On Thursday, to the delight of poker fans everywhere, the NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship returned after a one-year hiatus. The popular event saw 64 invitation-only participants square off at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, each putting up $25,000 for a shot at the top prize of $750,000. Among the players who advanced to Friday's Day 2 action were Phil Ivey, Doyle Brunson, Antonio Esfandiari, Phil Galfond, Viktor Blom, Jonathan Duhamel, Barry Greenstein, and Phil Hellmuth, who is looking to become the only two-time winner in the event's history. Another former champ, Huck Seed, is eyeing the same goal. Seed rounded out Thursday's action by defeating Mohsin Charania in the final match of the day.
Here's how the draw looks heading into Round 2, courtesy of WSOP.com (click image to enlarge):
Play is scheduled to resume at around 2 p.m. PST on Friday. We'll be providing up-to-the-minute updates of the action here from the tournament floor, and Sarah Grant will be interviewing players at Caesars Palace throughout the day. Stay tuned!
[1:45 p.m.] The first 16 players in today's second round have taken their seats here in the tournament area. The CLUBS and SPADES regions will be up first, followed by the DIAMONDS and HEARTS draws. We'll be playing two rounds today, and the rest of the tournament will be played out on Saturday.
Here's the first group of players on the floor right now:
|John Monnette||vs.||Barry Greenstein|
|Viktor Blom||vs.||Mike Matusow|
|Sam Simon||vs.||John Hennigan|
|Justin Bonomo||vs.||Phil Ivey|
|Antonio Esfandiari||vs.||Jonathan Duhamel|
|Chris Moorman||vs.||Dan Cates|
|Vanessa Rousso||vs.||Shaun Deeb|
|Scott Seiver||vs.||Kyle Julius|
[1:55 p.m.] Antonio Esfandiari certainly brought his entourage today. His crowd of supporters cheered heavily after he made his way toward the featured table to play against Jonathan Duhamel.
Over on Table 5, Mike "The Mouth" Matusow introduced himself to the crowd and said, “I’m going to kick some ass.” His opponent, Viktor Blom, doesn't seem amused.
[2:04 p.m.] Cards are in the air and Round 2 is underway! Each player starts with 50,000 chips at 150/300 blinds. All winners from this round will be in the money.
[2:09 p.m.] The atmosphere is a bit more serious today than yesterday. With the excitement of the first round behind them, players seem more attentive to their opponents and involved in the game.
[2:13 p.m.] We weren't able to see the action, but Dan "Jungleman" Cates is the first player to reach the money and advance to Round 3. Cates had a set of queens on the river and all of the chips were in the middle against Chris Moorman's two pair. Cates' set was good, and Moorman is first to hit the rail. DAN CATES ADVANCES TO ROUND 3.
[2:20 p.m.] Phil Ivey started the hand against Justin Bonomo as the short stack. Bonomo raised on the button, Ivey put in a three-bet, and Bonomo moved all in. Ivey called off for around 9,000 chips.
Bonomo tabled and trailed Ivey’s . Ivey's lead increased when the flop rolled out , giving him a set. The turn and river provided no help to Bonomo, and Ivey doubled to around 18,000.
[2:35 p.m.] Updated chip counts:
Barry Greenstein - 68,000
John Monnette - 32,000
Sam Simon - 55,000
John Hennigan - 45,000
Mike Matusow - 54,000
Viktor Blom - 46,000
[2:41 p.m.] We lost our internet connectivity at Caesars Palace for the moment, but we did just witness four huge pots that resulted in three eliminations. PHIL IVEY, BARRY GREENSTEIN AND VANESSA ROUSSO ADVANCED TO ROUND 3, and Scott Seiver doubled up to take the lead against Kyle Julius.
Ivey, who fought back from a 10-to-1 deficit to take the chip, had Justin Bonomo all-in and at risk with against . The board ran out to secure the win for Ivey.
John Monnette four-bet all-in preflop with pocket fours and ran into the pocket Aces of Greenstein. Barry's rockets help up, and Monnette was a goner.
Shaun Deeb found himself the victim of a cooler spot against Rousso. Deeb was all-in with a straight on the river, but Rousso's straight was better, and she moved on to the next round. Rousso finished runner-up to Huck Seed in this event in 2009.
[2:56 p.m.] We're still offline, but the action is still going strong here. MIKE MATUSOW AND SCOTT SEIVER ADVANCED TO ROUND 3, sending Viktor Blom and Kyle Julius out the door, respectively. That brings us down to our last two matches of the session: Sam Simon vs. John Hennigan and Antonio Esfandiari vs. Jonathan Duhamel.
