On Thursday night, the pairings were drawn for the 2010 National Heads-Up Poker Championship at PURE Nightclub at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. The first round of the 64-player tournament will commence on Friday, March 5th at Caesars and will continue through Sunday, March 7th.
Many of the faces in the $20,000 buy-in competition are household names: Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Negreanu, Johnny Chan, and Doyle Brunson, just to name a few. Party Poker’s poker ambassador and 2009 Poker Hall of Fame inductee, Mike Sexton, will be making his fourth appearance in this, the sixth running of the event. He has four wins and three losses in the National Heads-Up Poker Championship with his lone cash of $75,000 coming in 2005 when he made the “Elite Eight.” This year, Sexton will face off against European Poker Tour Monte Carlo Grand Final Champion, Pieter de Korver, in the first round of the Spades bracket.
Joining him will be one of the newest members of Team Party and the hostess of the Party Poker Premier League IV, Kara Scott. This will be her first time competing in the National Heads-Up Poker Championship. She will be in the Hearts bracket against 2008 World Series of Poker Main Event third place finisher, Dennis Phillips, to begin play.
The majority of the players, such as the two from Party Poker, were hand picked by the event’s organizers. Of course, the selections are never without controversy, as seemingly deserving players get “snubbed” every year. After the 2008 National Heads-Up Poker Championship, tournament officials implemented an automatic bid system so that players who had achieved recent success would always be included. This way, even if someone is still relatively unknown, they will not be left out of the field if they “deserve” inclusion. Those earning automatic bids this year are as follows:
- Previous five National Heads-Up Poker Championship winners: Huck Seed (2009), Chris Ferguson (2008), Paul Wasicka (2007), Ted Forrest (2006), Phil Hellmuth (2005)
- Previous two National Heads-Up Poker Championship runners-up: Vanessa Rousso (2009), Andy Bloch (2008)
- Defending National Heads-Up semifinalists: Sammy Farha, Bertrand “Elky” Grospellier
- Any player who has cashed in the past four consecutive years of the National Heads-Up Poker Championship: Huck Seed
- Previous three WSOP Main Event Champions: Joe Cada (2009), Peter Eastgate (2008), Jerry Yang (2007)
- Defending WSOP Main Event runner-up: Darvin Moon
- Multiple WSOP bracelet winners from the previous year: Phil Ivey, Jeffrey Lisandro, Brock “t soprano” Parker, Greg “FBT” Mueller, John-Paul Kelly
- Defending WSOP Player of the Year: Jeffrey Lisandro
- Defending WSOP Heads-Up Champion: Leo Wolpert
- Defending WSOP Europe Main Event Champion: Barry Shulman
- Reigning World Poker Tour (WPT) Player of the Year: Bertrand “Elky” Grospellier
- Reigning European Poker Tour (EPT) Monte Carlo Grand Final Champion: Pieter de Korver
- Reigning CardPlayer Magazine Player of the Year: Eric “basebaldy” Baldwin
- Reigning Bluff Magazine Player of the Year: Jason Mercier
- Reigning All In Magazine Player of the Year: Phil Ivey
Of the automatic qualifiers, both Barry Shulman and Jeffrey Lisandro had to decline their invitations because of prior commitments.
There are also seven players in the field who qualified via satellite: two from Caesars Palace, two from PokerStars, two from Full Tilt Poker, and one from NBC.com.
Like last year, the champion of the tournament will win $500,000, while the runner-up will receive $250,000. The other two semi-finalists will receive $125,000. Quarterfinal losers will win $75,000 and round of sixteen losers will get $25,000.
The National Heads-Up Poker Championship will air every Sunday at noon from April 18th through May 23rd on NBC.
2010 National Heads-Up Poker Championship First Round Pairings
Patrik Antonius vs. Chris Moneymaker
Leo Wolpert vs. Eric Baldwin
David Williams vs. Joe Cada
Erik Seidel vs. Huck Seed
Dan Ramirez* vs. Erick Lindgren
Peter Eastgate vs. Bertrand Grospellier
Stephen Quinn* vs. Ted Forrest
Dario Minieri vs. Jamie Gold
Gavin Smith vs. Phil Ivey
Richard Edwards* vs. Scotty Nguyen
Shawn Rice^ vs. Joe Hachem
Gabe Kaplan vs. Johnny Chan
Jason Mercier vs. Daniel Negreanu
Pieter de Korver vs. Mike Sexton
Tom Dwan vs. Phil Gordon
Phil Laak vs. John Juanda
Jesper Hougaard vs. Allen Cunningham
Greg Mueller vs. Eli Elezra
Annette Dworski* vs. Chris Ferguson
Kara Scott vs. Dennis Phillips
Doyle Brunson vs. Brock Parker
John-Paul Kelly vs. Don Cheadle
Howard Lederer vs. Phil Hellmuth
Annette Obrestad vs. Orel Hershiser
Barry Greenstein vs. Vanessa Rousso
Sam Farha vs. Antonio Esfandiari
Jennifer Tilly vs. Jennifer Harman
Jerry Yang vs. Mike Matusow
Darvin Moon vs. William Huntress^
Andy Bloch vs. Annie Duke
Paul Wasicka vs. Andrew Wilson*
Gus Hansen vs. Greg Raymer
* Indicates online qualifier
^ Indicates Caesars Palace qualifier