It's officially the year of Erik Seidel. In January and February of 2011, Seidel cashed for $3.59 million. In the first week of March, he picked up another $750,000 by winning the 2011 NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship. Seidel finished second to Annie Duke last year and came back this year as the hottest poker player in the world to make the title his. After dispatching five other opponents, Seidel defeated one of the most recognizable names in poker, Chris Moneymaker, in two straight matches to win the best-of-three final round. Moneymaker earned $300,000 for second place.
Seidel's Heads-Up victory moved him into the top spot on the Hendon Mob all-time money winner list. With an astonishing $14.7 million in lifetime live tournament cashes, Seidel overtook Daniel Negreanu, who has $13.95 million. Phil Ivey occupies the third spot with $13.86 million.
Eight players returned to Caesars Palace on Sunday for the four quarterfinal matches. In the first flight, Moneymaker played nosebleed cash-game regular David Oppenheim for the Clubs Bracket crown. Oppenheim moved all in on a board with for a turned two pair. Moneymaker called with and rivered the timely to send Oppenheim home with $75,000. The final Spades Bracket match pitted 2010 World Series of Poker Main Event Champion Jonathan Duhamel against Olivier "LivB112" Busquet, a high-stakes heads-up sit-'n-go specialist. The pair took their time trading small pots until Busquet shoved with . Duhamel called with and turned a jack to advance to the semifinals.
In the next pair of quarterfinals, Seidel took on force-of-nature Vanessa Selbst, and Andrew "good2cu" Robl battled another cash-game fixture, David Benyamine. Seidel took an early lead, then doubled Selbst to fall behind. Moments later he picked up aces to retake a lead he never relinquished. Selbst, who finished second in the 2008 WSOP Heads-Up Championship, earned $75,000 in her first cash in the NBC event. Just as Seidel was completing his domination of the Diamonds Bracket, Robl had Benyamine all in and at risk on the other table. Robl's was ahead from the start against Benyamine's and rivered the nut heart flush to win the Hearts Bracket and send Benyamine home in suitable style.
In the marquee semifinal match-up, it was World Champion against World Champion. Moneymaker's 2003 WSOP Main Even victory was worth $2.5 million. Thanks in part to the boom he is credited with igniting, Duhamel's was worth $8.9 million. This time, however, Moneymaker did his part to minimize Duhamel's take. Duhamel check-called all in on a board with to discover he was out-kicked by Moneymaker's and out of the tournament in fourth place. The 23-year old will have to settle for $125,000 on this Vegas trip.
During Duhamel's exit interview, the other semifinalists reached the river of a board. Seidel shoved the river to put Robl to the test for all of his chips. Robl agonized for minutes before calling all in. He couldn't beat Seidel's treys full and said his goodbyes in third place. Robl was called in to replace David "Viffer" Peat only a few hours before the first round and parlayed his last-minute bid into $125,000.
A trophy, a ring, and a pyramid of cash appeared on stage to set the scene for the championship best-of-three battle between Seidel and Moneymaker. Seidel chipped up slowly in the first game, then doubled Moneymaker and started the process again. Seidel built back to a substantial lead by the time he flopped top pair and called Moneymaker's shove. Moneymaker bricked his open-ended straight draw, and Seidel took a 1-0 lead.
Moneymaker held the chip lead early in the second game but lost a good chunk of his stack in an unsuccessful bluff. He tried another bluff with the rest of his stack on a flop. It might have worked better if Seidel didn't have . Moneymaker could only turn up , meaning he needed running cards to come to his rescue. But they didn't, and Erik Seidel won yet another high buy-in, high profile event.
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