[3:03 p.m.] All players who reach the Round of 16 will guarantee themselves a minimum payday of $25,000 (same as the buy-in), and the prize amounts increase all the way up the $750,000 for the champ. Here's the official payout structure:
|1||$700,000 + $50,000 (from NBC)|
[3:06 p.m.] JOHN HENNIGAN ADVANCED TO ROUND 3 after beating the co-creator of The Simpsons, Sam Simon. That leaves us with our last match, and it happens to be the featured match of the first session. Antonio Esfandiari holds a slight lead over Jonathan Duhamel.
[3:26 p.m.] The first session is in the books! 2012 Big One for One Drop champ Antonio Esfandiari just put away 2010 WSOP Main Event winner Jonathan Duhamel in front of Antonio's raucous supporters on the rail. ANTONIO ESFANDIARI ADVANCES TO ROUND 3.
Here's a look at the Round 3 matchups in the SPADES and CLUBS regions, set to take place tonight:
|Mike Matusow||vs.||Barry Greenstein|
|Phil Ivey||vs.||John Hennigan|
|Antonio Esfandiari||vs.||Dan Cates|
|Vanessa Rousso||vs.||Scott Seiver|
We're on a short break until players from the DIAMONDS and HEARTS regions take their seats. See you in a few!
|Joseph Cheong||vs.||BJ Miller (WSOP.com Qualifier)|
|Eugene Katchalov||vs.||Phil Galfond|
|Justin Smith||vs.||Phil Hellmuth|
|Chris Moneymaker||vs.||David "Doc" Sands|
|Doyle Brunson||vs.||Tom Dwan|
|Brian Hastings||vs.||Eli Elezra|
|Huck Seed||vs.||Joe Serock|
|Dan Smith||vs.||Gaelle Baumann|
[4:05 p.m.] We're running a little behind schedule because there is some maintenance work being done to the tables. In the meantime, check out Phil Galfond pre-gaming before his match starts:
[4:10 p.m.] Players have taken their seats. The NBC crew, photographers and others are scrambling in order for action to begin shortly.
[4:25 p.m.] After a late start, the cards are back in the air. Blinds are 150-300 with 50,000 starting chips.
[4:30 p.m.] On the featured table we're watching Phil Hellmuth play against Justin Smith. Phil seems relaxed and is not wearing his sunglasses — yet. On another table, Tom Dwan is battling poker legend Doyle Brunson, and the two are engaged in conversation. Doyle said he wasn't expecting this match to last very long:
On my way to face up with Tom Durr Dwan. I predict a short match one way or the other :-)Follow @TexDolly
[4:30 p.m.] Early updates from around the room:
- Eli Elezra has a small lead over Brian Hastings
- Dan Smith leads Gaelle Baumann
- Chris Moneymaker (54,000) leads David Sands (46,000)
- Doyle Brunson (60,000) leads Tom Dwan (40,000)
- Phil Galfond has a slight lead over Eugene Katchalov
- Huck Seed, after taking down a nice pot, took the lead over Joe Serock
- Joseph Cheong and WSOP.com qualifier Bruce Miller are just about even
- Justin Smith holds a slight edge over Phil Hellmuth
[4:46 p.m.] Phil Galfond, staring at a 7,500 river bet from Eugene Katchalov, opted to call. Eugene showed two pair to take the pot and slight lead.
[4:48 p.m.] Hellmuth takes control at the feature table:
Phil Hellmuth - 58,000
Justin Smith - 42,000
[4:51 p.m.] Everyone playing in today's event put up $25,000 to participate. Everyone except Bruce Miller, that is. Miller won his seat in a freeroll at WSOP.com and won his first match against Jean-Robert Bellande. If he beats Joseph Cheong today, he'll have already profited $25,000, with the potential for a lot more.
[4:53 p.m.] Game on at the feature table. Phil Hellmuth put on his shades.
[4:55 p.m.] Hellmuth won a nice pot from Justin Smith. The sunglasses are back off. Well played, Phil.
[4:57 p.m.] More action from the feature. Justin Smith was down to his last 11,000 chips when he shoved all-in preflop with . Phil Hellmuth called instantly with . The flop gave Smith a flush draw and a fighting chance. The turn was a huge blank, but the river completed Smith's suckout as the gave him his flush. Hellmuth handled the beat well, but we'll see how long that lasts. He still leads by a 3-to-1 margin.
