The final eight players began play on the final day of the 2009 NBC National Heads-Up Championship at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Mar. 8. Each player remaining was guaranteed to walk away with at least $75,000 in prize money, and the eventual winner would leave Caesars Palace with $500,000, in addition to one of the most sought-after poker titles of the year. Here is a look at how the action played out during the exciting conclusion to this tournament.
The hearts and diamonds brackets started out the day with David Williams vs. Sam Farha and Huck Seed vs. David Oppenheim. The match between Williams and Farha came to a close in less than a half hour thanks to a major cooler. On a Q-Q-6-4-10 board, Williams got it all in and flipped over Q-6 for a full house. Farha flipped over Q-10 for a higher full house, and he eliminated Williams in fifth place ($75,000). Just minutes later, Seed advanced to the final four for the third time when he eliminated Oppenheim in fifth place ($75,000). Oppenheim played well as a substitute for Layne Flack in just his second appearance in the NBC Heads-Up arena, but his run came to an end against Seed. Seed held pocket eights in the final hand against Oppenheim's A-Q. An 8 fell on the turn, and Seed prevailed.
In the clubs and spades brackets, it was Daniel Negreanu vs. Vanessa Rousso and Bertrand Grospellier vs. Phil Hellmuth. The match between ElkY and the Poker Brat was the shortest of the day, and, once again, a cooler was the culprit. About 10 minutes into play, Hellmuth moved all in preflop with pocket queens, and Grospellier called him down with pocket aces. Hellmuth did not improve, and the 2005 NBC Heads-Up champion was eliminated in fifth place ($75,000).
Rousso came from behind to turn the tables on Negreanu in the marathon match of the second elite-eight session. She was able to fast-play her holecards against Negreanu when she held J-6 on a board of J-J-4-4 to survive, and then she employed the same strategy to advance. She moved all in on a 6 3 2 3 board. Negreanu tanked for a long time before he made the call, and then turned up a 6. Rousso showed pocket deuces for a full house, the river was a 10, and Negreanu was eliminated in fifth place ($75,000), while Rousso advanced to the final four.
The final four featured Grospellier vs. Rousso and Seed vs. Farha to see who would advance to the championship round. Rousso once again came from behind and won her match to decide the contender from one side of the bracket. She doubled up twice to take the lead on Grospellier, and then she finished him off. On the final hand, Rousso held pocket sevens against ElkY's K-6. Rousso improved to a straight, and Grospellier was eliminated in third place ($125,000).
The battle between Farha and Seed was by far the longest single match of the tournament. It featured multiple lead changes, as Farha was the first to double up (with aces) and take the lead. Seed doubled up next (with queens). Farha doubled up again (with A-Q dominating Seed's A-2) to take the lead back while the blinds and antes climbed higher and higher to force the action. Seed was crippled after this hand, but he scored two quick double-ups to pull close to even with Farha. The two traded punches and then got all of their chips into the middle once again, only to have a pot chopped between them when a straight was dealt on the board. Seed finally won the match when his 10 8 went to battle against Farha's A-K in the seventh hand of the match in which one player's tournament life was at risk. Fifth street gave Seed a flush, and Farha was eliminated in third place ($125,000).
There was a break before the finals to set up the trophy and $500,000 in cash that would go to the eventual champion. Rousso and Seed then returned to the final with a lot on the line. Seed would cement his claim as the most dominant player in NBC Heads-Up history with a win. Rousso would become the first woman to win the NBC Heads-Up title after facing the toughest road to the championship. The newly-minted godaddy.com girl defeated Doyle Brunson, Phil Ivey, 2007 champion Paul Wasicka, Negreanu, and Grospellier during an impressive run to advance to the final.
Seed showed his experience and jumped out to an early lead in the first match between the two in the best-of-three final. He took down a pot worth 100,000 with aces a half hour into play, and then, 20 minutes later, Rousso moved all in with Q J. She soon discovered that she was dominated when Seed flipped up K J. The board ran out A 9 5 6 A, giving Seed a quick win in the first match.
The players took a 15-minute break and then returned to the second match, which took on a serious tone, as Rousso buckled down in hopes of evening up the score. Rousso took a slight lead in the second match, but Seed regained it, and then he claimed his second win against Rousso in just under an hour. In the final hand, both players saw a board fill out with K 8 3 10 before the fireworks started. Rousso moved all in, and Seed made the call. Rousso showed J 10, and Seed turned over K 7. The river was the 5, and Rousso was eliminated in second place, earning $250,000.
Seed was crowned champion of the 2009 NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship and awarded $500,000 in cash by 2008 Champion Chris Ferguson. Seed also took home the championship trophy, and he topped Ferguson as the most successful player in the history of the event. Seed now holds a record of 18-4 in NBC Heads-Up competition.