popular that we may have a constant stream of them for the foreseeable future. Any hint of a disagreement in the poker community will lead to one of these battles.

Maybe we will even see an invigorated heads-up cash scene some years after it mostly died out except for the high stakes.


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Mark from Stamford in the UK is a professional cash game player, and part time journalist. A massive chess fan and perpetual traveller.He also produces strategy content for our sister wesbite PokerVIP.com.Read more

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