The field is almost set for next weekend's Second Annual National Heads Up Poker Championship. To be conducted at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas from March 3rd to the 6th, the tournament will bring together 61 of the greatest poker players in the world and three "wild card" entries that should add some unexpected drama to what has become one of the most prestigious titles in poker in a short time.
The "Final Four" from the 2005 tournament, Champion Phil Hellmuth, runner-up Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, Antonio "The Magician" Esfandiari and T. J. Cloutier, will all attempt to make a return trip to the finals of this year's event, but the field will have danger at every turn. The cream of the poker world makes up the rest of the Heads Up field, including Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, Annie Duke, Ted Forrest, Barry Greenstein, Phil Ivey, Howard Lederer, 2006 Poker Player of the Year leader Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi and 2005 Poker Player of the Year Men "The Master" Nguyen are just a few of the names that have committed to the event. There will also be those three "wild cards" that should be an interesting addition to the tournament.
A couple of weeks ago, one of those finalists was determined through an online competition at the official website for the tournament, nbcheadsup.com. Two more slots will be filled through satellite events held at Caesars Palace. These players will fill out the sixty four player field for the single elimination tournament.
The 64 players will be broken down into four brackets of sixteen players each, which will be drawn on Friday evening. The competition begins Saturday morning and continues through Monday, when a best two-out-of-three championship match will determine the winner. The tournament will be taped for broadcast on NBC over six consecutive Sundays that starts on April 16th and runs to the championship confrontation at the end of May. "The National Heads-Up Poker Championship is unique in a couple of ways," offers Jon Miller, Sr. VP Programming for NBC Sports. "The field of 64 enables us to bring in virtually all of the top players. Then, they are on the verge of elimination throughout the tournament because of the one-on-one format. Fortunately, most of these players like the pressure."
Someone who is ready for the battle in this year's championship is the defending champion, Phil Hellmuth, who took down the $500,000 first place prize a year ago. "My chances of repeating are realistic," offers Hellmuth. "There are many great players in this tournament to be sure, but all I have to do is win six times. Certainly there can be no doubt that I am the pre-tournament favorite."
Action should be intense as these "masters of poker" sit down for one of the true tests of poker prowess, heads up competition. We should know the breakdown of the draw come next Friday and the action kicks off on Saturday, March 4th, at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. By Monday, we will either coronate Phil Hellmuth as champion once again or crown a new victor in the National Heads Up Poker Championship! For more information on the event and details on the players and the broadcast schedule, be sure to visit nbcheadsup.com.