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Poker news | Jan 13, 2022

Greatest Poker Rivalries of All Time

By RTR Alex

The Greatest Poker Feuds of All Time 2
In a world with such high stakes, it's no shock that the poker scene is flooded with rivalries. We've all heard of Ali vs Fraser and United vs City, and at the tournament tables these feuds are just as infamous. Like any other competitive sport, poker rivalries date all the way back to the game's inception - safe to say, heads-up hands and pot losses have made enemies for generations and continue to do so.

Today's social media spats may not be as deadly as showdowns in the 1800s, but they turn just as many heads. Twitter facilitates the more vocal characters at the tables, with the likes of Polk not-so-subtly pointing out Luke Schwartz' recent poker losses in the background of a post. Some feuds, like Negreanu versus Polk, even lead to one-on-one contests aiming to crown the rivalry victor and settle the debate for good. Others seem to last a lifetime and draw crowds of fans expecting a show - most often they get what they're looking for, even if they have to settle for a classic Phil Hellmuth freak-out.

At any given moment a poker rivalry can begin - any number of catalysts can start a feud, from an arrogant slow roll to a graceless bad beat. So, pay attention to the tournaments and especially your Twitter timelines. Who knows, you may be first in line to the next feud face-off. Without further ado, here's a taster of just how wild these rivalries can get.

Wild Bill Hickok vs James McCall

Perhaps the most famous poker feud of all time - so notorious it even coined the term 'Dead Mans Hand' - is the story of James Butler Hickok, better known as 'Wild Bill', and Jack McCall.

1876 in the Old West was a year that culminated in Hickok's brutal murder at the hands of poker rival Jack McCall.

Hickok had already made quite a name for himself in the gambling world, after taking part in the first ever quick draw duels in 1875 where he killed fellow gambler Davis Tutt over an unpaid poker debt. But, his notoriety would soon turn against him with enemies seeking revenge.

On August 1, 1876, Wild Bill Hickok was playing poker at Nuttal & Mann's #10 Saloon in Deadwood, Dakota. A drunk Jack McCall joined the game and ended up losing rather heavily. According to the tale, Hickok encouraged McCall to quit and even offered him money for breakfast. McCall accepted defeat and even the free breakfast, but must have taken the loss more personally than anyone expected.

The next day, Hickok returned to the table for a few more rounds of Five Card Stud, reportedly facing away from the door. With his back turned to the entrance, McCall entered the saloon and drew his .45-calibre Colt revolver. He put the gun to the back of Hickok's head and shot him at point blank range - a deadly moment that secured this feud in the history books forever.

The hand Hickok was holding at the time of his death, has been dubbed the 'Dead Man's Hand'. The hand is two black aces and two black eights. Although this may be a pretty good hand in Five Card Stud, those more superstitious could feel slightly cursed by the combination. So, if you see this on the table, maybe keep an eye on the casino doors.

Doug Polk vs Luke Schwartz

From the deadliest to perhaps the pettiest feud, we're taking a trip from the Dakota saloons of 1876 to today's Wild West equal - Twitter.

Doug Polk, one of the more outspoken in the poker scene, often takes to Twitter to stir the pot. His most recent endeavour was calling out Phil Hellmuth - perhaps the most coveted poker tournament player of this generation, with a record 16 World Series of Poker gold bracelet wins. Now, there aren't many other poker players who would poke fun at such a heavyweight, but for Doug Polk, this seems to be the norm.

Polk's most entertaining feud by far, is his verbal jousting match with Luke Schwartz which continues to this day. The timeline of their rivalry is hard to follow given it's longevity, but here are some notable moments.

First, we have Doug Polk showing a graph of Schwartz' $800,000 downswing on the Pokerstars platform on Joey Ingram's podcast, in a video that now has over 100,000 views.

This was closely followed by Schwartz very openly speaking of his disdain toward Polk in an interview with 'PokerNewsdotcom' that became even more popular on Youtube.

