- 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. This bracket is a highly entertaining bracket with Cheryl Hines, Michael Jordan and Mike Matusow in the field. The most anticipated first-round match is Jonathan Duhamel against Viktor Blom, but if you asked Jason Mercier, it would be his match versus Michael Jordan. Here are the results of the Diamonds Bracket.
Huck Seed versus Matt Glantz
After his semifinal and championship run in 2008 and 2009 respectively, Seed has not made it out of the first round. That said, Seed's record is one of the best in this event. Although Glantz put up a fight during the 80-minute contest, Seed's Kh-9s outflopped (Ks-8d-8c) Glantz's Ad-9d, ending his first run in the tournament.
Liv Boeree versus Cheryl Hines
In easily the best-looking match of the first round, the women seemed to discuss the world of entertainment more than poker. This is the second year in a row that Boeree is matched up with a celebrity in the first round. (She faced Jason Alexander in 2011.) Boeree eventually took the match seriously and advanced to the second round in back-to-back years.
Jason Mercier versus Michael Jordan
Known for wearing Miami team jerseys, Mercier decided to wear a Michael Jordan throwback University of North Carolina jersey in honor of his opponent. While Jordan plays solidly in the beginning, he couldn't pump-fake the poker superstar and follow in Emmitt Smith's footsteps. After Mercier easily beat potentially the best basketball player ever, Mercier asked Jordan to sign the baby-blue jersey. Jordan agreed only after Mercier promised to give him some poker lessons.
Andy Frankenberger versus Phil Galfond
No person in this field wanted to win this event more than the reigning WPT Player of the Year, Frankenberger. Focused, Frankenberger started the match strongly and held off Galfond, making a tough all-in call with second pair on a draw-heavy board. In what some would consider a minor upset, Frankenberger dispatched the ever-dangerous Galfond, who could not do better than his third-round run in last year's events.
Sam Trickett versus Mike Matusow
After two third-round finishes in a row, Matusow has not made it out of the first round in the past three years. This year, he faced a tough opponent in Sam Trickett. The British pro played extremely aggressively and eventually finished off Matusow, who held Ks-10s, with his Qh-8s when the dealer rivered a Matusow blowup-inducing queen.
Gus Hansen versus Annette Obrestad
The two aggressive Europeans came out playing fast, as each player tried to unsuccessfully bluff the other. After this initial barrage, Hansen settled back into his deliberate style and wore down the 2007 WSOPE main event champion. On the final hand, Hansen's pocket sixes held versus Obrestad's busted flush draw.
Jonathan Duhamel versus Viktor Blom
This battle between PokerStars' two premier young players was one of the best matches in the first round. Blom ran hot at the start, flopping a set and two pair to take a huge lead over Duhamel in the first 20 minutes. After an incredible run of cards, Duhamel battled back, doubling up three times and eventually almost felting Blom. Undeterred, Blom fought back and evened the match after 90 minutes of play. The longest first-round match finally ended when Duhamel's 8h-8s was called by Blom's 6s-6d and the board ran clean.
Will Failla versus Ivan Freitez
Besides Duhamel, there are few players on tour who are hotter than Failla. After winning a WPT main event last August, he has followed these up with a preliminary event at the Borgata in January and recently a HPT event in St. Louis. Initially, Failla played to the crowd and the cameras, but then seemed to lose focus, making a bad call to lose half his stack. After talking with his rail, Failla turned his attention solely to the task at hand. After pulling off a huge bluff to take back the chip lead, Failla finished off his European opponent with his pocket aces holding against Freitez's 9-9.
Huck Seed versus Liv Boeree
With a huge supportive rail behind her, Boeree hoped to take down the 2009 champion. Although she battled well, Seed's experience was too much for the 2010 EPT San Remo champion, who steadily chipped away at the card-dead Boeree.
Jason Mercier versus Andy Frankenberger
Many expected a long battle between these two players in the second round. However, the true cooler ended it before it even began. About nine minutes into the match, Mercier's As-Ad held versus a disheartened Frankenberger's Kd-Kc. Mercier moved on to the third round for the third year in a row.
Sam Trickett versus Gus Hansen
Hansen had to face another young European phenom, but this time, Trickett came out aggressive and also had the cards to back up his play. Trickett's set of tens took most of Hansen's chips when he called all-in with top pair and a straight draw.
Jonathan Duhamel versus Will Failla
In a battle of two of the hottest players in 2012, Failla attempted to use his verbal skills to gain an edge. Duhamel appeared to know this was coming and pulled up his hoodie from the beginning. Laser-focused, Duhamel took the early lead and never let it go. On the final hand, Failla's Kd-Qs couldn't catch up with Duhamel's Ah-6d.
Huck Seed versus Jason Mercier
This is the third year in a row that Mercier has made the third round, but to make it any further, he'd have to defeat a former champion of this event, Seed. After two bad years, Seed wanted to show the world that he could still play. After a close battle for the first 40 minutes, Seed flopped a set of 8s and, slow-playing his monster, enticed Mercier to bluff all-in on the river, effectively ending the match.
Sam Trickett versus Jonathan Duhamel
Another entertaining battle was anticipated between the 2010 WSOP champion and the 2011 Partouche Poker Tour champion. Unfortunately, another anticlimactic match occurred, as fireworks exploded when both players flopped trip sixes. The ever-hot Duhamel's As-6s outkicked Trickett's 6h-5h on a Kd-6d-6c flop, and after all the chips were in the middle, the dealer turned the 9d and rivered the Qd, sending Duhamel into the fourth round of the Diamond Bracket.
Huck Seed versus Jonathan Duhamel
This was a great matchup between two former WSOP main event champions. Seed, the 1996 winner, also won this event in 2009. Duhamel, the 2010 WSOP champion, was a semifinalist in this event in 2011. Although Seed took the early lead, Duhamel maintained his focus and avoided paying off some of Seed's big hands throughout the match. Duhamel dragged in a couple of big pots and eventually won when his 7s-7h held versus Seed's Ad-5s. Duhamel will look to continue his incredible 2012 run, as he advanced into the 2012 National Heads-Up Final Four.
Duhamel will face the winner of the Hearts Bracket in the Final Four.
Bernard Lee plays out the matches in the Diamonds Bracket of the mock 2012 National Heads-Up Poker Championship.