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Jason Koon Defeats Phil Hellmuth In $1.6 Million High Stakes Duel Match

The 37-Year-Old Poker Pro Earned A Convincing Win Over The All-Time WSOP Bracelet Leader In The $800,000 Buy-In Heads-Up Showdown


Jason Koon’s debut on High Stakes Duel saw him facing off against all-time World Series of Poker bracelet leader Phil Hellmuth, who came into the match an unbelievable 9-1 record on the heads-up showdown series from PokerGO. Koon and Hellmuth each put up $800,000 for this round five match of High Stakes Duel 3, making it a one-on-one clash for the largest amount of prize money yet on the show: $1.6 million.

It took just shy of two and a half hours for the winner to be decided, with Koon seizing the lead about a third of the way through and essentially never looking back from there. Koon, a 37-year-old poker pro from West Virginia who has cashed for more than $41 million in poker tournaments around the globe, emerged victorious to hand Hellmuth just his second loss in 11 matches played on the show.

“I had great hands. Even the hands that I bluffed, almost all of them kind of presented themselves in a natural way, so it was just one of those days where almost anybody in my seat is going to win,” Koon told PokerGO reporters after his huge win. "I was ready to lose this thing quite often because of the structure. I could have been on the other end of that, where Phil just had huge hands all of the time, and that’s just the nature of poker. You shouldn’t feel bad the days that you run good, and you shouldn’t feel bad the days that you run bad. It’s just the process of it all. Today, I got to be the winner, and it’s nice to do that for gigantic stakes.”

Phil HellmuthAs the winner of this round, Koon now moved on to Round 6, which would see him play a $3,200,000 match against either a new contender or Hellmuth if he decides to avail himself of his first right to challenge. Hellmuth, a 16-time WSOP winner with more than $25 million in tournament earnings, has not yet publicly announced whether he intends to play a rematch.

Hellmuth won High Stakes Duel 1 and 2 with clean sweeps of poker superstars Antonio Esfandiari and Daniel Negreanu. High Stakes Duel 3 began with another win, this time over sports commentator Nick Wright in the initial round. Wright opted not to rematch, and Tom Dwan replaced him and handed Hellmuth his first loss in round 2. Hellmuth clicked the rematch button and won, setting up an $800,000 showdown with Scott Seiver, who replaced Dwan. Had Hellmuth won this match against Koon, he could have chosen to walk away with his profits and the wrestling-style High Stakes Duel belt.

How HSD3 Round 5 Went Down

The match began with both players sitting on 800,000 each, with initial blinds of 1,500-2,500. Koon landed the first notable blow when his A-9 outflopped the A-10 of Hellmuth in a three-bet pot. While he called two streets, Koon’s river bet of nearly full pot went uncalled, and he took down the first chunky pot of the day.

Hellmuth was able to edge his way back to nearly even in time for the next big hand, which saw him river a jack-high straight against the flopped two pair of Koon. Hellmuth raised the river in position and got paid off to overtake the lead.

Hellmuth stretched a small lead before a mistimed preflop move saw him run into the pocket aces of Koon. Hellmuth limped in from the button for 3,000 total with QHeart Suit6Spade Suit and Koon three-bet to 10,500 with AHeart SuitAClub Suit. Hellmuth limp-reraised to 32,000. Koon was more than happy to four-bet to 120,000 with his pocket aces and was probably overjoyed when Hellmuth five-bet bluffed to 260,000. Koon moved all-in for 773,000 and Hellmuth folded. He slid to 567,000 after the hand, while Koon surpassed a million in chips.

“I thought you had the kings, I really did,” said Koon after a few minutes of Hellmuth’s frustrated chatter following the big hand.

Hellmuth got back a good chunk of his lost chips with a rivered nut flush against the rivered ten-high straight of Koon, with most of the chips going in on the turn thanks to a Koon semi-bluff after action was three-bet preflop by Hellmuth and checked through on the flop. With a pair on the board, Hellmuth checked from out of position. Koon checked behind, despite making his straight, with four hearts being on board and none in his hand. Hellmuth took down the sizable pot to narrow the gap considerably as the match entered its second hour.

