Matches We’d Like To See at the NBC National Heads-Up Championship
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- Ebony Smith
- May 29, 2022
The beauty of heads-up play is how conducive it is to narrative. Any game, sport or otherwise, is only fun to watch if you understand the story that it plays out. Watching two poker robots might have some dull intellectual interest, but it’s the human context behind a duel that really makes it vital.
With 8 people around a poker table, it can be hard to find the seam. As the game develops, rivalries will form, but the players interact haphazardly and it will take a long time before any real stories develop.
Heads-up play doesn’t have that problem. It’s immediately one-on-one, player vs. player. The narrative begins at the first hand and builds to a climax with the final all-in. Even more so when there’s some well known history between the two players or a large amount of pride at stake.
The NBC National Heads-Up Championship, which begins On March 3rd, is set to feature a whole host of recognizable names and tested tournament winners. Every pairing will have its own backstory, but there are a few special cases where the match-up is even more tantalizing. Brackets won’t be drawn until the evening before, but here are a few names we’re hoping are matched together on the night:
Phil Hellmuth vs. Tom Dwan
If you confine your rivalries to just the NBC Heads-Up Championship, then Dwan vs. Hellmuth is undoubtedly the most heated in the tournament’s short history. In 2008 Dwan was the new kid on the block. Emerging out of nowhere into the nosebleed games on Full Tilt, he made the leap into televised poker as a relative unknown.
Phil togel Singapore has admitted that he didn’t give Tom enough credit at the time, famously ending their heated confrontation with the phrase, “We’ll see if you’re even around in five years.” It’s not quite been a half-decade since their bout, but we suspect Tom Dwan is here to stay. That venomous put-down was the tail-end of a trademark Hellmuth blowout, prompted by a brutal suckout that won Tom the match.
In 09, they were serendipitously paired in the round of 16. An alarmingly contrite Phil claimed Dwan was one of the best players in the world, before laying into him with an uncharacteristically aggressive style. For his part, durrrr looked flustered and lost the match without putting up much of a fight. When the winning card fell, Hellmuth leaped from his chair, visibly thrilled to have avenged his ignominious defeat.
It might be greedy to ask for a third matchup in 4 years, but I’m going to anyway.
Phil Ivey vs. Daniel Negreanu
Whoever these players are matched up against, you can be sure the cameras will follow their every move, but there’s one particular match-up we’re hoping comes to pass.
Phil Ivey, the gambler’s gambler and perhaps the best poker player ever to have walked the Earth, has a diffident attitude towards poker tournaments at best, but still sits second in the All Time money list.
He was first, until Daniel Negreanu powered past him on the back of a 2nd place finish in the PCA Super High Roller event last month. Their totals are close enough that a victory at the Heads-Up Championship would put Phil back into the number one spot.
It’s difficult to know whether Phil cares about the money-list, but it clearly means something to Daniel. Whatever their motivations, witnessing the collision of their incredible poker abilities would be a sight to behold.
Phil Laak vs. Antonio Esfandiari
These are two of the most watchable poker players in the world and fixtures on everything from High Stakes Poker to Poker After Dark. Laak’s high octane antics are ratings gold and Antonio’s genuine charm has made him popular with fans around the globe.
Matching up two of the most extroverted players on the tour seems like a decent idea, but there’s more to it than that. The Unabomber and The Magician are very close friends and have dueled with each other in all manner of degenerate spheres.
Anyone who saw their short lived TV show, I Bet You, will know how far their good natured wagers can stretch. The dynamic duo have laid odds on everything from who can find the best poker player on Venice Beach to who is the fastest dune buggy driver.
A meeting at the 2011 National Heads-Up Poker Championship would be just another chapter in their friendly rivalry, but never have they fought on a brighter stage.
Huck Seed vs. Chris Ferguson
There’s no history here; no long bitter feud to be settled or title to be won. It’s just a case of raw statistics. Huck Seed has the best winning record of any player in the history of the competition, in addition to having won the whole thing in 2009.
In the first few years of the Heads-Up Championship, Chris “Jesus” Ferguson looked destined to be always the bridesmaid, never the bride. He finished runner up to Phil Hellmuth and Ted Forrest in the tournament’s first two years, finally winning the title at the third time of asking in 2008.
To put it simply, these players are demonstrably two of the best heads-up competitors in the world. A meeting of their magnificent minds would rightly be billed as a contest to decide who can claim to be the master of the format.
And, of course, both will be bidding to become the first player ever to win the title for a second time. If they meet in the final, NBC executives will be paralytic with excitement.