The National Heads Up Poker Championship, one of the more prestigious events on the tournament poker calendar – and one that has been fraught with the fluctuating conditions of the poker world – will not be held in 2014.
According to Chad Holloway of PokerNews, the news came down late last week as to the decision not to have a tournament this year. The producer of the event, Mori Eskandani of Poker PROductions (who also handle the World Series of Poker broadcasts), confirmed with Holloway that the NHUPC wouldn’t be held. While he stated that it “will not be on the calendar this year,” Eskandani believes that it will return in the future, saying to Holloway, “I have good reason to believe that the future of the series will be bright.”
This isn’t the first time the NHUPC has taken a bit of a hiatus. In 2012, following the government’s crackdown on online poker, the NHUPC lost several of its main sponsors (in particular PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker) which led to the cancellation of the event that year. Although no reasons were given for this year’s decision to cancel the tournament, it is thought that advertising dollars might have been a big issue once again.
Since its debut in 2005, the NHUPC has been one of the more popular events on the tournament poker calendar. With its NCAA tournament style bracket format, 64 of the most notable names from the poker world, assorted celebrities and some online qualifiers lined up to take their shot at the NHUPC. Its “win or go home” format ensured some exciting poker as well as some stunning knockouts that have gone down in the tournament’s history (remember actor Don Cheadle’s victory over Phil Ivey in 2007?).
In the history of the tournament, there have been two men who etched their names into its lore. As the inaugural champion of the NHUPC in 2005, Phil Hellmuth made a point of taking part in the event. He barely missed out on winning an unprecedented second NHUPC championship in 2013 when he finished as the runner-up to Mike Matusow.
The other player who arguably had the best success is Chris Ferguson. The 2000 World Series of Poker Championship Event winner was the runner-up in the first two years of the tournament (behind Hellmuth in 2005 and Ted Forrest in 2006) before he broke through and won the NHUPC in 2008. Other past champions of the NHUPC include Paul Wasicka (2007), Huck Seed (2009), Annie Duke (2010) and Erik Seidel (2011).
The departure of the NHUPC leaves no poker broadcasts on mainstream television. The WSOP has its traditional home on ESPN (and will continue to for the foreseeable future), while the World Poker Tour continues to have its events shown on Fox Sports 1. The Heartland Poker Tour runs its events through syndication across the United States and around the world but, outside of those three players, there are no other poker “broadcasts” to speak of.
That may change in the near future, however. “Poker Night in America,” the brainchild of HPT founder Todd Anderson, taped three events at the end of 2013 for broadcast this year. Those tapings, which would feature several notable poker players as they played in events in New York and Pennsylvania, are “in the can” but there has been no announcement as to where (or when) they will hit the airwaves. There are also no further tapings scheduled at this time, although there have been rumors that at least three more will be done prior to the start of the 2014 WSOP.
The departure of the NHUPC for 2013 is a bit of a disappointment, considering the rich history of the tournament and its success on television and with the fans. With hope it will return in 2015 and be better than ever.