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Eight Players Remain After Day 2 of the NBC Heads-Up Poker Championship

Poker Players Prepare for Monday's Quarterfinals and Championship Rounds

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It was like no other Sunday on March 5, at Caesars poker room in Las Vegas. Spectators arrived early and packed the poker and tournament rooms hosting the 2006 NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship. Those arriving later had to endure a queue, which trailed far into the sportsbook. One consolation - fans could still view the heady action at it was telecast in real time over several monitors. Not only were the stands brimming with spectators who secured their seats long before the event commenced, but chairs were added along the sidelines of the stage area to accommodate a growing crowd.

Play was delayed so that tournament officials could wrap up a few details; at 11:37 a.m., the matches were under way.

The $128,000 in tournament chips were moved forward into the second day, giving the remaining 32 players $40,000 each. The blinds increased to $200-$400 going into round two.

The Clubs and Spades brackets were first to begin and from the Clubs bracket, Chris Ferguson was slated against Chip Reese, Dan Harrington challenged David Chesnoff, James McManus opposed Mike Sexton, and it was Eli Elezra versus Josh Arieh.

From the Spades bracket, Erick Lindgren countered Huckleberry Seed, Scott Fischman faced Dee Luong, Mike Caro competed against Amir Vahedi, and Barry Greenstein met Tuan Le.

Out of the gate, Josh Arieh won a monster pot when he flopped a straight. Elezra's pocket queens cost him all but $10,000 of his initial $40,000 in chips. Six minutes later, Arieh knocked Elezra out of the match, propelling himself into the third round.

Barry Greenstein eliminated Tuan Le when he called Le's all in and made a flush on the turn, leaving Le drawing dead on the river.

An hour into the first round, Amir Vahedi celebrated a $36,000 lead over Mike Caro, and five minutes later, he eliminated Caro when he made a full house on the turn.

James McManus knocked out Mike Sexton and David Chesnoff called Dan Harrington's all-in to spike a bigger pair on the flop and hold his lead, sending Harrington to the rail.

Huck Seed eliminated Erick Lindgren and Scott Fischman removed Dee Luong from the Spades bracket.

By 1 p.m., The Diamonds and Hearts brackets were ready to get under way.

Daniel Negreanu faced Greg Raymer at the feature table; Paul Phillips challenged the Caesars qualifier, Ernie Dureck; and Phil Laak opposed T.J. Cloutier. Sam Farha opposed Barry Shulman, Ted Forrest contested Chad Brown, and Doyle Brunson went face to face with Sean Sheikhan. Howard "The Professor" Lederer and Michael Mizrachi made for an interesting matchup and spectators followed the two polar opposites closely.

Mizrachi took an early lead, and after an hour of hyperaggressive sparring, he eliminated Lederer from the competition.

Daniel Negreanu took down Greg Raymer and Ted Forrest advanced to the third round through Chad Brown.

David Grey defeated Carlos Mortensen with two mini-pairs and Sean Sheikhan nosed out Doyle Brunson when Brunson went all in with a similar version of his famous 10-2. Brunson's 10-4 missed the board and Sheikhan paired nines to advance into the next round.

It was T.J. Cloutier who eliminated Phil Laak when Cloutier's pocket queens held up against Laak's pocket sevens, sending "The Unabomber" back home to Los Angeles. No doubt, Tilly and he witnessed the Oscars in some form, even if they passed on the live Academy Awards ceremony to play heads-up poker in Las Vegas.

Sam Farha shut out Barry Shulman when he paired his 10 on the flop and a queen on the turn. Shulman went all in with a lower pair and needed trips to win. Farha had Shulman covered and won the hand to advance into the next round.

The final table, of the second round hosted Ernie Dureck and Paul Phillips. Phillips pushed all in with Q-10 and Dureck called with pocket tens. The flop gave Phillips a gutshot straight draw, but it never developed and Dureck completed the lineup for Spades and Clubs to progress into the third round.

The final 16 players would continue on Sunday evening to advance into the fourth round of the Heads-Up Poker Championship. All of them were guaranteed a minimum $25,000 prize.

Shortly after 5:15 p.m., the Clubs and Spades brackets kicked off round three. David Chessnof faced James McManus, Josh Arieh challenged Chris Ferguson, Huckleberry Seed opposed Scott Fischman, and Amir Vahedi confronted Barry Greenstein.

Within 30 minutes, Greenstein had eliminated Vahedi and Arieh suffered an early attack by Chris Ferguson, leaving him short-stacked with $15,000 in chips. Huckleberry Seed took a commanding lead and eliminated Scott Fischman soon after with his pocket threes. Meanwhile, James McManus was enjoying a 2-to-1 chip lead over David Chesnoff.

With the recent eliminations vacating three tables, the Hearts and Diamonds brackets began their matches. Daniel Negreanu and T.J. Cloutier seated themselves at the feature table, Michael Mizrachi challenged Sammy Farha, and Ernie Dureck found himself face to face with Ted Forrest.

McManus eliminated Chesnoff to propel himself into round four and David Grey took his seat to compete against Sean Sheikhan in the last match of the night.

Forrest took a commanding chip lead early against Dureck, but Dureck battled back, holding his own. Daniel Negreanu eliminated T.J. Cloutier after a long and grueling match and Farha took down Mizrachi to advance into the next round.

It didn't take long for round three to round up, and "The Sheik" and the "Suicide King" finished the night victorious.

Heads-up poker is one of the most exciting formats to witness, but when colorful and talented professionals perform in front of a live audience, the spectacle is nothing less than exhilarating. Today the players exhibited everything a poker fan could hope for and NBC has a winner on its hands after capturing some amazing moments in poker history.

The best is yet to come when eight players return on Monday at 11 a.m. PST for the quarterfinals of the 2006 National Heads-Up Poker Championship, happening at Caesars in Las Vegas.

Remember, if you had been following the action since the pairings party on Friday, Doyle Brunson (Hearts) bet Howard Lederer (Diamonds) $100,000 that his bracket would emerge victorious in the end. So, it's up to Daniel Negreanu and Sean Sheikhan to come through for Brunson while Ted Forrest and Sam Farha will be representing Lederer in the side competition.

For the complete coverage of Sunday's action, see the Live Updates page of the NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship.

Stay turned to Card Player for Live Updates, Images and an updated Evening Report.

Click here to see the 2006 NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship bracket updates.