Brackets Set For 2013 National Heads Up Poker Championship, Play Begins Today

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After a rollicking party on the grounds of Caesars Palace, the brackets are set for today’s start of the 2013 National Heads Up Poker Championship, with a champion set to be crowned on Saturday.

After a year’s hiatus, the 2013 NHUPC will feature 64 poker players battling it out in a NCAA “March Madness” style bracket format. Divided into four segments – appropriately called Clubs, Spades, Hearts and Diamonds – the players will work their way through first round action this afternoon beginning at 1:30PM (Pacific Time). Those survivors will come back on Friday to whittle the field down to the “Elite Eight” and those players will return on Saturday to determine the champion of the event.

There are some interesting matchups in looking at the bracket breakdown. In the Clubs bracket, the field lines up as such:

Antonio Esfandiari vs. Jennifer Tilly
Jonathan Duhamel vs. Matt Glantz
Chris Moorman vs. Carlos Mortensen
Matt Salsberg vs. Daniel Cates
Vanessa Rousso vs. Yevgeniy Timoshenko
Shaun Deeb vs. Andy Frankenberger
Andy Bloch vs. Kyle Julius
Will Failla vs. Scott Seiver

The Moorman/Mortensen and the Bloch/Julius affair pit “young gun” against “old school” and should be the more entertaining duos of the Clubs bracket. Don’t underestimate Tilly against Esfandiari as, due to Esfandiari’s friendship with her beau Phil Laak, she’s probably also learned some tricks from “The Magician” about poker. The Salsberg/Cates duo is an intriguing pairing; can the tournament pro beat the cash game whiz?

The Spades bracket features these matches:

Ben Lamb vs. Barry Greenstein
John Monnette vs. Greg Raymer
Viktor Blom vs. Andrew Lichtenberger
Michael Mizrachi vs. Mike Matusow
David Williams vs. John Hennigan
Sam Simon vs. David Oppenheim
Phil Laak vs. Phil Ivey
Isaac Haxton vs. Justin Bonomo

The Haxton/Bonomo affair pits two good friends who came through the Golden Age of online poker. The Lamb/Greenstein and Laak/Ivey battles should also be fascinating matches. Mizrachi/Matusow may be interesting because of the “trash talk” that may come out of it, while Monnette/Raymer (two very intelligent and patient players) may be the best match of the whole bracket.

In the Hearts bracket, the draw came out as such:

Joseph Cheong vs. Olivier Busquet
Jean-Robert Bellande vs. Bruce “B. J.” Miller ( qualifier)
Maria Ho vs. Phil Galfond
Eugene Katchalov vs. Faraz Jaka
Justin Smith vs. Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier
Phil Hellmuth vs. Mike Sexton
Chris Moneymaker vs. Jason Somerville

The Hearts bracket is looking to be a tough one. The Cheong/Busquet draw promises to be an interesting one, while the “old school” whittles off one of their numbers with the Hellmuth/Sexton matchup. Katchalov and Jaka should also provide a spirited battle. It will be interesting to see what the qualifier, Bruce “B. J.” Miller, can bring to the felt against Bellande and his aggressive, talkative style.

The Diamonds bracket features the defending champion (albeit in 2011) of the NHUPC:

Erik Seidel vs. Tom Dwan
Tom Marchese vs. Doyle Brunson
Brian Hastings vs. Matt Matros
Nick Schulman vs. Eli Elezra
Greg Merson vs. Joe Serock
Mohsin Charania vs. Huck Seed
Liv Boeree vs. Gaelle Baumann
Jason Mercier vs. Dan Smith

What a bracket draw for Seidel, the defending champ! Dwan will be a tough player to get through, then he would have to contend with either Marchese or Brunson, another difficult fight. In the bottom half of the bracket, there’s only the defending World Champion, the World Poker Tour Player of the Year, a former champion of this tournament (Seed), the defending European Poker Tour Grand Final champion (Charania) and the “last woman standing” at the 2012 WSOP Championship Event (although it is unfortunate that we’ll eliminate one of the ladies with Boeree/Baumann). There should be plenty of action out of these sixteen players.

With the draw now complete, it’s time for the cards to hit the air. A scant 72 hours (or so) from now, we will have a (new?) champion of the NHUPC. Who’s your pick to win it all?

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