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NBC Heads-Up Poker Championship field announced

23 Feb 2011

LAS VEGAS (PRESS RELEASE) -- A field of 64 poker players, including the who's who of the poker world and skilled celebrities, are set to converge on Las Vegas for the 7th annual National Heads-Up Poker Championship presented by, the world's top Web hosting provider and largest domain name registrar. Poker's most prestigious heads-up tournament brings 64 of the best poker players in the world to the Caesars Palace Poker Tournament Room to compete in its distinctive, bracket-style head-to-head format for $1.8 million in combined prize money.

"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."

The buy-in for invited players has increased this year from $20,000 to $25,000, which means that the first-place finisher will receive $750,000, up from $500,000 in last year's competition and second place will take home $300,000, up from $250,000. The event will be taped for broadcast on NBC over six consecutive Sundays in April and May. The first-round opponents for the brackets will be chosen at random during the Draw Party held at PURE Nightclub at Caesars Palace on Thursday, March 3. The competition begins Friday, March 4 and continues through Sunday, March 6.

Returning to compete are several of the world's top poker pros, including defending champion Annie Duke, Go Daddy Girl Vanessa Rousso, Phil Ivey, Phil Hellmuth, Doyle Brunson, Chris Ferguson, Huck Seed, and Daniel Negreanu, along with 2010 World Series of Poker Main Event champion Jonathan Duhamel and 2010 NHPC runner-up Erik Seidel. Also, 2008 WSOP Main Event champion Peter Eastgate is coming back after taking a hiatus from the game in 2010. Model and television personality Leeann Tweeden will, once again, serve as the sideline reporter/interviewer, with Craig Hummer and Ali Nejad providing commentary for the broadcast.

"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."

Making his National Heads-Up Poker Championship debut this year in the celebrity category is former Dallas Cowboy running back Emmitt Smith, the NFL's all-time leading rusher and Hall of Fame member. Popular celebrities returning to play again include Jason Alexander, who is making his second appearance, Don Cheadle (fifth), Gabe Kaplan (fifth) and Jennifer Tilly (sixth).

"The National Heads-Up Championship in Vegas is a premiere poker event that draws some of the greatest players in the world," said Go Daddy CEO and Founder Bob Parsons. "Poker is a male-dominated sport. That makes it all the more interesting to watch our Go Daddy Girl Vanessa Rousso going head-to-head in this competition. We are bound to see an exciting series of match-ups again this year. I can't wait to see how it all plays out!"

The field, in alphabetical order, follows:

Jason Alexander Phil Galfond Sorel Mizzi
Patrik Antonius Phil Gordon Chris Moneymaker
Eric Baldwin Barry Greenstein Daniel Negreanu
David Benyamine Bertrand Grospellier Scotty Nguyen
Andy Bloch
Joe Hachem Annette Obrestad
Liv Boeree
Gus Hansen Dennis Phillips
James Bord Jennifer Harman Dwyte Pilgrim
Doyle Brunson Phil Hellmuth John Racener
Joe Cada Phil Ivey Greg Raymer
Daniel Cates Faraz Jaka Vanessa Rousso
Johnny Chan John Juanda Kara Scott
Don Cheadle Gabe Kaplan Huck Seed
Nicolas Chouity Frank Kassela Erik Seidel
Allen Cunningham Eugene Katchalov Vanessa Selbst
Jonathan Duhamel Phil Laak Emmitt Smith
Annie Duke Howard Lederer Gavin Smith
Tom Dwan Erick Lindgren Jennifer Tilly
Peter Eastgate Ayaz Mahmood Melburn Whitmire
Eli Elezra Thomas Marchese David Williams
Antonio Esfandiari Mike Matusow Justin Young
Chris Ferguson Jason Mercier
Ted Forrest Michael Mizrachi

The National Heads-Up Poker Championship features 64 top poker players competing in a series of heads-up (one-on-one matches of No Limit Texas Hold'em) matches to determine the best heads-up poker player in the world. This tournament has a unique, single-elimination, bracket-style format modeled after college basketball's championship tournament, except that the finals are the best of three. The viewing gallery at the Caesars Palace Poker Tournament Room is open to guests on a first-come, first-served basis.

NBC's television coverage:
April 17 - Noon-1PM ET/9-10 AM PT
April 24 - Noon-2PM ET/9-11 AM PT
May 1 - Noon-2PM ET/9-11 AM PT
May 8 - Noon-2PM ET/9-11 AM PT
May 15 - Noon-2PM ET/9-11 AM PT
May 22 - Noon-3PM ET/9-Noon PT
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