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The NBC Heads-Up Tournament never fails to provide genuinely interesting and compelling matches, as it’s invite only. This means that you’re guaranteed to see some of the best and the brightest in the poker world today, and guaranteed to see some extremely talented players butt heads for vast sums of money. As the field thins, the plot thickens. With every round the players make it through, the $500k first place prize gets closer to becoming a reality, and the dream matches gain more importance, than they already have.

Rounds 2 and 3 were no different, of course.

Round 2 began with eight matches spread out amongst the remaining players in the four brackets. The day began with the sixteen remaining players in the Hearts and Diamonds brackets battling it out for spots in the sweet sixteen. Everyone who would advance to the third round, would cash for $25k.

Here were the matches:

Hearts

Sam Grizzle vs. Freddy Deeb
Orel Hershiser vs. Allen Cunningham
Jamie Gold vs. Scott Fischman
Vanessa Rousso vs. Andy Bloch

Diamonds

Brian Townsend vs. Huck Seed
Michael Mizrachi vs. Clonie Gowen
David Benyamine vs. Barry Greenstein
Doyle Brunson vs. Erick Lindgren

Several questions emerged before this round. Could Orel Hershiser upset another pro, fresh off his win over Ted Forrest? Could Scott Fischman cash for a fourth consecutive year by defeating Jamie Gold and going to the sweet sixteen? Would Brian Townsend, someone with a great deal of Heads-Up experience, mow through this round?

With a fast structure, the players wasted no time in getting down to business. The Benyamine – Greenstein match up ended just after it began, with Greenstein getting it in with AJ of clubs against Benyamine’s pocket tens, and bricking. Townsend got it in against Huck Seed, with Townsend holding bottom pair against Seed’s top pair, receiving no help, and being ousted by the former WSOP Main Event champion. Andy Bloch eliminated Chad Brown’s girlfriend, Vanessa Rousso. Another former WSOP Main Event champ was taken down when Scott Fischman cashed yet another year in this tournament, sending Jamie Gold home in the process! Doyle Brunson won against Erick Lindgren, in a match featuring a bit of the old school vs. the new school. Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi was able to get lucky against Clonie Gowen, running down her AT with his QJ to finish her. Sam Grizzle’s pocket kings were no good as Deeb’s AQ sucked out, advancing Deeb to the next round.

Perhaps the most surprising win of the round was Orel Hershiser’s Cinderella run continued, as he defeated Allen Cunningham, who is widely regarded as one of the most prolific tournament players in the world.

Recap:

Hearts

Freddy Deeb def. Sam Grizzle
Orel Hershiser def. Allen Cunningham
Scott Fischman def. Jamie Gold
Andy Bloch def. Vanessa Rousso

Diamonds

Huck Seed def. Brian Townsend
Michael Mizrachi def. Clonie Gowen
David Benyamine def. Barry Greenstein
Doyle Brunson def. Erick Lindgren

The second half of Round 2 had just as much intrigue involved, if not more than the Hearts and Diamonds brackets. Interesting clashes of styles were all around, with Johnny Chan vs. Phil Ivey, and Gavin Smith vs. Chris Ferguson. Mike Matusow would be seeking to take down the ambitious Tom “Durr” Dwan, and nearly every other match in the round promised to be extremely exciting.

Spades

Gabe Kaplan vs. Jonathan “FieryJustice” Little
Scott “BigRiskky” Clements vs. Greg Raymer
Mike Matusow vs. Tom “Durr” Dwan
Chris “Jesus” Ferguson vs. Gavin Smith

Clubs

Scotty Nguyen vs. Gus Hansen
Phil Laak vs. Jerry Yang
Phil Ivey vs. Johnny Chan
J.C. Tran vs. T.J. Cloutier

Par for the course with the rest of the tournament thus far, the matches were fast paced and brutal. The Ivey – Chan match-up was the very first one finished, as Ivey got it in with top pair vs. Chan’s middle pair, sending home yet another WSOP Main Event champion. Chris Ferguson won a race against Gavin Smith, sending Ferguson to the sweet sixteen, and a quest for a third trip to the finals. Jonathan Little knocked out Gabe Kaplan, the talented poker announcer. In another interesting match of young vs. old, J.C. Tran bested T.J. Cloutier. Staying with the theme of busting WSOP Main Event winners, Jerry Yang got 86’ed by Phil Laak, and Gus Hansen took Scotty Nguyen down. Greg Raymer wore down Clements in a long, long match. And in what some might perceive to be a big upset, Mike Matusow took down the much talked about Tom Dwan, setting up the sweet sixteen.

