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2010 NBC Heads-Up Poker Championship

2010 NBC Heads-up Poker Championship
by Chad Holloway of

The NBC National Heads-up Championship has become one of the most prestigious titles in poker. Past winners have included Phil Hellmuth, Paul Wasicka, and Huck Seed, among others. Each year, the top poker professionals hope for a spot in this invite-only tournament. Recently, the 2010 line-up was released among great anticipation, especially since this year will feature a record seven internet qualifiers.

The roster includes many familiar names; in fact, there are a number of automatic qualifiers each year. For instance, all the past NBC Heads-up winners are invited back as are the past few World Series of Poker Main Event winners (Jamie Gold, Jerry Yang, Peter Eastgate, and Joe Cada), the past WSOP Main Event runner-up (Darvin Moon), and the past two NBC Heads-up runner-ups (Vanessa Rousso and Andy Bloch). Other players qualified based on their performances in past WSOPs and other tournaments around the world. These players include Phil Ivey, Sam Farha, Brock Parker, Greg Mueller, Leo Wolpert, Peiter de Korver, Eric Baldwin, and Jason Mercier. Some of the automatic qualifiers have chosen not to participate however, including the reigning WSOP Player of the Year, Jeffrey Lisandro, and WSOP-Europe winner, Barry Shulman.

Many of poker’s top pros were invited based on their popularity and success including: Patrik Antonius, Daniel Negreanu, Doyle Brunson, Tom Dwan, Antonio Esfandiari, Annie Duke, Eli Elezra, Gus Hansen, Mike Matusow, Chris Moneymaker, Scotty Nguyen, and Mike Sexton. In addition, some new face will make their first appearances in the tournament. Both Annette Obrestad, the 2007 World Series of Poker Europe champion and recent 21 year-old, and Kara Scott, the new High Stakes Poker host, will be competing in their first NBC Heads-up Championship.


For the European contingent, you’ll be happy to know that both Jesper Hougaard and John Paul Kelly, both winners of a WSOP and a WSOPE bracelet in a single calendar year (2008 and 2009), are competing. If you’re not familiar with all of these poker names, you might be surprised at some of the celebrities who will be competing in the tournament. These include Don Cheadle, Orel Hershiser, Gabe Kaplan, and Jennifer Tilly.

For those who may have watched the NBC Heads-Up Championship in past years, you may notice many players who are missing, either because they did not qualify or were not invited back. For example, some of the names that competed in 2009 but weren’t invited back for 2010 included: Layne Flack, Chad Brown, Scott Fischman, Ivan Demidov, David Pham, John Phan, Kenny Tran, Jonathan Little, Glen Chorny, Brad Garrett, Gavin Griffin, Vanessa Selbst, David Benyamine, Clonie Gowen, J.C. Tran, and Ilari “Ziigmund” Sahamies.

The NBC Heads-up Championship takes place March 4-7 at Caesars Palace. All players, with the exception of internet qualifiers, will be required to put up $20,000 to play. The tournament itself will air on NBC in the spring. The complete list of participants, in alphabetical order, is found below:

Patrik Antonius
Eric Baldwin
Andy Bloch
Doyle Brunson
Joe Cada
Johnny Chan
Don Cheadle
Allen Cunningham
Pieter de Korver
Annie Duke
Tom Dwan
Peter Eastgate
Eli Elezra
Antonio Esfandiari
Sam Farha
Chris Ferguson
Ted Forrest
Jamie Gold
Phil Gordon
Barry Greenstein
Bertrand Grospellier
Joe Hachem
Gus Hansen
Jennifer Harman
Phil Hellmuth
Orel Hershiser
Jesper Hougaard
Phil Ivey
John Juanda
Gabe Kaplan
John Paul Kelly
Phil Laak
Howard Lederer
Erick Lindgren
Mike Matusow
Jason Mercier
Dario Minieri
Chris Moneymaker
Darvin Moon
Greg Mueller
Daniel Negreanu
Scotty Nguyen
Annette Obrestad
Brock Parker
Dennis Phillips
Greg Raymer
Vanessa Rousso
Kara Scott
Huck Seed
Erik Seidel
Mike Sexton
Gavin Smith
Jennifer Tilly
Paul Wasicka
David Williams
Leo Wolpert
Jerry Yang
Plus: Seven Online Qualifiers

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