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Heads Up

Aside from the 1970, when Johnny Moss was the champion by vote, every World Series of Poker bracelet has been decided by a final heads-up battle between two players (not counting the handful of team events).

Some of the runners-up are unknown in the early years (a dozen or so tournaments through 1978), but the heads-up matchups are known for the other 2,000+ tournaments through 2022.1

Eleven players have reached heads-up at least ten times led easily and not surprisingly by bracelet king Phil Hellmuth:

Most Times Reaching Heads Up

RankPlayer1st2ndTotal%
1Phil Hellmuth16143053.3%
2Daniel Negreanu6101637.5%
3Johnny Chan1051566.7%
4Phil Ivey1051566.7%
5Doyle Brunson941369.2%
6Men Nguyen761353.8%
7Erik Seidel931275.0%
8Chris Ferguson661250.0%
9T.J. Cloutier651154.5%
10Johnny Moss821080.0%
11Bill Baxter731070.0%

Notes:

Daniel Alaei and Brian Rast are the only players to reach heads up at least five times and win every time.

Best Heads Up Records, Five-Attempt Minimum

RankPlayer1st2ndTotal%
1Brian Rast505100.0%
1Daniel Alaei505100.0%
3Adrian Mateos404100.0%
3Asi Moshe404100.0%
3Bill Boyd404100.0%
3Brian Yoon404100.0%
3Dominik Nitsche404100.0%
3Farzad Bonyadi404100.0%
3Jeff Madsen404100.0%
3Lakewood Louie404100.0%
3Max Pescatori404100.0%
3Robert Mizrachi404100.0%
3Tom Schneider404100.0%

Notes:

Worst Heads Up Records

Michael Watson holds the dubious distinction of being the only player to reach heads up five times without a bracelet.

Allen Kessler, Eric Drache, and Jason Stockfish are all winless in four tries, while nine players are currently 0-for-3.

Heads-Up Winning Streaks

Erik Seidel set a record by winning eight consecutive heads-up battles from May 7, 1992 to July 5, 2007 for his first 8 bracelets over Phil Hellmuth, J.W. Smith, Mike Davis, Will Wilkinson, Johnny Chan, Men Nguyen, Cyndy Violette, and Chad Brown.

Johnny Moss had the second longest streak of six wins from May 18, 1974 to May 1, 1988.

Six players have had streaks of five consecutive heads-up wins: Doyle Brunson (1976-78), Layne Flack (1999-2003), Jeff Lisandro (2009-14), Daniel Alaei (2006-15), Max Pescatori (2006-15), and Brian Rast (2011-21). Alaei's, Pescatori's, and Rast's streaks are still alive.

Heads-Up Losing Streaks

On the flip side, Scott Clements holds the record of six straight heads-up losses from June 9, 2009 to October 15, 2015.

Three players have lost five in a row: Jack Keller (1986-93), Chris Ferguson (2003-17), and Daniel Negreanu (2014-19). Negreanu's streak is still alive.

Five players have lost four in a row: Tom Jacobs (1985-2002), Eric Drache (1973-2009), Mike Wattel (2001-12), Allen Kessler (2005-17), and Jason Stockfish (2016-19). Drache's, Kessler's, and Stockfish's streaks are still alive.

Rematches

Only ten pairs of players have faced each other twice. Incredibly, Johnny Chan and Shaun Deeb have each been part of three of them. Only four rematches had neither Chan nor Deeb!

Chan defeated Lyle Berman twice, and Deeb defeated Paul Volpe twice. Otherwise, every rematch has been won by the loser of the first heads-up battle. Chan split with Erik Seidel and Phil Hellmuth, while Deeb split with Adam Friedman and Benjamin Yu. The other two rematches were Allen Cunningham vs. O'Neil Longson and Bill Baxter vs. Bobby Baldwin.

WSOP Rematches

YearBuyinEventWinner1st PrizeRunner-Up2nd Prize
1971$1,000Limit Ace-to-Five DrawJohnny Moss$10,000Jack Straus$0
1971$5,000Main EventJohnny Moss$30,000Jack Straus$0
1973$10,000Main EventPuggy Pearson$130,000Johnny Moss$0
1979$5,000Seven-Card StudJohnny Moss$48,000Puggy Pearson$24,000
1977$10,000Deuce-to-Seven DrawBobby Baldwin$80,000Bill Baxter$30,000
1982$2,500Ace-to-Five DrawBill Baxter$48,750Bobby Baldwin$19,500
1985$1,000Limit Hold 'EmJohnny Chan$171,000Lyle Berman$68,400
1997$5,000No-Limit Deuce-to-Seven DrawJohnny Chan$164,250Lyle Berman$91,250
1988$10,000Main Event - No-Limit Hold 'EmJohnny Chan$700,000Erik Seidel$280,000
2001$3,000No-Limit Hold 'EmErik Seidel$411,300Johnny Chan$211,210
1989$10,000Main Event - No-Limit Hold 'EmPhil Hellmuth$755,000Johnny Chan$302,000
2002$2,500No-Limit Hold 'Em - Gold Bracelet Match PlayJohnny Chan$34,000Phil Hellmuth$17,000
2002$5,000No-Limit Deuce-to-Seven DrawAllen Cunningham$160,200O'Neil Longson$80,100
2003$5,000No-Limit Deuce-to-Seven DrawO'Neil Longson$147,680Allen Cunningham$82,040
2017$10,000Limit Deuce-to-Seven Lowball Triple Draw ChampionshipBenjamin Yu$232,738Shaun Deeb$143,842
2018$25,000Pot-Limit Omaha 8-Handed High RollerShaun Deeb$1,402,683Benjamin Yu$866,924
2015$10,000Pot-Limit Hold 'Em ChampionshipShaun Deeb$318,857Paul Volpe$197,048
2018$10,000Big Blind Antes No-Limit Hold 'Em 6-Handed ChampionshipShaun Deeb$814,179Paul Volpe$503,196
2016$1,500Seven-Card StudShaun Deeb$111,101Adam Friedman$68,666
2019$10,000Dealer's Choice Six MaxAdam Friedman$312,417Shaun Deeb$193,090

Notes:

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