First Round Complete For 2013 National Heads Up Poker Championship

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The first round of the 2013 National Heads Up Poker Championship is in the books, with the field being whittled down from its original 64 combatants through a long day of action to the 32 players who will come back today.

Spades Bracket

The contestants in the Spades bracket drew the short straw (depending on your wake up time) and were the first to hit the tables at 2PM (Pacific Time) Thursday afternoon. Within fifteen minutes of the opening bell, the first elimination occurred when John Hennigan (holding a K-Q) was able to find a King on the turn to knock off David Williams’ A-Q. Only five minutes later, Mike Matusow scored the victory over Michael Mizrachi after Matusow flopped a straight and got Mizrachi to commit his stack to the center.

After that flurry of activity, things calmed around the Caesars Palace tournament room. Phil Laak, who was taking a beating at the hands of Phil Ivey, eventually would succumb to Ivey’s pocket sevens while holding only an 8-7. Before the first hour of bracket play ended, Isaac Haxton (at the hands of Justin Bonomo) and Greg Raymer (beaten by John Monnette) would also head to the exits at Caesars.

If you’re counting, that was five of the eight matches that were decided within the first hour. The three remaining matches ended within the next 30 minutes, with Viktor Blom defeating Andrew Lichtenberger, Sam Simon eliminating David Oppenheim and Barry Greenstein bumping off Ben Lamb. This sets up the following matches for today:

John Monnette vs. Barry Greenstein
Viktor Blom vs. Mike Matusow
Sam Simon vs. John Hennigan
Justin Bonomo vs. Phil Ivey

Hearts Bracket

After a bit of a delay, the Hearts bracket came to the tables about a half hour later than planned. The players in the bracket, like their counterparts in the Spades bracket, wasted little time in getting down to business.

One of the crueler beats of the day occurred during this session in the match between Bertrand Grospellier and Justin Smith. After a pre-flop raising battle, Smith would get his chips in the center of the felt with pocket Queens. That wasn’t good enough, however, as “ElkY” unveiled a pocket pair of Kings to put Smith at risk of elimination. The flop and turn (7-4-9-J) brought no salvation for Smith, but the Queen on the river did the trick. After the count, Grospellier was left with only 2500 in chips and would be eliminated soon after that.

In what might be considered a surprise, Joseph Cheong was able to defeat heads up specialist Olivier Busquet in rather quick fashion. Busquet was joined on the rail by Mike Sexton (lost to Phil Hellmuth) and Faraz Jaka (eliminated by Eugene Katchalov) as the first hour of play came to a close.

In what was one of the more closely watched matches, qualifier Bruce Miller actually pulled out to a lead over Jean-Robert Bellande. Bellande fought back, moving all in three consecutive times to attempt to force the online qualifier into a mistake, but Miller wouldn’t bite. The end would come on a 9 3♠ 8 flop as Bellande once again pushed all in. This time, Miller took up the challenge, tabling an A 2 for the nut flush draw against Bellande’s tenuously leading 9-7. The turn J was all Miller needed as his nut flush left Bellande drawing dead, out of the tournament and Miller moving on to the second round.

Soon after Miller’s surprise win, David ‘Doc’ Sands, who was a late entry into the field to replace Daniel Negreanu, was able to knock off a stubborn Robert Salaburu and Chris Moneymaker bumped Jason Somerville from the tournament. The final match of the bracket, Maria Ho versus Phil Galfond, proved to arguably be the most entertaining.

Ho moved out to an early lead over Galfond (39K to 11K), but Galfond would grind his way back to take over the lead and have Ho on the ropes. Down to her final 5000 in chips, Ho fought back with the aid of pocket Aces against Galfond’s Q-J, but it was not to be. A Queen came on the flop, keeping Ho in the lead, but the second Queen on the turn gave the edge to Galfond. Once the board didn’t bring an Ace, Maria Ho was a disappointed departure from the Caesars poker room.

