The NBC National Heads Up Poker Championship is an annual tournament which airs on NBC after it’s completion. Most players are invited, though there are a few qualifiers each year, giving anyone a chance to win. Play is limited to 64 players who are placed into a bracket reminiscent of the NCAA college basketball Final Four tournament. All matches are single elimination except the finals which are best two out of three.
The entry fee was $20,000 for the first four years, and is now $25,000. Past winners include Phil Hellmuth, Ted Forrest, Paul Wasicka, Chris Ferguson, Huck Seed, Annie Duke, and Erik Seidel. Ratings have increased as a few non-poker related celebrities have been invited to the show including Don Cheadle, Shannon Elizabeth, Orel Hershieser and Brad Garret.
Ratings for the show have been excellent since it’s inception, and NBC says they plan to continue to sponsor and film the event indefinitely. GoDaddy was a cosponsor for the 2011 tournament and it appears they will be part of the 2012 tournament as well, with GoDaddy girl and poker pro Vanessa Rousso competing once again. The one-on-one format, combined with the appeal of a star studded field and excellent television coverage has been great for the popularity of the show as well as the popularity of heads up poker in general.
Heads up poker was once a rare thing, typically only played at the end of a tournament or as things wound down at the end of a late night session, but online poker has changed all that. Now online players can play heads up cash games or heads up sit and go tournaments that are very similar in structure to the NBC Heads Up Championship at any time day or night right on their computer. Some players even make a living specializing in heads up sit and gos online and a training site is thriving at HUSNG.com where players learn to beat heads up sng tournaments from the best players in the world.