Editorial: Who Should Be In The Field For The National Heads Up Poker Championship?



The opinions in this editorial do not reflect the positions of the ownership or management of Poker News Daily.

Roughly two weeks from now, the rebirth of the National Heads Up Poker Championship will occur at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. After its one year hiatus in 2012 (brought about as an after-effect of “Black Friday” in 2011), the popular tournament – featuring an NCAA-style bracket format where it is “win or go home” – will be the focus of many in the poker community. As of today, however, there hasn’t been any announcement as to what the field may be.

With this in mind, we’re taking it upon ourselves here at Poker News Daily to fill out the field for this year’s competition. There’s going to be some hand wringing, screaming, rending of garments and such at some of the choices, but we’re just trying to get a good potential look at what the field may look like. Who knows, we may be way off on our predictions (as you may remember from our look at the 2012 World Series of Poker “Octo-Nine”!).

All Former NHUPC Champions

Fortunately, the seven year history of the NHUPC has given us a host of champions that (at least at the time) we could be proud of. That means that the seven former champions of the tournament – inaugural winner Phil Hellmuth, Ted Forrest, Paul Wasicka, Chris Ferguson, Huck Seed, Annie Duke and defending champion Erik Seidel – should be a part of the event. Whether they actually do or not (especially in Ferguson’s case; he hasn’t been seen near a poker table in some time) participate in the 2013 NHUPC, they should at least have the offer extended.

The Past Five WSOP Championship Event Winners

By winning the most prestigious title in the game of poker, the past five champions of the World Series of Poker Championship Event should be extended invitations. This would mean that defending champion Greg Merson, Pius Heinz, Jonathan Duhamel, Joe Cada and Peter Eastgate would be automatic invitees to the tournament. The reason for the inclsution of the past World Champions is simple: for most casual sports fans, these are the names (if not the faces) that they will recognize. By bringing them in, the casual viewer might actually stop to watch the broadcasts when they air on NBC in April.

Players of the Year From 2012

Although there are several Player of the Year races to choose from, let’s try to keep it simple. The Bluff Magazine and CardPlayer Magazine POY races are automatic shoo-ins, meaning that Marvin Rettenmaier joins the field. Merson is already in (he took the POY for CardPlayer and also the 2012 WSOP), but Dan Smith earned the Global Poker Index POY award, garnering him a slot.

Major Tournament Champions

Over the span of the tournament calendar, there are a handful of events that could be considered a “major” championship. The PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, the Aussie Millions, the European Poker Tour Grand Final, the World Poker Tour Championship, the WSOP Championship Event and the $50,000 WSOP Poker Players’ Championship are, arguably, what are under consideration here as “major” titles.

With this in mind, we now have John Dibella (2012 PCA champ), Oliver Speidel (Aussie Millions), Mohsin Charania (EPT Grand Final) and Michael Mizrachi ($50K PPC) in the field automatically (Rettenmaier and Merson already are in).

Global Poker Index Top Ten (extended if players are already in)

The Global Poker Index, whether you like it or not, is an excellent way to look at who has had the best success in the tournament poker world over the last three years. Let’s put it to work by providing some of the players for the 2013 NHUPC.

The current Top Ten does feature three players (Smith, Rettenmaier and Hellmuth) who are already in, so we have to go down to the thirteenth player on the list. This would put such players as Jason Mercier, Bertrand ‘ElkY’ Grospellier, Andrew Lichtenberger, Joseph Cheong, David ‘Doc’ Sands, Steve O’Dwyer, Michael Watson, Phillip Gruissem, Roberto Romanello and Mike McDonald into the field.

Global Poker Index Top Five Women

The ladies have always seemed to get shorted at the NHUPC (although Duke is a former champion), so let’s make sure to get in the best from the female poker community. Vanessa Selbst, Melanie Weisner, Ana Marquez, Liv Boeree and Lucille Cailly are the top five on the GPI Ladies rankings and that’s a pretty good quintet of players to go with.

“The Old School”

Nine slots are open here and it would be a tough decision on who to include on this list. Doyle Brunson comes to mind, but he’s been reducing his tournament schedule; if he wants to play the event, then so be it, but let’s not name him automatically.

The nine players who come from the “old school” are going to be a formidable bunch. Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu, Antonio Esfandiari, John Juanda, Allen Cunningham, Men “The Master” Nguyen, Barry Greenstein, Freddy Deeb and Mike Matusow are the “recognizable” names that the casual fan would be interested in. If for some reason some of these gentlemen bypass their invitation, former World Champions Greg Raymer and Chris Moneymaker, international players such as Gus Hansen, David “Devilfish” Ulliott, Jeff Lisandro and Humberto Brenes or Americans Kathy Liebert or Hoyt Corkins can step in.

“The Young Guns”

This is where we’re going to see the internet wunderkinds and live poker newcomers step up to see if they can take their place in the game. Such players as Viktor Blom, Tom Dwan, Sam Trickett, Justin Bonomo, Ben Lamb, Scott Seiver, Jesse Sylvia, Sorel Mizzi and Brian Rast would be perfect to represent this genre. (I am sure that there will plenty of suggestions here!)

Celebrity Invites And Four “Satellite” Winners

These are always a point of contention, but there are some good celebrity (and business) players who could make the cut. Kevin Pollak, Jason Alexander, Brad Garrett, Ray Romano, Guy Laliberte, David Einhorn, Bobby Baldwin (a ringer in this area, to be honest), Gabe Kaplan and Jennifer Tilly are all solid suggestions.

The field would then be filled out with four “satellite” winners that Caesars can either hold a series of tournaments for or use as reserved invitees that the casino believes should be there.

So there you have it…a field of 64 players ready to vie for the 2013 National Heads Up Poker Championship. The brackets would be done by a blind draw the night before the event (as has been the tradition in the past) and should set up some intriguing matchups. At the end of the day, however, it is what would draw the most interest from fans of poker…who would you invite into the battle?

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One Comment

tracy Stanley

Why is the winningest player ignored: T J Cloutier? I sat next to him on 1 of the WSOP events n he commented on being left out. Shame.


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