The 2013 National Heads-Up Poker Championship is finally upon us as the cards are set to fly today, signaling the start – and return – of the eagerly anticipated heads-up tournament. This year, 64 of the best poker players in the world were invited to be part of the tournament, each shelling out the standard $20,000 entry fee.
This year’s tournament has been divided into four divisions, akin the NCAA’s March Madness. But instead of geographic divisions, the NHUPC features the Clubs, Spades, Hearts, and Diamonds divisions. Hardly a surprise, right? The first round of the tournament is scheduled to start in a few hours (1:30 pm Pacific Time) and those who survive automatically move into the round of 32 on Friday. From there, the field will be whittled down to the Elite Eight, with all eight players returning on Saturday to crown the new champion!
With the brackets set, let’s take a look at who’s facing who in the first round, beginning with the Clubs bracket, where some pretty intriguing match-ups have been drawn, including Antonio Esfandiari taking on Jennifer Tilly, Chris Moorman going head to head with Carlos Mortensen, and Vanessa Rousso matching wits with Yevgeniy Timoshenko.
The other matches in the Clubs bracket feature Jonathan Duhamel versus Matt Glantz, Matt Salsberg versus Daniel Cates, Shaun Deeb versus Andy Frankenberger, And Block versus Kyle Julius, and Will Failla versus Scott Seiver.
The Spades bracket also has its fair share of star-power, including what could be a highly entertaining duel between Michael Mizrachi and Mike Matusow, two of the best pros who might spend more time talking smack against each other than actually playing. Ben Lamb against Barry Greenstein is also an appealing match-up just like the “Battle of the Phils” between Phil Laak and Phil Ivey. And don’t sleep on that John Monnette/Greg Raymer duel; chances are, this’ll be the most competitive match of the entire bracket.
As for the rest of the Spades bracket, expect to see fireworks when Viktor Blom takes on Andrew Lichtenberger. Isaac Haxton versus Justin Bonomo is also part of the division, as are match-ups featuring David Williams taking on John Hennigan and Sam Simon locking horns with David Oppenheim.
Moving on to the Hearts bracket, a few match-ups already caught our eye, including what could be a spirited showdown between Phil Hellmuth and Mike Sexton, a must-watch tussle between Justin Smith and Elky Grospellier, and Chris Moneymaker taking on Jason Somerville. WSOP.com qualifier BJ Miller is also part of this division, where he’s scheduled to take on Jean-Robert Bellande. It’ll be interesting to see how the unheralded Miller can handle the heat Bellande has been known to bring to the felt. As for the other match-ups in the Hearts division, you’ll get to see Joseph Cheong taking on Olivier Busquet, Maria Ho against Phil Galfond, and Eugene Katchalov pitting his skills against Faraz Jaka.
Finally, the Diamonds bracket is where defending 2011 champion Erik Seidel will begin his long overdue title defense. Judging by his first round opponent, Tom Dwan, we’d say that his title defense couldn’t have gone any more difficult against one of the best pros in the world today. In addition to the fireworks that are expected to come from the Seidel/Dwan match-up, the Diamonds bracket also features a number of notable showdowns, including 2012 WSOP Player of the Year Greg Merson taking on WPT Player of the Year Joe Serock and European Poker Tour Grand Final champion Mohsin Charania duking it out with former NHUPC champion Huck Seed. And we haven’t even gotten to the Godfather of Poker, Doyle Brunson, who’s also in this division and will take on Tom Marchese.
The rest of the Diamonds bracket features Brian Hastings taking on Matt Matros, Liv Boeree against Gaelle Baumann, and Jason Mercier versus Dan Smith.
With so many intriguing match-ups in the first round – that Merson/Serock showdown is on top of our list! – it’s extremely difficult to pick out who’s going to win this tournament. The level of heads-up poker that’s about to be played will be nothing short of a spectacle. So in the words of one, Terrell Owens, it’s time to get your popcorns ready!