32 remain at Heads-Up Championship

March, 5, 2011
3/05/11
9:56
AM ET


What a first round of action from Las Vegas and the National Heads-Up Poker Championships. According to Bluff magazine and PokerNews.com, there were some incredible hands and surprising upsets that will make great television when the series hits NBC. Friday featured only first-round action for the opening field of 64 and 32 survivors moved on to what will be a very busy Saturday.

[+] EnlargeSmith/Williams
NHUPCEmmitt Smith defeated David Williams to move on to Round 2 of the National Heads-Up Poker Championships.
Perhaps the biggest shock of the day was the elimination of David Williams to former NFL superstar Emmitt Smith. The two battled for a lengthy match in the first round with Williams suffering numerous beats by Smith who continued to find miracles on the river. Smith moves on and faces Andrew Robl who, as a last-minute substitution in the event, defeated Kara Scottin the first round.

Here's a look at the brackets and the player each winner defeated to make it to the Round of 32. Just for fun, I'll include my predictions for each matchup, and look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments below.

Diamonds

Bertrand Grospellier (Justin Young) versus Phil Galfond (Joe Hachem): Galfond

Vanessa Selbst (Eli Elezra) versus Peter Eastgate (Chris Ferguson): Selbst

Jennifer Harman (Huck Seed) versus Erik Seidel (Allen Cunningham): Seidel

Greg Raymer (Mike Matusow) versus Phil Gordon (Tom Marchese): Gordon

The Diamonds bracket was probably the toughest one coming in, and the eight that remain are some of the world's best players. Selbst and Seidel have been two of the most successful players on tour for the past year and an Elite Eight matchup between the two would be very entertaining.

Clubs

Olivier Busquet (Dwyte Pilgrim) versus Liv Boeree (Jason Alexander): Busquet

Jason Mercier (Ted Forrest) versus Andy Bloch (John Juanda): Mercier

Barry Greenstein (Scotty Nguyen) versus Ayaz Mahmood (Annette Obrestad): Mahmood

Jonathan Duhamel (Melbern Whitmire) versus Antonio Esfandiari (Nicolas Chouity): Duhamel

I love the Liv-versus-Liv matchup. Busquet, who plays online as "livb112," challenges the real Liv B, but I think the heads-up specialist continues to move on. Mahmood hasn't lost a heads-up matchup since July. What makes me think it would stop here against Greenstein (who continues to make it out of the first round in this event, but not much further)?

Hearts

Andrew Robl (Kara Scott) versus Emmitt Smith (David Williams): Smith. Just for entertainment's sake.

Gavin Smith (Gus Hansen) versus James Bord (Frank Kassela): Smith

Phil Laak (Daniel Negreanu) versus Michael Mizrachi (Vanessa Rousso): Mizrachi

Tom Dwan (Don Cheadle) versus David Benyamine (Phil Hellmuth): Dwan

Great matchups on tap in this bracket as well and personally, I'd love to see Smith go even further. Why? The further he goes, the better this show will draw. My pick of Dwan versus Mizrachi could make for a fun battle, and at the same time, it might be over in 10 minutes, given both players' aggression.

Spades

Doyle Brunson (Jennifer Tilly) versus Dennis Phillips (Erick Lindgren): Brunson

Daniel Cates (Phil Ivey) versus Chris Moneymaker (John Racener): Moneymaker

Carlos Mortensen (Sam Trickett) versus David Oppenheim (Eric Baldwin): Mortensen

Patrik Antonius (Sorel Mizzi) versus Eugene Katchalov (Faraz Jaka): Katchalov

Even though Cates got the best of Ivey, Moneymaker is really determined in 2011. It would definitely be an upset for the 2003 champion to pull out this win, but Moneymaker is more determined than ever. Mortensen has a tough battle with Oppenheim in what should be the highlight for many in Round 2. As for Brunson and Phillips, the two met in the round of 8 last year with Phillips getting the best over the legend. I don't believe it happens again.

For all players who advance one more round, they're in the money and earn at least $30,000. Action concludes Sunday, when the final two battle in a best-of-three series for the title.

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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