It looked like Hellmuth might nearly pull back to even when he rivered the bottom end of a straight against the two pair of Koon, but a savvy move on the end saw Koon snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. On the river, Koon bet 4,000 into the pot of 17,000 with his jacks and nines and Hellmuth raised to 9,500 with his queen-high straight. Koon then turned his two pair into a bluff, re-raising to 30,000 and drawing a snap fold from Hellmuth, who would lose to any hand that included a king.

Jason KoonKoon soon extended his chip lead back up to nearly 2:1 thanks to a big hand he won by snap-calling the river with just ace high. Koon raised to 10,000 on the button with ADiamond SuitQDiamond Suit. Hellmuth thre-bet to 26,000 from the big blind with QHeart SuitJClub Suit. Koon called and the flop came down 9Heart Suit9Club Suit2Spade Suit. Hellmuth bet 32,000 and Koon called. The 3Club Suit turn saw both players check and the 10Heart Suit completed the board. Hellmuth fired 52,000 with his unimproved queen high and Koon essentially instantly tossed in the chips to call.

The chip disparity only grew when Koon flopped top pair in a three-bet pot and improved to top two on the turn. Hellmuth fired 62,000 into 72,000 in the turn with a double-gutshot straight draw, but gave up when the river made a flush possible while improving him to fourth pair. Koon checked behind and took down the healthy pot to surpass 1.2 million while Hellmuth’s stack dwindled to 434,000.

Not long after that, Koon extracted a roughly pot-sized bet with a rivered eight-high straight from Hellmuth, who had improved to a second pair with an ace kicker on the end. With that Koon’s chip advantage grew to more than 3.5:1. Koon won the majority of the (mostly small pots) of the next 10 minutes to grow his lead even further.

“This is not how I saw the match going,” admitted Hellmuth in between one such hand.

Koon’s lead approached 7:1 after he turned pocket deuces into a bluff to get Hellmuth off of fourth pair on a board with four cards to a straight. Hellmuth stopped the bleeding by rivering trips against a larger pair for Koon but did not get his river raise paid off. He then found a well-timed move with Q-5 on an A-10-4-6 board that got Koon off of a pocket pair of nines.

It wasn’t long before Koon won another big pot. He flopped trip fives after raising preflop with A-5 and Hellmuth floated with 9-8. Hellmuth picked up a gutshot on the turn and attempted a check-raise semi-bluff. Koon wasn’t going anywhere, though, and he won another hefty pile of chips after Hellmuth check-folded the river.

A classic Helmuth tirade was unleashed when Koon raised big 6-4 suited from the big blind after a Hellmuth limp and then fired with air on a J-J-J flop. Hellmuth called with king high on the flop and the two combatants checked through a queen on the turn. Koon rivered jacks full of fours and bet 36,000 into the pot of 108,000. Hellmuth called with his king high and Koon won the healthy pot to take roughly a 15:1 lead.

The very next hand saw Koon raise to 12,000 on the button with QClub Suit8Diamond Suit. Hellmuth three-bet to 35,000 from the big blind with ADiamond SuitKClub Suit. Koon opted for a four-bet jam and Hellmuth called all-in for 103,000 total. Hellmuth was just better than a 2:1 favorite to double up, but the board ran out QSpade Suit10Club Suit4Spade Suit10Diamond Suit3Spade Suit to give Koon queens and tens for the win.

With that, Koon became the player to beat heading into the $3,200,000 round. He will face either a rematch from Hellmuth or, possibly, a challenge from another high-stakes superstar.

“My preparation for this match was not only Phil-specific but it was also – I assumed it was going to go two ways,” Koon told PokerGO after his victory against Hellmuth. “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.”

If Koon were to win a Round 6 match, he would be able to lock up his profits and claim the championship belt, as a player must come out on top in two consecutive matches after Round 4 in order to be crowned the High Stakes Duel winner.

To watch a replay of the match, along with any previous High Stakes Duel episode and a massive library of other top poker content, you’ll need a PokerGO account. Sign up today using the promo code ‘CardPlayer’ for $20 off an annual subscription.

Photo credits: PokerGO / Antonio Abrego.