Doug Polk Provides a Statistical Postmortem on His $1.2 Million Win Against Daniel Negreanu

Polk won more hands than Negreanu, but not by much

Two and a half weeks after his demolition of Daniel Negreanu in the “Grudge Match” heads-up challenge, Doug Polk is still talking about it. It’s no surprise, as he is certainly not shy about letting himself be heard and you know what? It’s cool because it’s pretty damn interesting that he pounded a Poker Hall of Famer into the ground so convincingly. So yeah, let’s hear more about it.

Late last week, Polk tweeted out some statistics from his 25,000-hand competition against Negreanu, one in which he came out ahead by an insane $1.2 million. One of the more interesting stats was the very first he listed, that he won barely more than half the hands: 52.4%.

By my count, Negreanu won nearly half the sessions, but as is evident by this plus this above stat, Polk’s hand and session wins were much greater than were Negreanu’s.

And since it was a heads-up contest, the players were always either in the small blind or big blind. Polk was above a 50% winning percentage in each position, slightly better in the small blind.

A pair of key stats, which we will touch on more in a moment, are Polk’s winning percentages when seeing the flop and when going to showdown. From the big blind, he only won 47.3% of the time from the big blind if he saw the flop, yet won nearly 60% of the time from that same position if the hand went all the way to showdown.

To that, high stakes poker pro Mike McDonald tweeted, “Very lucky with showdowns in the big blind. As expected.”

His small blind stats were flipped, winning after seeing the flop over 60% of the time, while winning at showdown just 45.5% of the time.

Win rates were wild

Polk’s win rates were all over the map. He won 62.9 big blinds per 100 (bb/100) when in position in a single-raised pot and lost 33.9 bb/100 out of position. In a three-bet pot, he was down 15 bb/100 in position, yet up a monstrous 228 bb/100 out of position. In four-bet pot, his win rate was an astronomical 840 bb/100 in position, but a deathly -1,620 bb/100 out of position.

Perhaps the most interesting statistic for the challenge was shown via a graph Polk posted. The graph obviously shows that he won over $1.2 million, but what it also displays was that he actually lost money overall – almost $200,000 – if the hand went to showdown. That means, of course, that he won that much more than his final tally if either he or Negreanu folded at some point.

Non-expert on high stakes, high level poker here, but to me, this seems to show that Polk was masterful at picking the right times to be aggressive to take down pots uncontested, while at the same time knowing when to get out. Though he lost money at showdown, it paled in comparison to what he made before the showdown, which may indicate that he was able to minimize pots if he wasn’t confident that he could win. Again, I’m just thinking out loud, so if I’m wrong let me know.

Polk added that he did not get particularly lucky, either. He ran below expectations on things making sets, flushes, and straights, only running slightly above expectations in turning gutshot straights and rivering sets.

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