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Invitees Announced for 2009 NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship

Invitees Announced for 2009 NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship 0001

NBC has announced the majority of the players invited to the 2009 National Heads-Up Poker Championship. The tournament annually features a power-packed field of big names and returns this March to Caesars Palace in Las Vegas for its fifth run. Previous champions Chris Ferguson, Paul Wasicka, Ted Forrest and Phil Hellmuth have confirmed for the championship.

The four prior NHUPC winners headline a list of automatic invitations instituted at the NHUPC for this year's event, the first time such a system has been put in place. All told, 19 of this year's 64 seats were reserved for recent award winners and champions. The following details all players (and their qualifying achievements) who were issued automatic invitations:

• Previous four (4) NHPC champions: Chris Ferguson (2008), Paul Wasicka (2007), Ted Forrest (2006), Phil Hellmuth (2005)
• Previous two (2) NHPC runners-up: Andy Bloch (2008), Chad Brown (2007)
• Defending NHPC semifinalists: Huck Seed, Phil Ivey
• Four consecutive years of cashing in the NHPC: Scott Fischman, Huck Seed
• Previous three World Series of Poker Main Event champions: Peter Eastgate (2008), Jerry Yang (2007), Jamie Gold (2006)
• Defending WSOP Championship runner-up: Ivan Demidov
• Multiple WSOP bracelet winners in 2008: John Phan
• Defending WSOP Player of the Year: Erick Lindgren
• Defending WSOP Heads-Up champion: Kenny Tran
• Defending World Series of Poker Europe champion: John Juanda
• Reigning World Poker Tour Player of the Year: Jonathan Little
• Reigning European Poker Tour Grand Final Monte Carlo champion: Glen Chorny
• Reigning
Card Player Player of the Year: John Phan
• Reigning
Bluff Player of the Year: John Phan

Sixty of the 64 slots have been filled, barring late withdrawals and substitutions and still awaiting four qualifiers who will claim the last of the seats. Three of those four entrants will emerge from online qualifying play, while the fourth and last will be the winner of the second of two annual qualifying events at Caesars Palace itself.

Several celebrities will be on hand for the NHUPC, including baseballer Orel Hershiser, whose deep run in last year's event was the biggest story outside of Chris Ferguson's win itself. Hershiser will be joined here by celeb players Jennifer Tilly, Don Cheadle, Gabe Kaplan and Brad Garrett, though Kaplan's formidable poker resume spans decades against the world's best competition and Tilly is a former WSOP Ladies Event bracelet winner. All except Garrett are making return appearances in this year's NHUPC, and Garrett was scheduled to compete last year but bowed out due to scheduling conflicts just prior to the event. The tournament also features an increased international presence. In addition to Canada's Glen Chorny, the EPT Monte Carlo Grand Final winner, this year's field also includes such European stars as Ilari "Ziigmund" Sahamies, Dario Minieri, Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier, and of course Ivan Demidov and Peter Eastgate, the dominant forces from last year's WSOP main event.

Once all 64 players have been determined, the seat-draw festivities at Caesars on March 4 will determine the brackets and matchups. The 64 players will battle for a $1.5 million prize pool in the event, which runs March 5-8, 2009. Craig Hummer and Ali Nejad will handle the commentary for NBC when the episodes air later this spring, with Leeann Tweeden as the series' host and sideline reporter.

The tentative 2009 NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship Lineup:

David Benyamine

Andy Bloch

Chad Brown

Doyle Brunson

Johnny Chan

Don Cheadle

Glen Chorny

Allen Cunningham

Ivan Demidov

Annie Duke

Tom Dwan

Peter Eastgate

Eli Elezra

Antonio Esfandiari

Sam Farha

Chris Ferguson

Scott Fischman

Layne Flack

Ted Forrest

Brad Garrett

Jamie Gold

Clonie Gowen

Barry Greenstein

Gavin Griffin

Bertrand Grospellier

Joe Hachem

Gus Hansen

Jennifer Harman

Phil Hellmuth

Orel Hershiser

Jeffrey Ishbia (Caesars qualifier)

Phil Ivey

John Juanda

Gabe Kaplan

Phil Laak

Howard Lederer

Erick Lindgren

Jonathan Little

Mike Matusow

Dario Minieri

Chris Moneymaker

Daniel Negreanu

Scotty Nguyen

David Pham

John Phan

Greg Raymer

Vanessa Rousso

Ilari Sahamies

Huck Seed

Vanessa Selbst

Erik Seidel

Mike Sexton

Gavin Smith

Jennifer Tilly

JC Tran

Kenny Tran

Paul Wasicka

David Williams

Jerry Yang

Leon Yanovski (online qualifier)

Caesars qualifier (to be determined)

Online qualifier (to be determined)

Online qualifier (to be determined)

Online qualifier (to be determined)

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