Results:

Spades

Jonathan Little def. Gabe Kaplan
Greg Raymer def. Scott Clements
Mike Matusow def. Tom Dwan
Chris Ferguson def. Gavin Smith

Clubs

Gus Hansen def. Scotty Nguyen
Phil Laak def. Jerry Yang
Phil Ivey def. Johnny Chan
J.C. Tran def T.J. Cloutier

The Hearts and Diamonds brackets started off the star studded sweet sixteen, with the remaining eight contenders duking it out. Everyone who made it this far was guaranteed at least $25k for their efforts.

Hearts

Scott Fischman vs. Andy Bloch
Freddy Deeb vs. Orel Hershiser

Diamonds

Huck Seed vs. Michael Mizrachi
David Benyamine vs. Doyle Brunson

After a nearly hour-long match, The Grinder finally met his end in this year’s Heads-Up Championship, with Seed hitting a painful 3 outer, sending the Grinder to the rail. Orel Hershiser was deep into his battle against Freddy Deeb, the winner of the 2007 WSOP $50k H.O.R.S.E. Championship. Deeb, a longtime professional with a long list of accomplishments, joined Ted Forrest and Allen Cunningham in striking out against the future MLB Hall of Famer. Hershiser continued to play the role of David, taking out all the pros playing Goliath.

Despite once again cashing in the tournament, Fischman wasn’t able to do anything with it as Andy Bloch hit running cards to make a flush and finish Fischman off. Sadly, the Godfather of Poker himself, Doyle Brunson, wasn’t able to make it to Round 3, as the Frenchman, David Benyamine, eliminated him in the final match of the set of four.

Results:

Hearts

Andy Bloch def. Scott Fischman
Orel Hershiser def. Freddy Deeb

Diamonds

Huck Seed def. Michael Mizrachi
David Benyamine def. Doyle Brunson

The Spades and Clubs brackets were set for a simply amazing Round 3. Every match was exciting in its own way. Jonathan “FieryJustice” Little, a Full Tilt Poker pro, vs. Greg Raymer, the Poker Stars pro. Little has just annihilated tournaments this year, with numerous WPT final tables, including a win. Raymer needs no introduction, as the 2004 WSOP Main Event Champion. Mike Matusow and Chris Ferguson are two seasoned pros. Gus Hansen and Phil Laak both employ a loose style of play, which is often exciting in these fast paced, aggressive Heads-Up matches. And Phil Ivey and J.C. Tran are two of the most dominant, feared, and talented players in today’s tournaments.

Spades

Jonathan “FieryJustice” Little vs. Greg Raymer
Mike Matusow vs. Chris Ferguson

Clubs

Gus Hansen vs. Phil Laak
Phil Ivey vs. J.C. Tran

Phil Ivey, and J.C. Tran, two of the greatest tournament players around, are not immune to running into the unavoidable hands. With Ivey holding AK, and Tran holding QQ, both were obviously more than happy to get their money in with those holdings. Tran caught a safe flop, but the K on the turn crushed him, with no Q materializing on the river.

In the Full Tilt vs. Poker Stars battle, Full Tilt won out. Raymer ran into Jonathan Little’s pocket aces, and busted before the elite eight.

After grinding Laak down the whole match, Hansen finished him off just short of an hour into their match, holding off his 95, with his AQ.

In the final match of the night, Ferguson finished Matusow, winning a flip, beating out Matusow’s A6 with his KQ.

Recap:

Spades

Jonathan Little def. Greg Raymer
Chris Ferguson def. Mike Matusow

Clubs

Gus Hansen def. Phil Laak
Phil Ivey def. J.C. Tran

Everyone who made it to the elite eight were guaranteed at least $75k, all the way up to $500k for 1st!

Here were the match-ups going into the elite eight:

Chris Ferguson vs. Jonathan Little
Gus Hansen vs. Phil Ivey
Orel Hershiser vs. Andy Bloch
Huck Seed vs. David Benyamine

Look back tomorrow for the final day from eight to the final two, as courtiebee will be finishing off this epic tournament!