Daniel Negreanu

Negreanu-Hansen Challenge Belated Reprise of PokerStars-Full Tilt Poker Battle

Daniel NegreanuYesterday Team PokerStars Pro Daniel Negreanu drew some attention by issuing a new challenge to Gus Hansen, one of “The Professionals” who represent newly-relaunched Full Tilt Poker. As described by “Kid Poker,” the challenge will take the form of a team-based competition between Team PokerStars Pros and Full Tilt Poker’s sponsored pros, including Hansen.

The challenge came as a response to a tweet from Hansen late last week in which he referenced a famous hand between the pair from way back in 2006 on Season 2 of “High Stakes Poker”:

“Hey @RealKidPoker,” wrote Hansen, “remember this hand ‪http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ufZ-DHVCBQ … – Wonder if I ever get another chance to take your money ; – ) ”

Many remember the hand to which Hansen referred, one that saw both players flop sets — Negreanu with pocket sixes and Hansen with pocket fives — then Hansen turn the case five to make quads. Hansen ultimately won a $575,700 pot in the hand, at the time the largest ever on the popular show.

Hansen followed up with a second tweet:

“Hey @RealKidPoker come play me on @FullTiltPoker for a HSP rematch : ) ”

Negreanu initially fired back with a tweet referencing Hansen’s downswing thus far this year which has seen him lose nearly $800,000 online in 2013, according to High Stakes Database. Thus has Hansen continued a trend that began with the relaunch of Full Tilt Poker in early November 2012. Again according to High Stakes Database, Hansen lost more than $3.2 million online in the final two months of 2012.

“I was going to congratulate you on your graph for 2013,” Negreanu wrote to Hansen (@GusHansen), “but then I realized I was looking at it upside down. Ouch!”

Negreanu subsequently hinted that he would be providing further follow-up, and on Tuesday he did with a short video posted to his YouTube page, the first couple of minutes of which were dedicated to issuing his new Stars-vs.-Full Tilt-themed challenge.  Within an hour, Hansen replied with an acceptance.

Referring to Hansen’s status as “the elder statesman” among of “The Professionals” — i.e., the team of FTP-sponsored pros that includes Viktor “Isildur1” Blom and Tom “durrrr” Dwan — Negreanu proposed a competition to take place at the European Poker Tour’s London stop in March.

The challenge will involve two three-player teams, with the Full Tilt team consisting of Hansen, Blom, and Dwan, and the PokerStars one including Negreanu and two other Team PokerStars Pros to be named later. (Hansen has suggested he be allowed to choose Negreanu’s teammates from the large roster of Team PokerStars Pros.) The three players will each play heads-up matches against one another “battleship-style” (i.e. on laptops), with the stakes and formats to be determined.

“I think it’ll be good for poker… creating a lot of good railing opportunities for people,” concluded Negreanu.

While the challenge should draw plenty of publicity on its own, a competition pitting PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker players against one another is perhaps intriguing for at least a couple of other reasons, too, especially for those whose memory of online poker’s recent past is still vivid.

For one, it was less than two months ago when Hansen delivered a short burst of provoking tweets regarding the poker community’s collective dislike of Howard Lederer, messages which strangely seemed to defend Lederer while potentially alienating many others — including, perhaps, Negreanu.

In those late December tweets, Hansen characterized those critical of Lederer as “stupid people” who needed to “get a fu**king grip!” He also asked his followers “Do people hate Howard Lederer because of evidence of foul play or because Daniel Negreanu and Jason Mercier tells everybody to hate him?”

Haley Hintze reported here on the tweets in a post titled “Gus Hansen Has Howard Lederer’s Back in Puzzling Twitter Postings,” noting how the tweets not only betrayed Hansen’s lack of tact regarding the poker community, generally speaking, but also showed the “Great Dane” to be disingenuous regarding Lederer’s role in FTP’s downfall as well as his own understanding of it.

Meanwhile, the indirect jibe at Negreanu and Mercier also appeared to suggest some possible resentment, with those players’ status as Team PokerStars Pros inviting further speculation about the current relationship between the sites’ sponsored players.

Secondly, thoughts of a PokerStars-vs.-Full Tilt Poker competition further recalls a time in the not-too-distant past when the rivalry between PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker was so intense it tended to dominate daily poker news. As the two “super powers” of online poker, the sites competed in all aspects imaginable, from trying to obtain players and increase their market share to fighting for high-profile pros to sponsor.

Then came Black Friday to change the poker landscape, with both sites finding themselves forced to pull out of the United States after being targeted by a federal indictment and civil complaint. Today, nearly two years later, Stars has acquired FTP, reopening it under its aegis in November 2012, with players from many non-U.S. countries able to play on both sites.

Part of the pre-Black Friday story of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker was the way players from the two sites were often unable to compete with one another on certain tours and television shows.

For example, prior to April 2011, Team Full Tilters often stayed away from PokerStars-sponsored events (like EPT London). And while Negreanu and Hansen did battle on “High Stakes Poker” during the show’s early days, FTP pros stayed away from the show during later seasons when PokerStars was a sponsor. Similarly did PokerStars pros not appear on the FTP-sponsored “Poker After Dark” during the final two years of that show’s run. Other examples of such pre-Black Friday segregation of the two teams’ sponsored pros abound (as do conflicting theories over the reasons for such segregation).

In any event, while this new challenge appears to reprise the old PokerStars-Full Tilt Poker fight in a playful, sportsmanlike way, it will be interesting to see if all remains good-humored for those involved as the terms of battle are finalized and the contest finally plays out.

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