[4:58 p.m.] Tom Dwan's phone was taken away by the floor staff because he was using it too much. Standard.
[5:03 p.m.] Justin Smith shoved all-in on the river, but Phil Hellmuth had the goods and called with a straight. PHIL HELLMUTH ADVANCES TO ROUND 3.
[5:13 p.m.] After 50 minutes, there are still still seven tables left in play. Chris Moneymaker and Dave Sands are moving over to the feature table to replace Hellmuth and Justin Smith.
[5:13 p.m.] Tom Dwan escaped elimination with a timely double-up. Dwan was all-in preflop for 23,800 and Doyle Brunson called, having Dwan outchipped.
The board rolled out , and Dwan doubled up to around 48,000.
[5:15 p.m.] A short-stacked Phil Galfond shoved all-in with and Eugene Katchalov called behind holding . The flop left Katchalov drawing severely thin, but he picked up some outs with on the turn. He needed a jack to end Galfond's tournament, and sure enough the peeled off on the river to give Katchalov runner-runner Broadway. EUGENE KATCHALOV ADVANCES TO ROUND 3.
[5:25 p.m.] Some updated stacks with the blinds at 800/1600.
Eli Elezra – 20,000
Brian Hastings – 80,000
Dan Smith - 65,000
Gaelle Baumann - 35,000
Bruce Miller - 18,000
Joseph Cheong -82,000
[5:28 p.m.] On the short stack, Huck Seed raised his button with . Joe Serok re-raised with , enough to put Seed all in. Seed called.
The flop looked like gin for Seed, but the opened some doors for Serock. The river brought the , giving Serock a runner-runner flush for the win. Phil Hellmuth is now the only former champ left in this field. JOE SEROCK ADVANCES TO ROUND 3.
[5:30 p.m.] Bruce Miller moved in for his last 11,000 chips with . Joseph Cheong snap-called with . The board ran out and Cheong’s queens held up. JOSEPH CHEONG ADVANCES TO ROUND 3.
[5:33 p.m.] BRIAN HASTINGS AND DAN SMITH ADVANCE TO ROUND 3.
[5:36 p.m.] Moments after David Sands doubled up with pocket aces to take the lead, Chris Moneymaker was at risk preflop with against Sands' . The board gave Sands a higher two pair, and Moneymaker exited short of the money. DAVID SANDS ADVANCES TO ROUND 3.
[5:38 p.m.] Brunson's The last matchup of Round 3 featured Tom Dwan and Doyle Brunson, and Dwan got the better of Tex Dolly. Brunson was all-in preflop with against Dwan's , and Dwan's nine kicker held up through the river to give him the chips, the match, and his phone privileges back. TOM DWAN ADVANCES TO ROUND 3.
What a whirlwind. With the completion of Round 2, here's the updated bracket with all of the in-the-money players still alive (click image to enlarge):
[6:21 p.m.] Action will resume in about 30 minutes or so. See you then!
[6:37 p.m.] The next session will consist of four matches, two from the CLUBS region and two from the SPADES region. After those matches, we'll conclude round three with the DIAMONDS and HEARTS draws. Here's what we've got coming up in a few minutes:
|Mike Matusow||vs.||Barry Greenstein|
|Phil Ivey||vs.||John Hennigan|
|Antonio Esfandiari||vs.||Dan Cates|
|Vanessa Rousso||vs.||Scott Seiver|
[7:18 p.m.] More maintenance work is being done on the tables, which is causing another delay here. We'll keep you posted.
[7:37 p.m.] We're still waiting on the maintenance staff to finish up. On the rail right now, Phil Ivey's entourage is chatting with Matt Salsberg. On the other side, Antonio Esfandari's dad — who celebrated his 70th birthday not too long ago — is sitting with Antonio's girlfriend. The players have just been called for a group photo, so we're starting to get somewhere.
[7:37 p.m.] Cameras are rolling. Cards will be dealt soon.
[7:50 p.m.] Cards are in the air! Blinds are starting at 1,000/2,000 starting and each player has 100,000 chips.
[7:54 p.m.] Winners from this round will receive at least $50,000, with the chance to earn more in the coming rounds. Once again, first prize is $750,000. That cash will be handed out tomorrow.
