Mike Matusow Wins NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship

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It is kind of strange to think of poker players who are in their 40’s as “old timers” or players whose peak of poker fame was just a few years ago as “old school,” but that’s probably would Mike “The Mouth” Matusow and Phil Hellmuth are. Hellmuth has remained relevant since the peak of the poker boom, but Matusow has largely faded from the consciousness of the poker community, particularly with the Black Friday and Full Tilt Poker debacles of the last couple years. All that may have changed this weekend, though, as Mike Matusow defeated Phil Hellmuth in the finals of the NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship (NHUPC) and pocketed $750,000.

Saturday started with eight players remaining. Matusow took on John Hennigan in the finals of the Spades bracket in one of the early matches, while Daniel Cates squared off against Scott Seiver in the Clubs bracket finals. After only about half an hour, it looked bad for Matusow, as Hennigan had taken a healthy 330,000 to 70,000 chip lead. Matusow fought back, though, gaining a few chips back and then going all-in pre-flop with K-J against Hennigan’s Q-J to double-up and take the lead, 205,000 to 195,000.

Just a few minutes after that, Seiver crippled Cates, rivering a flush after Cates had flopped two pair. On the next hand, Cates went all-in for his final 4,000 chips with J-5 against Seiver’s 6-5, but Seiver again rivered the card he needed, winning the hand with a pair of sixes to move into the final four.

In the meantime, Matusow and Hennigan were still going at it with Matusow increasing his lead slightly. On the deciding hand, Hennigan raised pre-flop and Matusow called before the two saw a flop of 7♣-5♠-4♠. The two raised and re-raised until all the chips were in the middle, Hennigan’s tournament life on the line with 7♠-2 against Matusow’s A♠-6♠. Hennigan had a made hand, but Matusow’s hand was rife with draws. The turn was the 2♣, good for nothing, but the river 8♣ completed Matusow’s straight, advancing him to the semi’s.

Never lacking confidence, Matusow tweeted, “And we are iff [sic] to final 4 2 donks left hate to remind them but its [sic] my time”

On the other side of the bracket, it was Eugene Katchalov versus Hellmuth in the Hearts quadrant and Brian Hastings versus Joe Serock in the Diamonds region. Serock won a big hand early and cruised for the. He finally did-in Hastings when he put Hastings all-in pre-flop holding 5-5♠. Hastings had 8♠-8♣, though, and looked to be in great shape to double. The flop of Q-7♣-7♦ was innocent enough, but the T raised pulses just a tad. The river 2 was the clincher for Serock, giving him a flush and the win.

In the Hearts bracket, the Hellmuth/Katchalov match started slowly, but eventually picked up as Hellmuth surged to a large lead, only to see Katchalov storm back and snatch the lead back. Hellmuth grabbed the lead again and then all of a sudden, it was over. Hellmuth held pocket Jacks and Katchalov had A♣-T♣, apparently both good enough pairs of hole cards to go all-in. No flush or Ace came to Katchalov’s rescue and Hellmuth completed the final four.

On the red-suited side of the bracket, the turning point of the match came when, with the lead, Hellmuth called Serock’s bet of 29,000 on a board of A♣-5♣-4♠-Q♣. When the river 9♠ was dealt, Serock bet again, this time for 69,000, and Hellmuth called. Hellmuth flipped over a 5 and a 4 for two pair while Serock mucked. Hellmuth scooped the pot, increasing his stack to just above 600,000, while Serock dropped to just under 200,000.

About 30 minutes later, Serock moved all-in pre-flop with Q-J and Hellmuth called with A♣-J♣. The A on the turn gave Serock a chance at a flush, though it took away his shot at winning with a Queen. The T♣ on the river clinched it for Hellmuth and he advanced to the finals.

Meanwhile, at the other table, Matusow had once again fallen into a deep hole, 680,000 to 120,000 chips. He made a run, of course, first doubling when his A-J out-raced Seiver’s pocket Nines. A short time later, Matusow took a small lead and then took a huge lead when his Q-8 turned into a full house on a board of Q-6-6-7-6.

A few hands later, Seiver moved all-in pre-flop with J-T and was called by Matusow, who had a dominating A-T. Seiver couldn’t get luck, setting up a finals between “The Mouth” and “The Poker Brat.”

Matusow roared to a huge lead in the first of the best-of-three finals matches, getting paid off after he turned quads. Hellmuth doubled-up a couple hands in a row after that but still found himself down 1 million chips to 600,000. Not able to find any traction in the bout, Hellmuth shoved with two red Fives, called by Matusow and his A-Q. An Ace flopped right off the bat and Matusow took the first match of the finals, needing just one more to win the NHUPC.

It looked like Matusow might carry that momentum to a quick victory, as he reached almost a million chips within 15 minutes, but Hellmuth turned it around, flipping the chip stacks in a hurry. The chip lead went back and forth again, first Matusow grabbing it, then Hellmuth. The two were all-in again pre-flop with pocket pairs, this time Matusow getting the worst of it, Deuces versus Tens. The Tens held and Hellmuth evened things up at one a piece.

The rubber match, which started just after midnight, was all Mike Matusow. He immediately stormed out to a big lead, growing it more and more with each hand. It took just 30 minutes for championship to end. Matusow raised pre-flop to 32,000 and Hellmuth made the call. On the flop of K-J♠-2, Hellmuth check-called a 30,000 bet. The turn is where things got interesting. After the 6♠ was dealt, Hellmuth checked and Matusow bet 105,000 chips. Hellmuth thought about things for a while, finally deciding to move all-in. Matusow himself then pondered his decision before finally calling, putting Hellmuth at risk. Matusow had 8-4 for a diamond draw, while Hellmuth had K♠-T for top pair. The river card was the Q, giving Matusow his flush and the NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship.

2013 NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship Final Standings

1.    Mike Matusow – $750,000
2.    Phil Hellmuth – $300,000
3.    Scott Seiver – $100,000
4.    Joe Serock – $100,000
5.    Eugene Katchalov – $50,000
6.    Brian Hastings – $50,000
7.    John Hennigan – $50,000
8.    Daniel Cates – $50,000
9.    David “Doc” Sands – $25,000
10.    Dan Smith – $25,000
11.    Tom Dwan – $25,000
12.    Joseph Cheong – $25,000
13.    Antonio Esfandiari – $25,000
14.    Barry Greenstein – $25,000
15.    Vanessa Rousso     – $25,000
16.    Phil Ivey – $25,000

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