Today’s action in the Hearts bracket looks like this:

Joseph Cheong vs. Bruce Miller
Eugene Katchalov vs. Phil Galfond
Justin Smith vs. Phil Hellmuth
Chris Moneymaker vs. David ‘Doc’ Sands

Clubs Bracket

After a dinner break, the Clubs bracket hit the tables. The action proceeded slowly compared to the earlier rounds as it took almost a full hour before Scott Seiver made Faraz Jaka the first elimination. At virtually the same moment, Jonathan Duhamel was eliminating Matt Glantz after fading Glantz’ flush draw.

Over the next 30 minutes, the players began to drop quickly. Kyle Julius and Shaun Deeb defeated Andy Bloch and Andy Frankenberger, respectively, to punch their tickets to the next round. Jennifer Tilly was unable to stop Antonio Esfandiari, Chris Moorman dismissed Carlos Mortensen from the event and Dan Cates eliminated Matt Salsberg.

The final match in the Clubs bracket, Vanessa Rousso versus Yevgeniy Timoshenko, took a bit longer to decide. Although Rousso had Timoshenko down in the count, Timoshenko battled valiantly to try to stay in the tournament. He would get his chips to the center holding pocket Kings against Rousso’s A-J and, after a Q-3-6 flop, looked poised for a double. An Ace on the turn changed that tune, however, and once the river failed to bring one of his two outs, he faced the long walk to the rail to set up today’s Clubs bracket matches:

Antonio Esfandiari vs. Jonathan Duhamel
Chris Moorman vs. Dan Cates
Vanessa Rousso vs. Shaun Deeb
Scott Seiver vs. Kyle Julius

Diamonds Bracket

Arguably the “Bracket of Death” for this year’s NHUPC, the Diamonds bracket took to the felt at about 10PM. Twenty minutes in, Brian Hastings eliminated Matt Matros after rivering two pair. Joe Serock took down the defending World Champion, Greg Merson, while Tom Dwan ended Erik Seidel’s hopes of repeating as champion of this event when his pocket Queens were able to withstand the assault of Seidel’s K-J.

Jason Mercier, who was never able to gain any traction against Dan Smith, got his chips in with A-J against Smith’s pocket nines and the flop basically ended the match. Smith flopped a set when a nine came to leave Mercier drawing dead and Smith would move onto today’s play. After Mercier’s elimination, Eli Elezra would show Nick Schulman the door.

The legendary Doyle Brunson cruised out to an early lead over Tom Marchese (a substitute for Jennifer Harman) and, even though Marchese was able to double up twice in the late going, was able to put him away to move on in the bracket. Gaelle Baumann won the “battle of the ladies” as she trapped Liv Boeree by limping in with an A-7 and Boeree shoved with an 8-6; after an unnecessary Ace on the flop and another on the turn, Baumann knocked Boeree from the tournament.

The final match of the night, Huck Seed versus Mohsin Charania, would be a dogfight. Charania had the former NHUPC champion down at one point, 36K to 14K, and it appeared that the defending EPT Grand Final champion was poised to move on. Seed ground his way back to nearly even before getting his chips in with a K♠ 6♠ against Charania’s 10-9 on a 10♠ 2♠ 5♣ flop. In a dramatic card, the turn brought black, but not a spade. It was, however, a King, to put Seed into the lead. After a 5♠ on the river only added insult to injury in improving Seed to a flush, Charania was left with only 400 chips and would fall on the next hand.

Today’s play in the Diamonds bracket will line up as such:

Doyle Brunson vs. Tom Dwan
Brian Hastings vs. Eli Elezra
Huck Seed vs. Joe Serock
Dan Smith vs. Gaelle Baumann

Friday’s action will be packed with drama as the second round matches play out. The winners of the sixteen pairings mentioned above will be in the money (the top 16 finishers will be paid), while the defeated will head to the rail. The work won’t be done for the day, however, as the third round will also be completed to bring the field down to the “Elite Eight.” It will all lead up to Championship Saturday, where the survivor from the 64 player field will take down a $750,000 payday.

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