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.”
“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.