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'NBC Heads-Up Poker Championship' Invitation List Complete

What do former MLB World Series MVP Orel Hershiser and poker player Sam Grizzle have in common? They are both among the 60 players invited to participate in the NBC Heads-Up Poker Championship. Last week the final list of invitees was released for what will undoubtedly be another interesting year for the highly acclaimed event.

With the majority of the field set, it is apparent that one of the dynamics at play will be pitting some of the biggest and established names in poker against some of poker's young up-and-comers. Almost every World Series of Poker champion in recent history has been invited, including 2007 WSOP winner Jerry Yang; only former WSOP champ Carlos Mortensen appears to among the missing. All the 2007 Player of the Year recipients will be represented: David Pham (Card Player), J.C. Tran (All In), Bill Edler (Bluff), and Tom Schneider (WSOP).

NBC has also given a decided nod to "new school" of poker by inviting a number of younger players, most of whom honed their skills online. Representing the online rounders will be 2007 Heads-Up World Series of Poker bracelet winner Daniel 'rekrul' Schreiber, Brian 'sbrugby' Townsend, Jonathan 'FieryJustice' Little, Scott 'BigRiskky' Clements, and Tom 'durrrr' Dwan.

NBC always has a short list of celebrities adding spice to the field and this year is no different. Comic actors Brad Garrett and Jason Alexander have both made appearances at the WSOP and will be battling on the heads-up felt here. Academy Award nominee and "Ante Up for Africa" organizer Don Cheadle will be present as well. And although his "Welcome Back, Kotter" roots will be how most casual viewers remember him, we know invitee Gabe Kaplan as the acclaimed host/commentator of "High Stakes Poker." Jennifer Tilly and Shannon Elizabeth will also be returning this year. While some might find Orel Hershiser's name a surprising add, the Las Vegas resident is no stranger to the felt. Hershiser played in the WPT Invitational at the Commerce last year and has been known to partake in the $30/60 game at the Bellagio.

Each of this year's players will put up a $20,000 buy-in for a shot at the $500,000 first-place prize. The field will be capped at 64 players, comprised of 60 invitees and four special qualifiers; those four have yet to be determined. The event will begin with a drawing party at the Pure nightclub inside Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on February 28, 2008, with the tournament taking place the following three days. The NBC Heads-Up Poker Championship debuted in 2005 as replacement programming during the NHL lockout. The format was a surprising success and the event has continued to pull in poker's highest television ratings. With the announcement of the 2008 invitees, it looks like another great year for the event. Replacements for any invitee not able to attend will be announced at a later date.

The total list of invitees follows:

1. Alexander, Jason

2. Antonius, Patrik

3. Bellande, Jean-Robert

4. Benyamine, David

5. Brown, Chad

6. Brunson, Doyle

7. Brunson, Todd

8. Chan, Johnny

9. Cheadle, Don

10. Clements, Scott

11. Cloutier, T.J.

12. Cunningham, Allen

13. Deeb, Freddy

14. Duke, Annie

15. Dwan, Tom

16. Edler, Bill

17. Elezra, Eli

18. Elizabeth, Shannon

19. Esfandiari, Antonio

20. Farha, Sam

21. Ferguson, Chris

22. Fischman, Scott

23. Forrest, Ted

24. Garrett, Brad

25. Gold, Jamie

26. Gowen, Clonie

27. Greenstein, Barry

28. Grizzle, Sam

29. Hachem, Joe

30. Hansen, Gus

31. Harman, Jennifer

32. Hellmuth, Phil

33. Hershiser, Orel

34. Ivey, Phil

35. Juanda, John

36. Kaplan, Gabe

37. Laak, Phil

38. Lederer, Howard

39. Lindgren, Erick

40. Little, Jonathan

41. Matusow, Mike

42. Mizrachi, Michael

43. Negreanu, Daniel

44. Nguyen, Scotty

45. Pham, David

46. Raymer, Greg

47. Rousso, Vanessa

48. Schneider, Tom

49. Schreiber, Daniel

50. Seed, Huck

51. Seidel, Erik

52. Singer, David

53. Smith, Gavin

54. Tilly, Jennifer

55. Townsend, Brian

56. Tran, J.C.

57. Tran, Kenny

58. Wasicka, Paul

59. Williams, David

60. Yang, Jerry

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