[8:05 p.m.] Phil Ivey was the first player eliminated here in Round 3. John Hennigan raised from the button with and Phil Ivey three-bet with . Hennigan called. The flop fell and both players put money into the pot, although we weren't able to see the action. The turn was the and all of the chips went into the middle. Hennigan needed a heart to make his flush and eliminate Ivey, and he did just that when the spiked on the river. Ivey and Hennigan shook hands, and Ivey began making his way to the
craps tables cashier. JOHN HENNIGAN ADVANCES TO ROUND 4.
[8:15 p.m.] Shortly after Ivey's exit, Antonio Esfandiari took a big hit to his stack. With the board reading , Daniel Cates was all in on the river with for a straight, and Esfandiari called and showed his for top two pair. Cates doubled up to 164,000, leaving Antonio with just 36,000.
[8:20 p.m.] Vanessa Rousso was all-in on the river with the board showing . Scott Seiver had her covered and revealed for a set. Rousso's for two pair was second best, and her attempt at besting her 2009 runner-up result in this event came to an end. SCOTT SEIVER ADVANCES TO ROUND 4.
[8:25 p.m.] Five minutes later, another elimination. This time it was short stack Barry Greenstein all-in preflop with against Mike Matusow's . The board ran out , giving Matusow a full house and sending Greenstein to the rail. MIKE MATUSOW ADVANCES TO ROUND 4.
[8:35 p.m.] We're down to our final match of this session. Dan Cates still leads Antonio Esfandiari at the feature table, but "The Magician" is sneaking his way back into it.
Dan Cates - 110,000
Antonio Esfandiari - 90,000
[8:45 p.m.] That didn't take long. After having his stack dwindled down by Dan Cates, Antonio Esfandiari moved all-in preflop with . Cates called with . The flop bricked out for Esfandiari, and it got worse on the turn as the left him drawing dead. The meaningless landed on the river and Cates sealed his spot as a quarterfinalist in the tournament. DAN CATES ADVANCES TO ROUND 4.
The other half of the bracket will be coming up shortly. Here's a look at the draw:
|Joseph Cheong||vs.||Eugene Katchalov|
|David "Doc" Sands||vs.||Phil Hellmuth|
|Brian Hastings||vs.||Tom Dwan|
|Dan Smith||vs.||Joe Serock|
[9:35 p.m.] The maintenance crew is walking off the stage. Dealers are on the tables and everyone anxious to get things started. Phil Hellmuth and David Sands will be seated at the feature table.
[9:36 p.m.] Players are being called to the set. It's go time.
[9:45 p.m.] Once again, Phil Hellmuth is making his rounds to wish luck to his competitors. Next up, photo op with the group.
[9:53 p.m.] Cards are in the air. Blinds are 600/1200 starting and each player has 100,000 in chips to work with.
[10:05 p.m.] Not a whole lot going on thus far. Dan Smith and Joe Serok are about even in the first few minutes of play, as are Joseph Cheong and Eugene Katchalov.
[10:07 p.m.] With the board showing , Joseph Cheong led out with a river bet. Katchalov put in a raise, and Cheong moved all-in. Katchalov went into the tank and eventually folded, showing to Cheong (nut flush). Cheong opted to keep his hand a secret and he scoops a big pot to take the lead.
[10:09 p.m.] The blinds are up to 800/1,600. Here's a look at some counts at two tables:
Tom Dwan - 115,000
Brian Hastings - 85,000
Phil Hellmuth - 96,000
David Sands - 104,000
[10:15 p.m.] Eugene Katchalov began the hand with the chip lead. Joseph Cheong raised on the button with . Katchalov fired back with a three-bet holding . Cheong shoved all-in and Katchalov called. The board rolled out , and Joseph Cheong was eliminated. EUGENE KATCHALOV ADVANCES TO ROUND 4.
[10:23 p.m.] Chip counts:
Joe Serock - 140,000
Dan Smith - 60,000
Tom Dwan - 100,000
Brian Hastings - 100,000
[10:35 p.m.] The blinds are up to 1,200/2,400. Dwan is out to a slight lead over Hastings, and Sands is opening it up against Hellmuth.
Tom Dwan - 109,000
Brian Hastings - 91,000
David Sands – 123,500
Phil Hellmuth - 77,500
Joe Serock - 160,000
Dan Smith - 40,000
[10:45 p.m.] No key hands to report, but Phil Hellmuth has battled back to take the lead. Blinds are now 1,500/3,000.
