Eight play for title on Sunday

March, 6, 2011
3/06/11
10:04
AM ET


Editor's note: Erik Seidel defeated Vanessa Selbst and Andrew Robl to make it to the finals and face Chris Moneymaker, who defeated David Oppenheim and Jonathan Duhamel.

The second day of play at the National Heads-Up Poker Championships left only eight players remaining in contention for the title and plenty of television exposure. It's no surprise to many that Erik Seidel has reached this point, because he basically hasn't lost all year, but on the other side of the bracket, there definitely are a few surprises. For those interested, here's the bracket after Day 2.

According to excellent coverage on site by PokerNews and Bluff, it was a day of coin flips and suckouts. Here's a look at how each player made it to the Elite Eight:

Diamonds bracket: Vanessa Selbst versus Erik Seidel

Talk about putting two of the hottest poker players in the world right now against each other for a bid to the final four. I don't think that anyone could've asked for a better quarterfinal matchup. ESPN's sixth-ranked (Seidel) and seventh-ranked (Selbst) players will face off in a matchup that is sure to bring poker fans to the edge of their seats.

Selbst halted Peter Eastgate's comeback in the second round, then denied Phil Galfond in the third round. Seidel defeated two fellow Full Tilt pros: Jennifer Harman (second round) and Phil Gordon (third round).

Hearts bracket: Andrew Robl versus David Benyamine

In the match of "I really was pretty surprised to see you both invited," Andrew Robl will face off against David Benyamine in the fourth round. Robl was a last-minute fill-in for this event, and so far, so good. Benyamine seems to be a staple in these televised tournaments for one reason or another, but you can't knock his success.

Robl defeated Kara Scott, denied Emmitt Smith the legendary run that NBC would've hoped and beat WSOP Europe main event champion James Bord. Benyamine quickly quieted Phil Hellmuth in the first round, Tom Dwan in the second and Michael Mizrachi in the third. This will be a battle between two completely different styles and two different schools of poker. Benyamine's third gear is probably Robl's first, so expect a patient match from the seasoned vet while Robl might try to force the issue.

Spades bracket: Chris Moneymaker versus David Oppenheim

Well lookie here. Hello Mr. Moneymaker. If there is someone who will always receive an invitation to this event, it will be Moneymaker, and if there is someone who will receive an invitation to this event ... at the very, very, very last minute, it will be Oppenheim.

In 2009, Oppenheim replaced Layne Flack in the event after Flack was a no-show. He took that bid and ran all the way to the elite eight. This seems eerily familiar as the story has played out once again with Oppenheim defeating Eric Baldwin, Carlos Mortensen and Eugene Katchalov en route to this match. Moneymaker's story in 2011 is one about redemption and proving he belongs. After a deep run at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, Moneymaker was set on making this a great year and enlisted mindset coach Sam Chauhan to assist in making that happen. His path in this event hasn't been an easy one, but he managed to get through John Racener, Daniel Cates and Doyle Brunson to reach this point.

Oppenheim typically doesn't get the love, or credit, for what he's accomplished on the felt and the same can really be said about Moneymaker. Hopefully whoever wins this one can shake that stigma off just a little bit.

Clubs bracket: Olivier Busquet versus Jonathan Duhamel

I know that the Seidel/Selbst matchup is going to be the best one, but I think that this matchup is my favorite one. We have the reigning WSOP main event champion who has been quite an international ambassador to this point while still maintaining solid results. On the other side we have a man who the general audience has minimally heard of with $2.6 million in heads-up sit-and-go earnings online. He's a player who specializes in quick-moving heads-up tournaments ... which is exactly this format.

Duhamel had one of the best draws in the first round against qualifier Melbern Whitmire, and he beat Antonio Esfandiari in the second round and Ayaz Mahmood, the 2010 WSOP heads-up champion, in the third round. Busquet quickly defeated Dwyte Pilgrim in the first, Liv Boeree in the second and Jason Mercier in the third.

There's more than just money and the title on the line in the round of eight: A win will not only give the champion at least $125,000, but also lock in their spot in the 2012 NHUPC. That bid is one of the most coveted in the industry, which adds some additional pressure to the match. That said, there's no pressure for Duhamel or Seidel because their previous accomplishments (the 2010 WSOP main event title for Duhamel and a 2010 NHUPC runner-up finish for Seidel) have earned them automatic bids already for next year.

Sunday's action will feature three rounds of play until a champion is crowned. The final, played in a best-of-three format, will award the champion $750,000.

Andrew Feldman is ESPN.com's Poker Editor. He is the host of the Poker Edge Podcast and co-host of ESPN Inside Deal. Andrew has covered the poker industry for ESPN since 2004.

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