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Poker News: March 10th, 2010

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Copyright © Toronto Sun

HEADLINE: That Poker Dude

Every year, just before March Madness begins in the NCAA, poker’s own version of bracket insanity takes place in a made for TV event that has become a staple in the tournament scene, and a ‘please pick me’ prayer for every pro.

In 2005, in order to fill sports programming space created by the NHL lockout, NBC came up with the Heads Up Championship of Poker. The idea was simple, and remains unchanged: invite 64 of the best poker players in the world to a $20,000 buy-in tournament to determine the best heads up player in the world. The players draw opponents randomly and are put into four brackets (hearts, spades, clubs, and diamonds). The players play down, elimination style until there is only one left standing, that player winning the crown of Heads Up Champion as well as a million dollar first prize.

The producers of the event, including poker TV guru Mori Eskandani, have since developed a series of criteria for invitees: WSOP Main Event Champions, WPT Grand Champions, former Heads up winners, etc, etc, all receive automatic invites. Each year, an increasing number of online qualifiers are also included in the field, since main sponsor Full Tilt Poker obviously wants to create some business out of the event aside from branding. None of these qualifiers have any business being in the field, but hey.. whadday gonna do?? And believe me, the debate about worthy qualifiers doesn’t end with the online qualifiers.

One of the fun things about this annual event is the annual debate that goes with it. Who belongs in the field that isn’t there? Who doesn’t belong? Who’s gonna win? Who’s gonna prove once and for all that they truly suck as a poker player? The arguing can be endless. This year (again, aside from the usual complaining about online qualifiers), there was a lot of chatter about worthy players. Does Jerry Yang (2007 WSOP Main Event Champion and therefore an automatic invitee) deserve to be in this group? Or Jamie Gold? Chris Moneymaker?

And then there are the celebrity invitees. A few of the coveted spots every year go to some celebs. Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander has competed, and Don Cheadle is a multiple participant. Baseball legend Orel Hershiser went deep in the event a couple of years ago. Jennifer Tilley is a regular invite. Some of them do fairly well, LIKE Hershiser, and some of them suck.

And once the debate over who should be there subsides, the debate over the outcomes begins. Fans everywhere debate whether or not a certain player got lucky to get by another. A couple of years ago, actress Shannon Elizabeth beat arguably the best player in the world, Phil Ivey, in the first round, setting off hours of water cooler convo over THAT particular result.

But it IS heads up poker, and the accelerated format necessary for TV, anything is possible. Sometimes players of questionable skill beat players of formidable talent. Some players have made multiple deep runs in the event, such as Andy Bloch, Chris Ferguson, and Paul Wasicka. But the winner is often a surprise.

This year provided one of those surprises, when poker pro and Celebrity Apprentice contestant Annie Duke managed to come out on top. Annie is certainly a capable and competent player, but in a field of 64 of the best players on the planet, Annie wouldn’t have been a favourite to take down the title. But she managed to best Erik Seidel heads up in the last match, and take it down.

And just to vex me, the ghost of poker, the aforementioned Jerry Yang, managed to make it to the elite 8. Which gives hope to every bad player out there. Including me. All I need now is the invite.....

Chris Tessaro is the host of The Hardcore Poker Show on Sirius Channel 98. He can be reached at or you can follow him on twitter @ChrisTessaro Referral Code

Article downloaded from the World Wide Web on March 10th, 2010

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