That’s right, you have a chance to play in one of the most exclusive poker tournaments of the year. Only 64 players are invited to the National Heads-Up Poker Championship with most of the seats being reserved for some of the best pros in the world. It’s technically an invitation-only event. However, Ceasar’s Palace, which hosts the event, along with Full Tilt and PokerStars are each giving away two seats. This year’s event will start on March 5th with the draw party, and continue with the tournament running from March 6th through the 8th. Television coverage will begin on NBC on Sunday, April 12th, at noon, and continue for the following 5 Sundays in the same time-slot.
The National Heads-Up Poker Championship has been an annual event for NBC television since 2005. In that year Phil Helmuth defeated Chris “Jesus” Ferguson to become the first Heads-Up Champion. The following year Ferguson came oh so close again, but was defeated by Ted Forrest. In 2007 it was Paul Wasicka defeating Chad Brown in the final, and in 2008 Chris Ferguson made the final again. This time he was able to get the job done though, and won the match versus Andy Bloch to become the reigning champion.
NBC holds spots each year for the past 5 Heads-Up champions, the past 3 World Series of Poker champions, the most recent runner-up at the WSOP, the most recent Card Player Player of the Year, and the most recent WSOP Player of the Year. So we know this year’s event will include Phil Helmuth (HU ’05), Ted Forrest (HU ’06), Paul Wasicka (HU ’07), Chris Ferguson (HU ’08), Jaime Gold (WSOP ’06), Jerry Yang (WSOP ’07), Peter Eastgate (WSOP ’08), Ivan Demidov (WSOP ’08, RU), John Phan (CP POY), and Erick Lindgren (WSOP POY). Other regulars at the tournament include Daniel Negreanu, Barry Greenstein, Joe Hachem, Howard Lederer, Phil Ivey, and many more well known players. This tournament is basically a who’s who in big-time tournament poker.
PokerStars is currently running 1st round freerolls every day from now until February 20th at 7pm and 10pm each evening. The top 200 finishers will move on to round 2, which will run every Saturday at 4pm through February 21st. The top 56 players will then play in the Grand Final. That tournament will take place February 22nd at 3pm and the top two will each win a prize package worth about $21,000. PokerStars is also offering a “last chance” tournament on February 21st at 7pm. The top 8 finishers in this tournament will automatically win a spot in the Grand Final, bringing the total to 64 players.
Ceasar’s and Full Tilt have each already given away one seat. Ceasar’s is hosting a freeroll for their final seat on February 22nd at their casino in Las Vegas. According to their website, players must log at least 50 hours of play in January to automatically qualify. Other sources are claiming that only 40 hours are required to qualify.
Full Tilt is running round 1 tournaments daily and round 2 tournaments weekly until February 21st. The final qualifier will be held on February 22nd when the winner will be awarded a prize package worth $22,000, including entry into the Heads-Up Championship.