It is one of the most exciting events in poker. The very fast structure doesn’t make it so, nor does the invitation-only field that often omits players that many felt deserved the opportunity to play. But the NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship brings some of the biggest names in poker to the felt for heads-up battles with a $1.5 million prize pool at stake, all of which is broadcast on NBC Sports. The 64 players are whittled down to a winner in only three days, and players can easily follow along with the bracket-style play as the matches are played and two players make their way to a final heads-up best-of-three event.
On March 5, the 64 players took to the tables, and only 32 emerged from the hearts, spades, clubs, and diamonds brackets at the end of the night. The following day saw the 32 players attempt Round 2, which resulted in only 16 moving forward. And the last round of the night thinned the field to the Elite Eight. All of that action can be found here.
Those eight players returned to Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on March 7 to compete for the win. The minimum amount they could garner for their efforts was $75,000, but there was $500,000 and a title up for grabs to the ultimate winner, and that was the goal.
Day 3: Clubs & Spades Brackets (Round 4)
The following players were up first, and their matches started at noon:
Clubs: Erik Seidel v. Peter Eastgate
Spades: Scotty Nguyen v. Jason Mercier
Action got underway with silence in the room, as players were quite serious about their poker at this stage of the game. The first match to be decided found Seidel chipping away at Eastgate until the latter made the decision to push. Eastgate made the all-in move with , but Seidel called with the . The flop of gave Eastgate the better hand with a pair of sevens, but the [ on the turn gave the advantage to Seidel. The on the river officially eliminated Eastgate from the event with $75,000, and Seidel found himself in the Final Four.
It didn’t take long for the other battle to end, as Mercier finally pushed his short stack all-in with . But Nguyen called quickly with pocket jacks, and the board came . Mercier missed his flush and couldn’t catch any outs to save his tournament life, thus relegating him to a $75,000 finish. Nguyen was moving on to the Final Four.
Day 3: Hearts & Diamonds Brackets (Round 4)
And four more players were set to take their seats to close out Round 4 as follows:
Hearts: Dennis Phillips v. Doyle Brunson
Diamonds: Jerry Yang v. Annie Duke
The Brunson/Phillips match did not lack excitement, as Phillips took the chip lead from the start but Brunson landed a double-up to stay alive. But Phillips came back to double to regain the lead, and a very short-stacked Brunson doubled once more but it wasn’t enough. The two went to see a flop of , at which point Brunson pushed with for the flush draw and small pair, but Phillips called with for top pair. The turn and river didn’t bring that flush and sent Brunson away with applause and $75K. Phillips won a seat to the Final Four.
The last remaining battle was interesting as well, as Duke took the lead early on but found Yang with the ability to double-up…more than once. He did it once with 6-3 that beat Duke’s K-9, and again with pocket threes over J-7 suited, and a third time with A-4 that beat her A-K. But Duke never gave up. She kept the lead and finally put Yang to the test again. Yang was all-in with , and Duke was there with . The board came , and Yang was gone with $75K in his pocket. Duke moved on to the Final Four.
Day 3: Semi-Finals (Round 5)
The two matches running simultaneously were as follows:
Erik Seidel v. Scotty Nguyen
Dennis Phillips v. Annie Duke
It was the second match that found the most action right away, as Phillips started with the lead but Duke came back to take it. Phillips was able to double-up once with K-J over the A-5 of Duke, but he lost ground again soon after and looked to move again. He did it with against the pocket sevens of Duke, and the board blanked with . That left Phillips out of the tournament in fourth place with $125K, and Duke was in the finals.
Nguyen took the lead in his battle with Seidel, but the latter chipped up consistently and left Nguyen as the short stack. The two then went to see a , and they both checked to the on the turn. Two more checks brought the on the river, at which point, Nguyen bet and Seidel raised all-in. Nguyen called with for trip nines, but Seidel showed for the full house. Nguyen was out in third place with $125K, and Seidel moved on to the finals.
Day 3: Finals (Round 6)
The last two players standing of the original 64 were Annie Duke and Erik Seidel, two seasoned pros with many years and numerous poker accomplishments under their belts. The plan was to play the best of three matches, and action got underway after photos were taken and the audience was in place.
Match 1 saw Seidel start with the lead but Duke take it soon into the match. And it wasn’t long before the two players got involved on a flop. Seidel put the rest of his chips in the pot with for the flush draw, but Duke was right there with for top pair. The on the turn and on the river gave Duke two pair and the first win.
Match 2 started again with Seidel in the lead, but that time he kept and even extended it. He won several significant pots that went to the river, but it was a big hand in which Seidel showed 10-2 on a 2-8-K-2-4 board for trip deuces that left Duke with less than 100K chips. She was able to double up once when her 7-4 beat K-10 on a 9-Q-7-Q-5 board, but she needed to do it again. She pushed with , and Seidel called with . The dealer gave them a board of for the turned straight, and Seidel took the win.
The players each had a victory, which made the third match necessary to decide the tournament.
Match 3 started with Duke taking the lead, though Seidel soon changed that and chipped up consistently. Duke was down to about 350K when she set about turning the tables, so to speak, and moved all-in with . Seidel easily called with , but the board gave Duke the full house and the double-up, leaving Seidel with about a three-to-one chip deficit.
Seidel moved all-in soon after with , and Duke called quickly with . The flop of helped her even more with extra outs to protect her already-winning pair, and the gave her the straight. The on the river ended the tournament, and Erik Seidel took $250,000 for second place.
Annie Duke won the 2010 NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship, which came with a trophy and prize money in the amount of $500,000.