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Everyone’s favorite and most star-studded HU NLHE competition, the NBC’s HU Championship, is ready to put its 2009 suit on and walk the walk.
This perennial tournament, now in its 5th annual incarnation, will take place once again in the prestigious Caesars’ Palace at Las Vegas during March the 5th through the 8th. This particular tournament is known for its propensity to always have a star-studded field, from the toughest poker pro’s to the most bigger-than-life Hollywood celebrities, and a few qualified amateurs thrown in there too for good measure. Each will battle for their rightful share of the 7-figure prize pool ($1.5M) and also for the recognition and fame earned with capturing this coveted title.
Chris Ferguson will be along to defend his title in this year’s field which promises to be the toughest ever assembled. His record stands at an impressive 16W – 3L, about 84% success rate in the last four years.
There will be 16 players debuting this year to try and take shots at the throne, including two Caesars Palace qualifiers and four others who qualified online. There will also be 4 celebrities in the field, 4 of whom are recidivists, and also newcomer Brad Garrett.
At the conclusion of last year’s event, event organizers and NBC executives decided upon a list of criteria that would establish automatic qualifiers for the first time ever for this event. The list is as follows:

Previous four NHPC champions: Chris Ferguson (2008), Paul Wasicka (2007), Ted Forrest (2006), Phil Hellmuth (2005)

Previous two NHPC runners-up: Andy Bloch (2008), Chad Brown (2007)

Defending NHPC semifinalists: Huck Seed, Phil Ivey

Four consecutive years of cashing in the NHPC: Scott Fischman, Huck Seed (2)

Previous three World Series of Poker Main Event champions: Peter Eastgate (2008), Jerry Yang (2007), Jamie Gold (2006)

Defending WSOP Championship runner-up: Ivan Demidov

Multiple WSOP bracelet winners in 2008: John Phan

Defending WSOP Player of the Year: Erick Lindgren

Defending WSOP Heads-Up champion: Kenny Tran

Defending World Series of Poker Europe champion: John Juanda

Reigning World Poker Tour Player of the Year: Jonathan Little

Reigning European Poker Tour Grand Final Monte Carlo champion: Glen Chorny

Reigning Card Player magazine Player of the Year: John Phan (2)

Reigning Bluff magazine Player of the Year: John Phan (3)

The full list, barring any last minute changes, is outlined below. Notice that the online qualifiers are not yet known. Also, the players with an asterisk (*) next to their name will be participating for the first time:
1.   David Benyamine
2.   Andy Bloch
3.   Chad Brown
4.   Doyle Brunson
5.   Johnny Chan
6.   Don Cheadle
7.   Glen Chorny *
8.   Allen Cunningham
9.   Ivan Demidov *
10.   Annie Duke
11.   Tom Dwan
12.   Peter Eastgate *
13.   Eli Elezra
14.   Antonio Esfandiari
15.   Sam Farha
16.   Chris Ferguson
17.   Scott Fischman
18.   Layne Flack
19.   Ted Forrest
20.   Brad Garrett *
21.   Jamie Gold
22.   Clonie Gowen
23.   Barry Greenstein
24.   Gavin Griffin *
25.   Bertrand Grospellier *
26.   Joe Hachem
27.   Gus Hansen
28.   Jennifer Harman
29.   Phil Hellmuth
30.   Orel Hershiser
31.   Jeffrey Ishbia * (Caesars qualifier)
32.   Phil Ivey
33.   John Juanda
34.   Gabe Kaplan
35.   Phil Laak
36.   Howard Lederer
37.   Erick Lindgren
38.   Jonathan Little
39.   Mike Matusow
40.   Dario Minieri *
41.   Chris Moneymaker
42.   Daniel Negreanu
43.   Scotty Nguyen
44.   David Pham
45.   John Phan *
46.   Greg Raymer
47.   Vanessa Rousso
48.   Ilari Sahamies *
49.   Huck Seed
50.   Vanessa Selbst *
51.   Erik Seidel
52.   Mike Sexton
53.   Gavin Smith
54.   Jennifer Tilly
55.   J.C. Tran
56.   Kenny Tran
57.   Paul Wasicka
58.   David Williams
59.   Jerry Yang
60.   Leon Yanovski * (online qualifier)
61.   Caesars qualifier *
62.   Online qualifier *
63.   Online qualifier *
64.   Online qualifier *

Start stocking up on popcorn, and get ready for one of the biggest events in ’09!