Every year, the National Heads-Up Poker Championship is taped in Las Vegas and broadcast on NBC. This tournament has been held since 2005 and is played at Caesars Palace. NBC has announced the list of poker players participating in the 2011 event, which is being sponsored by domain registrar GoDaddy.
The selections for this particular invitational tournament are always controversial. Most of those invited are professional poker players, but some celebrities are invited, presumably for ratings. Some of the professionals have not had many big results lately in poker tournaments (the live pros like Phil Gordon, who have been famous for years but who hardly even play on the pro tournament circuit).
In addition, virtually no unknown online professional poker players are invited. To be honest, though, there doesn’t seem to be a good argument for complaining about unknown heads-up specialists not being invited. While the marketing may be misleading, anyone who knows poker at all knows this is not even supposed to be the 64 best no-limit hold ’em heads-up players in the world. There is a reason it is called an “invitational.” Otherwise, everyone would have to qualify, which could make for an extremely boring broadcast. Indeed, the National Heads-Up Poker Championship is more like a pro-am invitational, not a professional poker tournament.
As in previous years, 2011’s crop of invited players includes celebrities like Jason Alexander and Emmitt Smith. It also includes several who qualified automatically based on past achievement in this heads-up championship, other tournaments or by winning Player of the Year from Bluff or Card Player magazines. Regardless of the reasons, here are the 2011 invitees for the NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship:
Gabe Kaplan (but he also plays poker extensively and could be considered a pro) (now replaced by pro Carlos Mortensen)
Jennifer Tilly (she could also be considered a pro, as Tilly plays on a regular basis)
The Poker Players
Cada, Joe (now replaced by Sam Trickett)
Chan, Johnny (now replaced by Olivier Busquet)
Duke, Annie (now replaced by David Oppenheim)
Lederer, Howard (now replaced by David Peat)
Note: Now, David Peat is replaced by Andrew Robl at the last minute.
Previous champions competing in the 2011 heads-up tournament include Phil Hellmuth, Chris Ferguson, Ted Forrest, Annie Duke (the 2010 champion) and Huck Seed. Previous champion Paul Wasicka will not be participating.
Refer to the bracket here to see which players are facing each other in the first round and possible matchups in later rounds. The bracket was posted online by Kevmath at the TwoPlusTwo poker forum.
Results of 2011 NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship for The First Round on March 4th:
Peter Eastgate over Chris Ferguson
Erik Seidel over Allen Cunningham
Phil Galfond over Joe Hachem
Vanessa Selbst over Eli Elezra
Jennifer Harman over Huck Seed
Phil Gordon over Tom Marchese
Greg Raymer over Mike Matusow
Bertrand Grospellier over Justin Young
Barry Greenstein over Scotty Nguyen
Ayaz Mahmood over Annette Obrestad
Liv Boeree over Jason Alexander
Antonio Esfandiari over Nicolas Chouity
Jason Mercier over Ted Forrest
Olivier Busquet over Dwyte Pilgrim
Andy Bloch over John Juanda
Jonathan Duhamel over Melvin Whitmire
Michael Mizrachi over Vanessa Rousso
Phil Laak over Daniel Negreanu
James Bord over Frank Kassela
Andrew Robl over Kara Scott
Gavin Smith over Gus Hansen
David Benyamine over Phil Hellmuth
Tom Dwan over Don Cheadle
Emmitt Smith over David Williams
Eugene Katchalov over Faraz Jaka
Dan Cates over Phil Ivey
Patrik Antonius over Sorel Mizzi
Dennis Phillips over Erick Lindgren
David Oppenheim over Eric Baldwin
Carlos Mortensen over Sam Trickett
Chris Moneyaker over John Racener
Doyle Brunson over Jennifer Tilly
Now, for the Top 32, the winner will be in the money and earn at least $30,000. The buyin for the NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship increased from $20,000 to $25,000 this season.
Jason Mercier over Andy Bloch
Jonathan Duhamel over Antonio Esfandiari
Eugene Katchalov over Patrik Antonius
David Oppenheim over Carlos Mortensen
Chris Moneymaker over Dan Cates
Olivier Busquet over Liv Boeree
Doyle Brunson over Dennis Phillips
Ayaz Mahmood over Barry Greenstein
Phil Gordon over Greg Raymer
James Bord over Gavin Smith
David Benyamine over Tom Dwan
Phil Galfond over Bertrand Grospellier
Andrew Robl over Emmitt Smith
Michael Mizrachi over Phil Laak
Erik Seidel over Jennifer Harman
Vanessa Selbst over Peter Eastgate
Those above losers failed to cash. Now, the tournament moved to the Top 16. The losers below in the Top 16 are the ones who make $30,000. The winners in the Top 16 are guaranteed at least $75,000.
Chris Moneymaker over Doyle Brunson
Jonathan Duhamel over Ayaz Mahmood
David Oppenheim over Eugene Katchalov
Olivier Busquet over Jason Mercier
Andrew Robl over James Bord
David Benyamine over Michael Mizrachi
Vanessa Selbst over Phil Galfond
Erik Seidel over Phil Gordon
OK. We are now on the last day of the NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship (March 6, 2011).
The last eight remaining players are guaranteed $75,000 (the quarterfinals losers will win that amount).
Chris Moneymaker over David Oppenheim
Jonathan Duhamel over Olivier Busquet
Andrew Robl over David Benyamine
Erik Seidel over Vanessa Selbst
The losing semifinalists will take home $125,000.
Chris Moneymaker over Jonathan Duhamel
Andrew Robl versus Erik Seidel
Chris Moneymaker has made the finals and awaits the winner of the Seidel/Robl match.
The final heads-up round is a best-of-3 competition. The first player to win two matches becomes the champion of the 2011 NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship.
Seidel wins to advance to the finals for the second year in a row.
The loser will take home $300,000. The winner this year takes home a nice $750,000.
Erik Seidel captured the first two matches to become the champion this year. 2003 WSOP Main Event world champion Chris Moneymaker takes second place.
NBC Sports: Another Stacked Heads Up Field For 2011