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NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship: Huck Seed Tops Vanessa Rousso

Eight players returned on Sunday to quarterfinal seats in NBC's National Heads-Up Poker Championship, each with three wins already, halfway to the title and its $500,000 payday. The day's lineup was formidable, including Daniel Negreanu, former WSOP ME champions Phil Hellmuth and Huck Seed, Sam Farha, Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier, Vanessa Rousso, David Williams, and last-minute replacement entrant David Oppenheim, who acquitted himself well here. At the end of a lightning Day 3, it was Huck Seed who emerged with the title.

Sunday's opening Round 4 was a speedy affair, with David Williams and Sammy Farha squaring off in one quarterfinal bracket as David Oppenheim and Huck Seed paired up in another. After taking an early lead, Williams surrendered a slight edge to Farha in the second level, then the match was over with almost stunning speed. On a board of {q-Hearts}{q-Diamonds}{6-Clubs}{4-Clubs}{10-Spades}, Farha led out. Williams quickly raised, only to find an all-in from the aggressive Farha. Williams called with Q-6 for a flopped full house, but Farha had rivered a better boat with Q-10. Williams collected $75,000 for his quarterfinal appearance.

Just moments after Farha and Williams shook hands to end their match, Huck Seed and David Oppenheim got all the chips in preflop, with Oppenheim at risk. Oppenheim's {a-Clubs}{q-Diamonds} was flipping with Seed's pocket eights, and the flop brought no help for Oppenheim when it came down {4-Clubs}{k-Spades}{3-Clubs}. The {8-Hearts} on the turn left Oppenheim drawing dead, so he collected $75,000 for his impromptu NHUPC appearance.

If the first pair of quarterfinal matches was quick, there was no way to describe the third match. Phil Hellmuth has developed a pattern of either going to the finals of this event, or going out in a blaze of glory. Last year his pocket aces were cracked by Tom "durrrr" Dwan in three hands, and this year all his money went in on the fifth hand of his match against Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier. In a rare occurrence for Hellmuth, he got his money in behind, as his {q-Hearts}{q-Clubs} was crushed by Grospellier's {a-Diamonds}{a-Spades}. When the board ran out {10-Clubs}{8-Clubs}{3-Diamonds}{10-Spades}{2-Spades}, Hellmuth was done and Grospellier was headed to the semifinals.

Vanessa Rousso had some extremely tough table draws in the first two days of the tournament, facing Doyle Brunson, Phil Ivey and Paul Wasicka in the first three rounds. Her life didn't get any easier when she faced Daniel Negreanu in Round 4, but she dispatched him in much the same fashion as the previous three goliaths. After calling a raise from Negreanu preflop, Rousso checked the {2-Clubs}{3-Hearts}{6-Hearts} flop. Negreanu fired out an expected continuation bet. Rousso pulled the trigger on the check-raise, and Negreanu called. The {3-Spades} hit the turn, and Rousso again checked to Negreanu. Negreanu bet out, and Rousso check-raised again, this time for all her chips. After a long think, Negreanu made the call, putting himself at risk of elimination when he tabled {q-Diamonds}{6-Spades}. Rousso showed {2-Spades}{2-Hearts} for the full house, and Negreanu needed a six or a three to stay alive. The {10-Diamonds} on the river was neither of those and Negreanu's tournament was over as Rousso locked up the last semifinal spot.

In a second consecutive pairing of Team PokerStars Pros, Vanessa Rousso once again busted her teammate when she eliminated Bertrand Grospellier from the semifinals. After losing a big pot to Rousso early in the match, Grospellier got all his chips in preflop with {k-Clubs}{6-Clubs} to Rousso's {7-Spades}{7-Clubs}. Grospellier picked up an inside straight draw on the {2-Diamonds}{4-Diamonds}{5-Clubs} flop, but the {6-Spades} made a bigger straight draw for Rousso. She got there on the {8-Hearts} river, and Grospellier was done in fourth place ($125,000).

While Rousso dispatched Grospellier with some alacrity, Huck Seed and Sam Farha were in no hurry to finish their match. It took over two hours of heads-up play for Seed to send Farha packing. Farha shipped it in preflop with {a-Clubs}{k-Diamonds}, and Seed called with {10-Clubs}{8-Clubs}. The flop of {7-Clubs}{5-Spades}{j-Spades} gave Seed a gutshot draw, and he added a flush draw to it on the {3-Clubs} turn. Both draws came in when the {9-Clubs} hit the river, and Seed moved on to the finals against Vanessa Rousso as Farha went to the cage to collect his $125,000 payout.

Unlike the previous rounds, the finals were a best-of-three matchup, and Seed jumped out to an early lead when he called Rousso's preflop all-in with {k-Diamonds}{j-Diamonds}. Rousso tabled {q-Diamonds}{j-Clubs}, and the board missed both players to give Seed the early advantage. After a brief back-and-forth struggle in the second match, Seed finally put Rousso away in one big final hand. Both players limped in to a {8-Hearts}{3-Hearts}{k-Diamonds} flop, then checked to see the {10-Spades} come off on the turn. Rousso fired a bet, and Seed thought for a moment before sticking out a big raise. Rousso moved all in over the top, and Seed quickly called with {k-Spades}{7-Hearts} for top pair. Rousso could only muster {j-Diamonds}{10-Clubs} for second pair, and needed help on the river to stay alive. The {5-Clubs} wasn't any help, and Rousso was the runner-up and collected $250,000 for her performance.

Huck Seed became the only player to cash in all five years of the championship on Day 2, and moved past 2008 champion Chris Ferguson to set the best overall lifetime record in the event (18-4) with his performance in the finals.

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