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Poker News | Casino Poker | Tournament Reports

Ferguson Claims NBC National Heads-Up Title

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The NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship has become one of the most anticipated annual events in poker. With the bracket-style matches and 64 competitors, fans of poker around the world complete their brackets, root for their favorites – or sometimes the underdogs – and anxiously await the results via various media outlets covering the event. And the 2008 Heads-Up Championship did not disappoint. After three days of play at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Chris Ferguson and Andy Bloch played the best of three rounds, and Ferguson emerged from the third and final round as the victor.

The matches were prefaced by a pairing party on the night of Thursday, February 28th at PURE Nightclub at Caesars. Along with food and drink, players and their guests were informed as to whom their competitors would be in the first round the next day, and they were able to see the possibilities of their future match-ups if they progressed in the tournament. And after the fun and excitement calmed down, players returned the next day to Caesars to compete for the coveted Heads-Up Championship title.

The first rounds were divided into four sections of brackets – Hearts, Diamonds, Spades, and Clubs.
The match-ups and winners on Friday, February 29th were as follows:


Vanessa Rousso defeated Antonio Esfandiari
Andy Bloch defeated Shannon Elizabeth
Scott Fischman defeated Todd Brunson
Jamie Gold defeated Tom Kelly
Orel Hersheiser defeated Ted Forrest
Allen Cunningham defeated Chad Brown
Sam Grizzle defeated Jean-Robert Bellande
Freddy Deeb defeated Paul Wasicka


Huck Seed defeated Jason Alexander
Brian Townsend defeated David Pham
Clonie Gowen defeated Jennifer Tilly
Michael Mizrachi defeated Daniel Negreanu
Barry Greenstein defeated Howard Lederer
David Benyamine defeated Jennifer Harman
Doyle Brunson defeated Sam Farha
Erick Lindgren defeated Eli Elezra


Jonathan Little defeated Erik Seidel
Gabe Kaplan defeated Patrik Antonius
Greg Raymer defeated Hooman Nikzad
Scott Clements defeated Kenny Tran
Mike Matusow defeated Joe Hachem
Tom Dwan defeated Phil Hellmuth
Gavin Smith defeated Tom Schneider
Chris Ferguson defeated John Juanda


Gus Hansen defeated Don Cheadle
Scotty Nguyen defeated Bill Edler
Jerry Yang defeated Chris Moneymaker
Phil Laak defeated David Singer
Phil Ivey defeated Alisha Kunze
Johnny Chan defeated David Williams
TJ Cloutier defeated Daniel Schreiber
JC Tran defeated Annie Duke

Notable facts: Out of seven women in the tournament, only two advanced to the second round – Rousso and Gowen. Reigning champion Wasicka was eliminated in the first round of play. One of the most major upsets was online phenom Dwan taking out Hellmuth in the first round and at the featured table. Out of the celebrity contingent, only baseball legend Orel Hersheiser and actor-turned-poker pro Gabe Kaplan advanced.

The second round took place on Saturday, and the matches concluded with the following results:


Andy Bloch defeated Vanessa Rousso
Scott Fischman defeated Jamie Gold
Orel Hersheiser defeated Allen Cunningham
Freddy Deeb defeated Sam Grizzle


Huck Seed defeated Brian Townsend
Michael Mizrachi defeated Clonie Gowen
David Benyamine defeated Barry Greenstein
Doyle Brunson defeated Erick Lindgren


Jonathan Little defeated Gabe Kaplan
Greg Raymer defeated Scott Clements
Mike Matusow defeated Tom Dwan
Chris Ferguson defeated Gavin Smith


Gus Hansen defeated Scotty Nguyen
Phil Laak defeated Jerry Yang
Phil Ivey defeated Johnny Chan
JC Tran defeated TJ Cloutier

All of the players who advanced to third round action were guaranteed a minimum of $25,000 for their efforts, which was a $5,000 profit after a $20,000 buy-in. The two remaining women in the field were eliminated, and the only celebrity pushing forward was the surprise of the tournament – Orel Hersheiser. After having received coaching from Gavin Smith, Mark Gregorich, and others, in addition to his recent cash game experiences in Las Vegas, he seemed to be on a roll.

The next round looked like this:


Andy Bloch defeated Scott Fischman
Orel Hersheiser defeated Freddy Deeb


Huck Seed defeated Michael Mizrachi
David Benyamine defeated Doyle Brunson


Jonathan Little defeated Greg Raymer
Chris Ferguson defeated Mike Matusow


Gus Hansen defeated Phil Laak
Phil Ivey defeated JC Tran

Again, Hersheiser was the big upset in this round to move on to the semi-finals, a bit reminiscent of Shannon Elizabeth’s performance at the 2007 tournament. Each player moving on was guaranteed $75,000. The next round played out as follows:

Hearts: Andy Bloch defeated Orel Hersheiser

Huck Seed defeated David Benyamine

Clubs: Chris Ferguson defeated Jonathan Little

Spades: Phil Ivey defeated Gus Hansen

The final four were set to compete, and those gentlemen were all seasoned professionals with experience and skills to take with them into the matches. Phil Ivey, just coming into this tournament on the heels of his long-awaited WPT victory at the L.A. Poker Classic, looked to be a favorite to take his momentum to the winner’s circle. Even so, all four players were equally capable.

The first match to be decided was Ferguson versus Ivey. On a board showing 9-4-3-5, Ferguson bet and Ivey moved all-in. Ferguson considered his options for about three minutes, then called for 135,000 more. Ferguson turned over pocket 8’s, and Ivey showed pocket 6’s. The river was a Queen, and Ivey was sent home with $125,000. Ferguson advanced to the championship round.

The second match found Bloch with the lead, and he put Seed all-in with A-Q, and Seed called with pocket 9’s. The board came 6-5-2-6-A, and the Ace on the river sent Seed to the rail with $125,000. Bloch was ready to meet Ferguson at the final table.

The championship round consisted of a best-of-three match situation on the evening of Sunday, March 2nd. The first went to Bloch, when his 10-9 went up against Ferguson’s A-K. The board gave Ferguson an Ace on the river, but it was no match for Bloch’s flopped set of 9’s.

The second match ended with Bloch all-in pre-flop with K-3, and Ferguson showed pocket Q’s. The board brought a Queen on the flop and another on the turn for quads. Ferguson gladly took the match to even it up at one win a piece.

The third and final match would decide the tournament. Ferguson raised to 25,000 pre-flop, and Bloch called. After a flop of 10-7-3 with two spades, Ferguson bet, Bloch check-raised, and Ferguson called. The turn produced a 7 of hearts, and Bloch led out with 150,000. Ferguson countered with an all-in move, and Bloch went into the tank for more than five minutes. Finally, he decided to flip a coin, which gave him heads and he made the call. He showed 10-4 of spades for top pair and the flush draw. Ferguson turned over pocket J’s for the better pair. The river brought a 7 of clubs to give both players a full house, but Ferguson had the higher house.

Andy Bloch finished in second place for $250,000.

Chris Ferguson won the 2008 NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship for $500,000, the trophy, a watch, and a $10,000 seat into the 2008 World Series of Poker main event.

The entire series of events was taped for broadcast on NBC over six consecutive Sundays in April and May, with the first episode on April 13th.

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