Phil Hellmuth - 103,000
David Sands - 97,000
Tom Dwan - 115,000
Brian Hastings - 85,000
Joe Serock - 155,000
Dan Smith - 45,000
[10:53 p.m.] Phil Hellmuth rose from his chair to look over at David Sands' rail to stay to Andrew Lichtenberger, “Hey, your boy plays pretty good here.” Indeed, Sands (122,000) has taken back the lead against Hellmuth (78,000).
[10:55 p.m.] Dan Smith raised his button. Joe Serock re-raised to put Smith all in. Smith called.
Smith tabled while Serock showed . The flop brought some excitement as Serock made top pair and Smith had a flush draw. The on the turn ended it quickly as Smith made his flush. He doubled up to 80,000.
[11:05 p.m.] Tom Dwan was all in preflop with against Brian Hastings' .
Both players made a pair on the flop , but Dwan was unable to come from behind as the turn and river brought the and . Dwan was left with just 4,000 chips. This one could end quickly.
[11:10 p.m.] Two hands later, Tom Dwan shoved preflop without looking at his hand. Hastings called and tabled . Dwan flipped over . The board provided a bit of a sweat, but Dwan fell short of a title run here at Caesars Palace. BRIAN HASTINGS ADVANCES TO ROUND 4.
[11:15 p.m.] The blinds are now 2,000/4,000 and we're down to our final two matches of the day. David Sands is still up against Phil Hellmuth and Dan Smith is hanging on against Joe Serock.
[11:20 p.m.] It was starting to get quiet in there, but that all changed after an incredible hand between Phil Hellmuth and David Sands at the feature table. Hellmuth moved all-in for 53,000 from the button with pocket queens and Sands called with .
Sands was in danger of giving the lead back to Hellmuth, but the sent Sands in front with top set. Hellmuth needed a queen on the turn or river to stay alive. His hopes of becoming the first two-time winner of this event were suddenly bleak.
Turn: . No help to Phil.
River: ! The entire room exploded as Hellmuth hit his set and he ran over to his rail and bombarded his supporters with high-fives. Hellmuth doubled to 104,000, and it's a brand new ballgame.
[11:22 p.m.] Shortly after crippling Dan Smith's stack with against pocket jacks, Joe Serock called Smith's preflop shove with , which was in front of Smith's . The flop was no help to Smith as it improved Serock to a pair of sixes. The turn and secured the win for Serock, and the 2012 Global Poker Index Player of the Year Dan Smith was eliminated. JOE SEROCK ADVANCES TO ROUND 4.
[11:35 p.m.] We're down to out last match of the evening. Phil Hellmuth has 107,000 against David Sands' 93,000 with the blinds now at 4,000/8,000.
[11:42 p.m.] Sands is getting restless, and understandably so. He just got up from his chair to stretch, much like he's done multiple times during this match.
[11:52 p.m.] Phil Hellmuth completed from the button. David Sands checked his option. Both players checked the frop, and the turn was the . Both players checked again. The river was the . Sands bet an unknown amount and Hellmuth called with for a pair of aces. Sands mucked.
Hellmuth - 117,000
Sands - 83,000
[12:02 a.m.] The players have gone on a "one minute" bathroom break. We'll take the over.
[12:05 a.m.] Sands and Hellmuth returned from their break nearly even in stacks. Sitting on 102,000, Hellmuth had the slightest of leads.
[12:10 a.m.] Sands has been mixing up his strategy on the button. Sometimes he'll min-raise to 16,000, other times he'll shove. Both have been effective lately.
[12:12 a.m.] We finally have a winner in this one — and what a way to end it. For the first time all match, Phil Hellmuth moved all-in from the the button and David Sands called. Both players flipped over their cards, only to reveal the same hand.
Hellmuth was still drawing live when the flop fell . His odds increased with the on the turn, giving him a true freeroll with nine outs to the win. And then the peeled off on the river to give Hellmuth a flush to win a massive pot.
Sands was left with just 19,800 chips after that horrific beat, and they were all consumed by Hellmuth on the next hand. Sands pushed all in on the button with and Hellmuth called with .
The board was all she wrote for Sands, who began a long trek out of Caesars Palace. Hellmuth, meanwhile, is the only former champion still alive in the field, and he'll have a chance to win his second NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship title on Saturday.
Here's a look at the quarterfinal draw when play resumes on Saturday (click image to enlarge):
With that, Rounds 2 and 3 of the 2013 NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship are in the books! After a long day of poker here at Caesars Palace, the field of 32 has been trimmed down to 8. The action will resume at 1 p.m. on Saturday, and PokerNews will once again be on site to provide you with coverage of all of the highlights. See you all then!