- Bernard Lee, ESPN Poker
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In my last column, the 64-player field for the mock 2012 National Heads-Up Championship was selected. After a random draw, the matchups were determined and broken up into the four brackets: Clubs, Spades, Hearts and Diamonds. Here are the results of the Hearts Bracket.
Faraz Jaka versus Vanessa Selbst
This match was clearly expected to be the most "hyper-agro" first-round match of the entire tournament. Strangely enough, both players came out playing ABC poker, as each thought the other would try something tricky. In the end, the match ended in a mundane manner: Jaka's flopped top two pair (albeit holding 9h-5s) lost to Selbst's bottom set (3-3).
Erik Seidel versus Chris Moorman
Only one National Heads-Up Champion has gotten out of the first round the following year. (Ted Forrest made the third round.) This year, Seidel was not immune to the champion's curse. After failing on a river bluff attempt, Seidel became short, and eight hands later, the 2011 WSOP Europe main event runner-up finished off the match, making sure there would be a new champion in 2012.
Ray Romano versus Annie Duke
What a great matchup of television personalities. With Brad Garrett watching from the stands behind him, the two spoke throughout the match and formed a last-longer best for charity. Garrett won the bet as Duke earned the win in the match in less than 30 minutes.
Jake Cody versus Dan Kelly
This was definitely the quietest match of the first round, as these two young guns battled in silence. While Kelly has had an incredible 2012 so far (four final tables and one victory), Cody got the upper hand in the match right away when he flopped a diamond flush versus Kelly's middle set. Kelly could not recover, and the shortest match of the tournament was over in four minutes.
Daniel Cates versus Brian Rast
Daniel Cates emerged into the poker spotlight a couple of years ago as a heads-up specialist. In this first-round match, Cates reminded the world why. With some timely bluffs and perfect bet sizing, Cates took care of the 2011 two-time WSOP bracelet winner and advanced to the second round in back-to-back years.
Shawn Buchanan versus Vanessa Rousso
Since Rousso's runner-up finish to Huck Seed in 2009, she has not made it out of the first round. Regrettably, this year was no exception, as Buchanan made the most of his first appearance in this event. After Buchanan hit a miracle runner-runner straight versus her flopped two pair, Rousso became slightly unraveled and Buchanan methodically chipped away at her small stack to advance to the second round.
Ben Lamb versus Qualifier No. 2
How good does Ben Lamb run? Last summer, he won his first WSOP bracelet and made four final tables, including the WSOP main event. This year, the 2011 November Niner drew the only pure qualifier in the field. After easily outplaying his overmatched opponent, Lamb moved on to the second round.
Pius Heinz versus Elio Fox
The WSOP main event champion and WSOP Europe main event champion shook hands before the match like two prizefighters. However, the match did not live up to the hype, as Heinz pulled off a nice bluff early to grab the chip lead. He rolled from there and eliminated Fox quickly to move on.
Vanessa Selbst versus Chris Moorman
Another anticipated hyper-agro match, and this time the players did not disappoint. Both played extremely aggressively, and the match wavered back and forth. About 45 minutes into the match, Moorman four-bet all-in on the turn with Jh-9c on a 8s-4d-3s-10h and was called by Selbst with Ks-10s. The Jc on the river sent Moorman into the next round.
Annie Duke versus Jake Cody
Outside of Duke's championship year in 2010, she only had one other victory. Although she added another in her first round victory over Romano, she cannot continue the run as 2011 WSOP Heads-Up Champion took out Duke when his bottom set beat her top pair, king kicker.
Daniel Cates versus Shawn Buchanan
This matchup may have lacked the star power of the battle below, but the play was some of the best in the tournament. With the lead changing hands four times, these two players creatively played against each other to the amazement of the crowd. While Buchanan seemed to have Cates on the ropes late in the match, two big double-ups (Qs-Qh against 8d-8c and Ad-Kd versus Ac-Js) allowed Jungleman to regain the chip lead. Cates moved on to the third round, but Buchanan's play justified his selection for this event.
Ben Lamb versus Pius Heinz
In the most highly anticipated second-round match, the poker world would now be able to see possibly what would have happened if Lamb's Kh-Jd had outflopped Martin Staszko's 7s-7h back in November. The hype of the match delivered, as the two played back at each other for almost 75 minutes. With the chip lead constantly flipping back and forth due to the frequent escalation of the blinds, Lamb finally took the chip lead after an hour and never let go. In the end, a short-stacked Heinz pushed with Kd-7h and was called by Lamb's Js-10s. The 10h on the turn ended Heinz's tournament, sending Lamb into the third round.
Chris Moorman versus Jake Cody
The battle of the U.K. began as the rowdy British supporters in the crowd reacted vocally to every hand. The 2011 WSOPE main event final table members have played each other on numerous occasions. Both started out very slowly, but as the soccer chants became louder, the play began to pick up. In the end, one huge coin flip determined the outcome. Cody's Kd-Qh outflopped Moorman's Js-Jd (flop Ks-5s-2d), but Moorman ended the match with a runner-runner flush.
Daniel Cates versus Ben Lamb
With most people anticipating another storybook run by Lamb, many underestimated Cates in this match. The two stars battled hard for 15 minutes, but Lamb's run came to an end after he couldn't fold his overpair of queens (Qs-Qd) after an all-in shove by Cates who held middle set of sevens.
Chris Moorman versus Daniel Cates
With such a youth-heavy field in this bracket, it only seemed fitting that the Hearts bracket final would come down to these two talented players. The two players' cheering sections became very patriotic for their respective homelands, and in the end, the U.K. singing would drown out the USA chants when Moorman's Ac-Kh outraced Cates' Jd-Jc. Moorman's tournament dominance continued.
Moorman will face the winner of the Diamonds Bracket in the Final Four.
Bernard Lee plays out the matches in the Hearts Bracket of the mock 2012 National Heads-Up Poker Championship