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The NBC Heads Up Poker Championship has become one of the most prestigious tournaments of the year. Professionals, celebrities and some lucky amateur players start looking forward to this single elimination massive field, and the fame that comes with winning. This will be the fourth year that this heads up championship has been running, since 2005. The structure of the tournament has never changed, but the audience sure has. It is still a 64 man bracket with a $20,000 buy-in where the eventual winner will take home a nice $500,000 prize.

In order to go heads up with arguably one of the toughest fields today, you need to be on the list. It is not an open tournament, only the big or hot names are invited. There are 64 seats in total, which make up a massive 64 man bracket (broken into spades, clubs, diamonds, and hearts as categories). I can’t imagine considering yourself one of the top names and not getting invited to such an event! However seating is limited, so without further ado, here are the 60/64 names which have been invited in alphabetical order (from nbcsports.com):

1. Alexander, Jason
2. Antonius, Patrik
3. Bellande, Jean-Robert
4. Benyamine, David
5. Brown, Chad
6. Brunson, Doyle
7. Brunson, Todd
8. Chan, Johnny
9. Cheadle, Don
10. Clements, Scott
11. Cloutier, T.J.
12. Cunningham, Allen
13. Deeb, Freddy
14. Duke, Annie
15. Dwan, Tom
16. Edler, Bill
17. Elezra, Eli
18. Elizabeth, Shannon
19. Esfandiari, Antonio
20. Farha, Sam
21. Ferguson, Chris
22. Fischman, Scott
23. Forrest, Ted
24. Garrett, Brad
25. Gold, Jamie
26. Gowen, Clonie
27. Greenstein, Barry
28. Grizzle, Sam
29. Hachem, Joe
30. Hansen, Gus
31. Harman, Jennifer
32. Hellmuth, Phil
33. Hershiser, Orel
34. Ivey, Phil
35. Juanda, John
36. Kaplan, Gabe
37. Laak, Phil
38. Lederer, Howard
39. Lindgren, Erick
40. Little, Jonathan
41. Matusow, Mike
42. Mizrachi, Michael
43. Negreanu, Daniel
44. Nguyen, Scotty
45. Pham, David
46. Raymer, Greg
47. Rousso, Vanessa
48. Schneider, Tom
49. Schreiber, Daniel
50. Seed, Huck
51. Seidel, Erik
52. Singer, David
53. Smith, Gavin
54. Tilly, Jennifer
55. Townsend, Brian
56. Tran, J.C.
57. Tran, Kenny
58. Wasicka, Paul
59. Williams, David
60. Yang, Jerry

There are a total of 15 newcomers on that list, including some big named online pros such as Brian “sbrugby” Townsend, Tom “durrrr” Dwan, Daniel “Rekrul” Schreiber, and Scott “BigRiskky” Clements. Some other pros and amateurs who have recently had some success are making their debut as well; 2007 WSOP Champ Jerry Yang, Kenny Tran, Tom Schneider, Jean-Robert Bellande, and Bill Edler just to name a few. Past champs Phil Hellmuth (2005), Ted Forrest (2006), and Paul Wasicka (2007) are all set to compete to repeat their successes, however I would rank this one of the toughest fields to achieve such a feat. Chris Ferguson is also playing this year, and if you remember he finished 2nd in both 2005 and 2006 (probably not how he wants to be remembered!)

But if you re-read everything you will see that there is only 60 out of 64 total names listed. Why? Well, I wasn’t being entirely truthful when I said it was 100% invite only earlier. The other 4 names haven’t been released because you haven’t won your seat yet! That’s right, for the first time they have decided to have the last 4 seats be filled by ambitious online players. You can win your way to this event online at sites such as Full Tilt, so if you want to be head to head with your favorite pros, click on the Full Tilt link now and you could be!

Most players have confirmed their spot, but something can always come up.  They also have standby players ready in case some can not show.  This may seem painful to be on this list rather than the main list, but it’s better than nothing.  If you don’t agree, just ask Paul Wasicka.   Last year, he was an alternate set to only play if someone didn’t show, and ended up winning the whole event!  Quite the achievement for someone who was a backup!

The NBC National Heads Up Poker Championship is set to be played at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas on February 28.  The winner will be long known before it airs on NBC though, which is set to in April and May of this year.  It’s kind of a let down to know who wins for so long before the event airs, but it’s still one of the best poker shows to watch.  Be sure to check back with updates on the list and event!