The seventh annual National Heads-Up Poker Championship will return to Caesars Palace in Las Vegas next month and the excitement began building this week with the announcement of the 64-player field. Defending champion Annie Duke will join the world’s top pros and a handful of celebrities to compete for a record payday when the event kicks off on March 3.
With the buy-in for the heads-up event increased from $20,000 to $25,000, the prize pool of this year’s bracket-style tournament will be $1.8 million, with the winner receiving $750,000compared to the $500,000 top prize of past years. Previous champs Phil Hellmuth (2005),Ted Forrest (2006), Chris Ferguson (2008), and Huck Seed (2009) will all be in attendance. Paul Wasicka, who won the event in 2007, was not included in this year’s lineup.
Other pros in the field include Patrick Antonius, Doyle Brunson, Tom Dwan, Phil Ivey, John Juanda, Daniel Negreanu, Mike Matusow, and Peter Eastgate, who just returned from a short-lived retirement. Several players received automatic entries based on their performances in 2010, such as James Bord (WSOP Europe Main Event winner), Nicolas Chouity (EPT Grand Final winner), Faraz Jaka (WPT Season 8 Player of the Year), Tom Marchese (2010 CardPlayer Player of the Year), and Sorel Mizzi (2010 Bluff Magazine Player of the Year).
Making his National Heads-Up Poker Championship debut this year in the celebrity category is former Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher and Hall of Fame member. Other celebrities returning to play include Jason Alexander, Don Cheadle, Gabe Kaplan, and Jennifer Tilly. GoDaddy will again serve as the title sponsor of the National Heads-Up Championship and host the Draw Party held at the PURE Nightclub at Caesars Palace on Thursday, March 3. The competition will then begin Friday, March 4 and continue through Sunday, March 6.
“Poker After Dark” host Leeann Tweeden will serve as the sideline reporter of the television coverage, with Craig Hummer and Ali Nejad providing commentary. NBC’s television coverage of the tournament will run every Sunday from April 17 to May 22.
“The National Heads-Up Poker Championship is back for a seventh year with another impressive line-up of celebrities and some of the most talented poker players in the world. Our viewers are in for a treat with what we can guarantee will be thrilling poker match-ups,” said Jon Miller, president of programming of NBC Sports and Versus. “There is no other heads-up poker tournament that can rival the skill and excitement on the tables that we bring together when the best of the best compete in this unique format.”
Here’s a look at the full field of 64: