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Phil Hellmuth Set to Defend Heads-Up Title

NBC Will Air 10 Hours of Footage Starting in April


Last May, people across the country watched Phil Hellmuth win the first ever National Heads-Up Poker Championship on NBC. This year, he'll try to defend his title.

The National Heads-Up Poker Championship will take place March 4-6 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. NBC will air the tournament in six episodes that will total 10 hours starting noon EST Sunday, April 16.

The heads-up tournament is different from single- and multi-table tournaments in that players have to win a series of head-to-head battles to survive. A bracket, similar to the one used in the NCAA basketball tournament, is randomly drawn up the night before play. Players sit at special two-seat poker tables and advance by taking all an opponent's chips. When it gets down to two players, the champion is determined in a best-of-three match.

Last year, Hellmuth defeated Men "the Master" Nguyen in the first round, Paul Phillips in round two, Huck Seed in round three, Lyle Berman in round four and Antonio Esfandiari in round five to earn the right to face Chris "Jesus" Ferguson for the championship.

Hellmuth ended up beating Ferguson 2 to 1.

NBC has invited 63 players, including Hellmuth, and can confirm that Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey, Howard Lederer, Jennifer Harman, Annie Duke, Ferguson, and Barry Greenstein will be there.

Online players have been battling for the final spot in the bracket by competing in free qualifying tournaments sponsored by NBC. Since Jan. 9, players have been trying to win their way into the final heads-up satellite on Feb. 12. The winner of that tournament will be awarded the final seat.