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Poker News | Casino Poker | Tournament Reports

Paul Wasicka Wins NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship

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Proving once again, and for the second time in less than a week, that he is a major force to be reckoned with in the poker world, Paul Wasicka emerged victorious Sunday night in the NBC Heads-Up Poker Championship. The invitational event, which was held at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, included poker superstars and movie stars, among them Jennifer Tilly, Shannon Elizabeth, and Don Cheadle. There were two small ironies attendant to this victory: First, Wasicka received his invitation only after Phil Helmuth withdrew to play a poker tournament in the UK. Second, as Wasicka reports in his blog at kwickfish.com, when he showed up to buy in to this invitation-only event he was nearly turned away by a tournament official who didn't recognize him.

The first series of matches were held on Friday, March 3, just hours after Wasicka's appearance at the WPT final table of the LA Poker Classic Main Event, where he finished fourth in a field of 791 players, winning $455,615.
The heads-up matches featured a total of 64 players, distributed into four starting groups, or brackets. Emerging from the hotly-contested early-round matches, the final group of eight were:

Shannon Elizabeth (winner) vs. Humberto Brenes
Paul Wasicka (winner) vs. Nam Le
Chad Brown (winner) vs. Kristy Gazes
Gavin Smith (winner) vs. Andy Bloch

Wasicka had a tough fight to get past Elizabeth, who proved her own poker prowess several times over in the course of the event. Lasting over two hours, theirs was the longest match of the tournament. She held the chip lead for most of it, but suffered a tough beat with {A-Clubs}{Q-Clubs} versus Wasicka's pocket Tens, when the latter was down to $195K. The flop came {Q-Hearts}{J-Hearts}{6-Clubs}, giving her top pair, but the {K-Spades} on the turn and {A-Spades} on the river gave Wasicka a Broadway and put him back in contention.

Smith gave Brown a run for his money as well, but his final all-in, with pocket fives, was no match for Brown's pocket Aces.

The final match, between Wasicka and Brown, began just over an hour after their previous matches ended. In this case, it was best two out of three. Wasicka won the first match, taking the lead after a hand where he called Brown down on the river holding just a four, on a Board of {3-Diamonds}{5-Hearts}{A-Spades}{4-Spades}{3-Clubs}. (Brown held Jack high.) The two exchanged the chip lead several times, but the match finally ended on a flop of {6-Spades}{3-Spades}{3-Diamonds}, which gave Wasicka top pair with his {8-Clubs}{6-Hearts} and Brown a flush draw with {A-Spades}{J-Spades}. After Wasicka bet 80K, Brown went all-in and was called. {10-Diamonds} on the turn and {4-Hearts} on the river gave the first heat to Wasicka.

In the second, and as things turned out, final heat of the match, Wasicka took an early lead when he flopped top pair with {A-Diamonds}{J-Hearts} and it held up. From there, he had Brown almost 3-1 and never looked back. The match only lasted about a half hour. On the final hand, Wasicka's chip lead was about 5-1 and Brown had not much choice but to go all-in when he paired his King on a flop of {K-Spades}{10-Diamonds}{9-Diamonds}. Unfortunately for Brown, his opponent held {Q-Diamonds}{J-Hearts} and had flopped a straight.

Wasicka, age 25, who lives in Las Vegas, took home $500,000 for the win. Brown received $250,000 for second place.

One of the things that distinguishes Wasicka, along with many other successful players, is his supreme confidence. Arash Markazi, a writer for SportsIllustrated.com, reported that after the first day of the LA Poker Classic, Wasicka told him, "I really feel that I can only beat myself. No one else can beat me." In keeping with that philosophy, Wasicka prepared for Day 2 of the LAPC by researching and taking notes on his opponents, remembering earlier situations where he had faced some of them, an activity Markazi also reported.

Wasicka's win here follows his 12th place finish in the Aussie Millions in January, and of course his second place finish in the 2006 World Series of Poker Main Event.

The complete starting field and early-round results for this invitational event was as follows:

Hearts bracket:
Allen Cunningham def. John Michael (Caesar's satellite qualifier)
Andy Bloch def. Jennifer Harman
Mike Matusow def. Daniel Negreanu
Michael Mizrachi def. John Juanda
Gavin Smith def. David Benyamine
Johnny Chan def. JC Tran
Jamie Gold def. Jennifer Tilly
Phil Gordon def. Scotty Nguyen

Round 2 matchups and results:
Andy Bloch def. Allen Cunningham
Mike Matusow def. Michael Mizrachi
Gavin Smith def. Johnny Chan
Phil Gordon def. Jamie Gold

Round 3 matchups and results:
Andy Bloch def. Mike Matusow
Phil Gordon def. Gavin Smith

Diamonds bracket:
Kristy Gazes def. Clonie Gowen
Isabelle Mercier def. Eric Larrivee (online qualifier)
Don Cheadle def. Phil Ivey
Scott Fischman def. Chris Ferguson
Brad Booth def. Howard Lederer
David Williams def. John D'Agostino
Gabe Kaplan def. Todd Brunson
Chad Brown def. Yosh Nakano

Round 2 matchups and results:
Kristy Gazes def. Isabelle Mercier
Scott Fischman def. Don Cheadle
Brad Booth def. David Williams
Chad Brown def. Gabe Kaplan

Round 3 matchups and results:
Chad Brown def. Brad Booth
Kristy Gazes def. Scott Fischman

Clubs bracket:
Shannon Elizabeth def. Rene Angelil
Jeff Madsen def. Steve Zolotow
Vanessa Rousso def. Erick Lindgren
Barry Greenstein def. Carlos Mortensen
Humberto Brenes def. Erik Seidel
Phil Laak def. Marco Traniello (Caesar's satellite qualifier)
Huck Seed def. Patrik Antonius
Chip Reese def. Paul Darden

Round 2 mathcups and results:
Shannon Elizabeth def. Jeff Madsen
Barry Greenstein def. Vanessa Rousso
Humberto Brenes def. Phil Laak
Huck Seed def. Chip Reese

Round 3 matchups and results:
Shannon Elizabeth def. Barry Greenstein
Humberto Brenes def. Huck Seed

Spades bracket:
Tuan Le def. Antonio Esfandiari
T.J. Cloutier def. Cyndy Violette
Joe Hachem def. Chris Moneymaker
Paul Wasicka def. Eli Elezra
Sean Sheikhan def. Gus Hansen
Ted Forrest def. Sam Farha
Annie Duke def. Jeff Shulman
Nam Le def. Greg Raymer

Round 2 matchups and results:
T.J. Cloutier def. Tuan Le
Paul Wasicka def. Joe Hachem
Ted Forrest def. Sean Sheikhan
Nam Le def. Annie Duke

Round 3 matchups and results:
Paul Wasicka def. T.J. Cloutier
Nam Le def. Ted Forrest

*photo courtesy of kwickfish.com*

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