They did attempt to settle the debate with a heads-up battle, but this only added fuel to the fire. Schwartz has admitted to losing $100,000 in a heads-up game with Polk, but Doug claimed that in a different $60,000 win over Luke, he had Viktor “Isildur1” Blom playing for him in the contest. Schwartz hit back with a similar accusation - claiming that Polk’s “pigeon friend” Jake 'JLlama' Abdalla had been “either ghosting him or telling him what to do” during the match.

With neither allegation ever proven or admitted to, the two continued with a battle of insults. Schwartz didn't hold back with this line - calling Doug a "sad battle nerd waste of space". To which Polk instantly responded with another heads-up challenge.

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Schwartz has regularly claimed his superiority in online poker and high stakes cash games, but after Polk called him out for not competing in the far more serious $300k Super High Roller, Schwartz definitely had reason to swallow some of his pride. Polk also went on to win the prestigious $111,111 High Roller for One Drop for over $3.6M in June 2017, and we haven't heard much from Luke Schwartz since. Polk shows no signs of stopping the feud, so with any luck Schwartz will soon return to his keyboard-warrior ways to provide more entertainment for the fans at home.

Polk is still at it to this day though, with his most recent crypto-related insult keeping himself well within the action.

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Jeff Lisandro vs Prahlad Friedman

Perhaps the most infamous live-event feud is the Lisandro vs Friedman fiasco of 2006.

On the main stage of all main stages - the WSOP Main Event - Prahlad Friedman accused Jeff Lisandro of failing to post a 5,000-chip ante. With the final table well within reach, it's no surprise that Lisandro took the allegation to heart.

When Lisandro disputed the claim, Freidman added to his claim of thievery by calling Lisandro a liar, stating "I don't trust you sir". The disagreement only escalated from there and became so heated that the floor stepped in to break them up. The argument was close to becoming physical with Lisandro threatening “I’ll take your head off, buddy!” as Friedman insisted on his failure to cough up the ante.

Both players have earned great respect in the community and any truth in the accusation would be a story for the ages, well beyond the feud itself.

Freidman - one of the original online poker prodigies, before Tom Dwan and Viktor Blom took over the scene - won a WSOP bracelet in 2003 and a World Poker Tour title and has continued to build a respectable legacy ever since. Lisandro, on the other hand, has 5 WSOP bracelet wins and 68 money finishes, compared to Freidman's mere 5 in comparison. Unsurprisingly he must have felt an attempt to damage his reputation was at play.

As it turned out, a replay showed that Lisandro had in fact put up the ante and rightly so, Freidman later tried to apologise but Lisandro refused to speak to him. Lisandro went on to finish 3 places above Prahlad Freidman, which can only have made the Californian feel even worse.

Now referred to as 'Ante Gate', the fight still remains one of the wildest WSOP moments in history. Poker may be a game of deception and mind games, but there has always been honour in sticking to the rules and common courtesies at the table. Understandably then, an accusation of this nature between two legends was felt across the entire poker community.

Honourable Mentions:

Daniel Negreanu vs Annie Duke

Dating back to the early 2000s, this mostly-online poker feud has become rather notorious for its petty insults. In a rivalry with undeniable poker legend Daniel Negreanu, Annie Duke (sister to Full Tilt’s Howard Lederer) referred to Negreanu as "cup boy" for his habit of having a styrofoam cup of water at the table. Negreanu fired back with an equally childish nickname "Annie Puke'' - a name he claims was given to her by the Las Vegas Mirage Casino dealers.

Sam Grizzle vs Phil Hellmuth.

Phil Hellmuth may have made his name by showing consistent talent at the tables, his fabled temper tantrums come in equal doses. He is famous for bad-beat outbursts and being somewhat of a sore loser, but when you're a 16-time WSOP champ, what is there to complain about? Hellmuth may say Sam Grizzle is the answer here. In 2003 Grizzle beat Hellmuth in a hand and continued to poke fun at Hellmuth's loss after the fact. More notably though, is their parking-lot fist-fight as a result of Hellmuth giving up Grizzle's seat in a game after 90 minutes away from the table. According to Hellmuth they "both land[ed] punches, but next day not a mark on either of [them] (BEST FIGHT EVER cause no one was hurt)."