Annie Duke won the first and third matches in a best of three series against her good friend, Erik Seidel, to win the 6th annual National Heads-Up Poker Championship (NHPC) Sunday.  On the same night that Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the Best Director Oscar (for The Hurt Locker), Duke became the first woman to win the NHPC.  For winning the young, yet already prestigious tournament, Duke took home $500,000.  Seidel banked $250,000.
Duke’s path to the championship was an interesting one, one that could be called “The Runners-Up Road.”  She eliminated a runner-up in the World Series of Poker $50,000 HORSE event (Andy Bloch), then two WSOP Main Event runners-up in a row (Darvin Moon and Paul Wasicka, the latter of whom won the 2007 NHPC), the 2007 WSOP Main Event champ (Jerry Yang), the 2008 WSOP Main Event third place finisher (Dennis Phillips), and finally the 1988 WSOP Main Event runner-up (Seidel).
While Duke’s march to the title was not easy, Seidel’s was even more treacherous.  He had to take out four WSOP Main Event champions (Huck Seed, who was last year’s NHPC champ, Chris Moneymaker, Peter Eastgate, and Scotty Nguyen) plus a WSOP Main Event runner-up (David Williams).
In the finals, Duke took the first match of the best of three series by virtue of small ball strategy and a couple of fortunate rivers in which she made a flush and a straight to win good sized pots.  In the second match, Seidel never let the 2009 Celebrity Apprentice runner-up (there’s that theme again) get any traction, leading the entire way.  Late in the match, Seidel, a member of Team Full Tilt, turned trip twos which allowed him to win a huge hand and cripple Duke.  Seidel tied up the match shortly thereafter.
In the deciding match, things stayed close about the first half hour, but Seidel eventually started to pull away from the pro, building a chip lead of more than 3-to-1.  Duke began to go into “all-in or fold” mode, though, and started creeping back into contention, forcing a few laydowns by Seidel.  The key hand then occurred about an hour into play.  Seidel raised pre-flop and with Q♦ 9♦, Duke pushed all-in.  Seidel called with A♦ K♦, which still gave Duke two live cards, but took away what she thought was going to be a flush advantage.  The flop was good for Duke – Q♣ 4♣ T♣ – but Seidel still had any Ace, King, or Jack as outs.  The 9♠ on the turn gave Duke two pair, leaving Seidel only with the gut-shot straight draw.  The 9♥ on the river gave Duke a full house and a 3-to-1 chip lead.
Just a few minutes later, Duke won the tournament when her pocket 8s bested Seidel’s A-2.
Even though only one player could win, this was quite the success story for both finalists.  It was the first time that Erik Seidel had even made it out of the first round of the NHPC, while it was only the second time Annie Duke had accomplished the feat.
2010 National Heads-Up Poker Championship Results
First Round
Clubs Bracket
Chris Moneymaker def. Patrik Antonius
Leo Wolpert def. Eric Baldwin
David Williams def. Joe Cada
Erik Seidel def. Huck Seed
Erick Lindgren def. Dan Ramirez*
Peter Eastgate def. Bertrand Grospellier
Stephen Quinn* def. Ted Forrest
Jamie Gold def. Dario Minieri
Spades Bracket
Phil Ivey def. Gavin Smith
Scotty Nguyen def. Richard Edwards*
Joe Hachem def. Shawn Rice^
Gabe Kaplan def. Johnny Chan
Jason Mercier def. Daniel Negreanu
Pieter de Korver def. Mike Sexton
Phil Gordon def. Tom Dwan
Phil Laak def. John Juanda
Hearts Bracket
Allen Cunningham def. Jesper Hougaard
Eli Elezra def. Greg Mueller
Chris Ferguson def. Annette Dworski*
Dennis Phillips def. Kara Scott
Doyle Brunson def. Brock Parker
Don Cheadle def. John-Paul Kelly
Phil Hellmuth def. Howard Lederer
Annette Obrestad def. Orel Hershiser
Diamonds Bracket
Barry Greenstein def. Vanessa Rousso
Sam Farha def. Antonio Esfandiari
Jennifer Harman def. Jennifer Tilly
Jerry Yang def. Mike Matusow
Darvin Moon def. William Huntress^
Annie Duke def. Andy Bloch
Paul Wasicka def. Andrew Wilson*
Gus Hansen def. Greg Raymer
* Indicates online qualifier
^ Indicates Caesars Palace qualifier
Second Round
Clubs Bracket
Chris Moneymaker def. Leo Wolpert
Erik Seidel def. David Williams
Peter Eastgate def. Erick Lindgren
Jamie Gold def. Stephen Quinn
Spades Bracket
Scotty Nguyen def. Phil Ivey
Gabe Kaplan def. Joe Hachem
Jason Mercier def. Pieter de Korver
Phil Laak def. Phil Gordon
Hearts Bracket
Eli Elezra def. Allen Cunningham
Dennis Phillips def. Chris Ferguson
Doyle Brunson def. Don Cheadle
Annette Obrestad def. Phil Hellmuth
Diamonds Bracket
Barry Greenstein def. Sam Farha
Jerry Yang def. Jennifer Harman
Annie Duke def. Darvin Moon
Paul Wasicka def. Gus Hansen
Third Round
Clubs Bracket
Erik Seidel def. Chris Moneymaker
Peter Eastgate def. Jamie Gold
Spades Bracket
Scotty Nguyen def. Gabe Kaplan
Jason Mercier def. Phil Laak
Hearts Bracket
Dennis Phillips def. Eli Elezra
Doyle Brunson def. Annette Obrestad
Diamonds Bracket
Jerry Yang def. Barry Greenstein
Annie Duke def. Paul Wasicka
Clubs Bracket
Erik Seidel def. Peter Eastgate
Spades Bracket
Scotty Nguyen def. Jason Mercier
Hearts Bracket
Dennis Phillips def. Doyle Brunson
Diamonds Bracket
Annie Duke def. Jerry Yang
Erik Seidel def. Scotty Nguyen
Annie Duke def. Dennis Phillips
Finals (best of three)
Annie Duke def. Erik Seidel (2-1)

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