Jason Koon has officially been crowned the champion of High Stakes Duel 3. The 37-year-old poker pro unseated 16-time bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth, who had an incredible 9-1 winning record when the pair squared off for the unique heads-up poker series from PokerGO. Koon defeated Hellmuth in a $1,600,000 match but was not yet able to walk away with his winnings. The rules of the show dictated that in order to be declared the latest HSD champion, Koon would either need to win again in the $3,200,000 round or have no challengers step up within a 30-day window after Hellmuth declined to rematch against him.
In the end, it turned out that nobody was willing to post $1,600,000 million to play Koon knowing they would then need to not only win that match but also have to win the next round (with a whopping $6,400,000 on the line) or have nobody challenge them in the allotted time span.
Koon seemed to anticipate a lack of challengers. After his win over Hellmuth, he told PokerGO reporters, “My preparation for this match was not only Phil-specific but it was also – I assumed it was going to go two ways… One, there’s going to be some very rich recreational player who wants a sweat, which is great. Or there’s going to be some super alpha person who comes from Russia or somewhere who wants to play me, but I doubt it. I just can’t really see anyone that will play me. I’m not trying to be arrogant, it’s just that it’s a lot of money to move for a one-percent or two-percent edge that you’re going to have at most against me, but my preparation was to be ready to play an optimal player. I did not play an optimal strategy today. I played a very Phil-specific strategy. But if I play another player, I will be ready to play them if they play the way that a solver would play.”
With no challenger, Koon became the first player not named Hellmuth to secure the wrestling-style HSD championship belt. Koon may have only had to play one match, but his victory in early December over Hellmuth came at the highest stakes yet played on the show, and against an opponent who had won High Stakes Duel 1 and 2 with clean sweeps of living legends of the game Antonio Esfandiari and Daniel Negreanu.
high Stakes Duel 3 began with another win for Hellmuth, this time over sports commentator Nick Wright. Wright opted not to rematch for round 2, and high-stakes cash game regular Tom Dwan stepped in to hand Hellmuth his first loss in round 2, ending his incredible winning streak at 7 consecutive rounds. Hellmuth availed himself of a rematch and came out on top, setting up an $800,000 showdown with Scott Seiver, who stepped in for Dwan. Hellmuth came out on top, setting up the $1.6 match that was ultimately contested against Koon. Had Hellmuth won that match, he could have chosen to walk away as a three-time HSD winner.
Koon’s battle against Hellmuth lasted around 2.5 hours, with the challenger taking the lead relatively early thanks to a mistimed five-bet bluff from Hellmuth. As it turned out, he had chosen to make this move when Koon held the best starting hand in hold’em: pocket aces.
Koon was able to extend his lead fairly consistently after winning that big preflop confrontation and eventually closed out the match when his Q-8 outran the A-K of a short-stacked Hellmuth.
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