A minor controversy that has followed NBC’s National Heads-Up Poker Championship (NHUPC) during its first four years of existence is that, aside from two or three satellite qualifiers, all of the participants are hand picked.Typically, the players invited are the “name” players, plus a handful of celebrities.Even if someone hadn’t really done anything in a while to deserve to be featured on a large, nationally televised stage, he or she would still get an invite if they had a recognizable name.

While a large portion of the field of sixty-four will still be chosen by the tournament’s organizers, many will now receive invites based on objective qualification criteria.In a nutshell, if you have achieved a high level of success on the tournament poker circuit recently, you have a great chance of being included.

Below is NBC’s list of players who will receive automatic bids.The new system will go into effect with the 2009 NHUPC.Those who receive automatic invitations will still need to buy-in to the tournament.

  • Previous 5 National Heads-Up Poker Champions
  • Previous 2 National Heads-Up runners-up
  • Defending National Heads-Up semifinalists
  • Any player who cashes in the past 4 consecutive years of the National Heads-Up Poker Championship
  • Previous 3 World Series of Poker Main Event Champions
  • Defending World Series of Poker Main Event runner-up
  • Beginning with the 2008 WSOP, multiple bracelet winners in the same year will receive an automatic invitation to the next Heads-Up Championship
  • Defending World Series of Poker Player of the Year
  • Defending World Series of Poker Heads-Up Champion
  • Defending World Series of Poker Europe Main Event Champion (must be 21 or older)
  • Reigning World Poker Tour Player of the Year
  • Reigning Monte Carlo European Poker Tour Grand Final Champion (must be 21 or older)
  • Reigning Card Player magazine Player of the Year
  • Reigning Bluff magazine Player of the Year
  • Reigning ALL IN magazine Player of the Year
  • Online and NBC qualifiers (1-3) (must be 21 or older)
  • Host venue qualifiers (2)
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