The final four are set in the 2012 mock National Heads-Up Poker Championship. The semifinal round pits two wily poker veterans in one half of the bracket and two rising superstars in the other. (See how Negreanu, Duhamel, Ivey and Moorman made it to the semifinals.)
Phil Ivey versus Daniel Negreanu
These two veterans have played against each other for years and know each other's strengths and weaknesses extremely well. This dream matchup began like a title fight as each player kept the pot small in an attempt to gauge his opponent's strategy. They exchanged the chip lead for the first 30 minutes until Ivey caught a straight on the turn against Negreanu's flopped two pair. With the blinds still relatively low, Negreanu battled back to where Ivey only had a 3:2 chip advantage. About an hour and 10 minutes into the match, a big hand occurred when Negreanu called an all-in with Ah-10h on a Qs-10s-5h-Jh against Ivey's Qd-Jd. The Jc on the river eliminated Negreanu, sending Ivey to the finals for the first time.
Chris Moorman versus Jonathan Duhamel
These two players had not played against each other much, but in prematch interviews, both offered lots of respect for the other's game and creativity. The beginning of the match was similar to the first semifinal as each player played cautiously. About 45 minutes into the match, Duhamel won over half of Moorman's stack when he flopped a straight and got three streets of value from Moorman's top pair. Short stacked, Moorman picked a spot to push. After a count, Duhamel decided he would still be slightly ahead if he called and lost with his tiny pocket pair, 3h-3d. Moorman revealed Jd-7d and the race was on. The flop was clean (Ks-Qd-6h), but the turn 9d brought additional drama with the flush and gut shot straight draw. A king on the river gave Duhamel the victory as he continued to ride his 2012 hot streak into this year's final.
Phil Ivey versus Jonathan Duhamel
The finals offered a best two-out-of-three format.
If Duhamel wins, his incredible 2012 hot streak will continue, rivaling Seidel's 2011 run.
If Ivey wins, his re-emergence back to the top of the poker world is complete, coupling this victory with his 2012 High Roller title at the Aussie Millions earlier this year.
Ivey sat down and immediately began staring at Duhamel in an attempt to gain any information possible. Duhamel wasn't concerned with the darting eyes of Ivey and sat utterly stone-faced throughout the entire match, staring down at the center of the table trying not to give anything away. Realizing that it was no longer one match and done, the players seemed to gamble during their first encounter. In this match, the cards simply went Duhamel's way. At the 20-minute mark, he hit a flush draw on the river to take a huge pot from Ivey. A few hands later, it was Ivey's turn to chase his own flush draw, but he missed. That pot gave Duhamel an insurmountable lead, which led to a victory in the first match.
Heading into this battle, Duhamel had a tremendous amount of confidence. Ivey looked angered by his loss in the first match and was focused on making it a three-match final. With a 1-0 lead, Duhamel came out very aggressively and quickly took a 3:2 chip lead. At the 15-minute mark, the match looked over. Duhamel's Ad-Ks had Ivey's As-Qs covered, and the 2010 WSOP Champion was almost a 2:1 favorite to take the title. However, the poker gods seemed to pay Ivey back from 2009 (when Darvin Moon eliminated him at the WSOP main event final table with Ad-Qs against Ivey's Ac-Ks). Ivey hit a Qd on the flop, won the hand and took a commanding 6:1 chip lead. Five hands later, Duhamel pushed with Qh-10d, but Ivey's 8s-7s turned the 7d. The finals were now tied at 1-1.
Before the final match, Duhamel shadowboxed in the corner and pulled up his hoodie to keep his focus. Once again, Ivey intensely stared down his opponent, but said afterwards he'd simply rely on his instincts instead. The rubber match swung in Ivey's favor initially when he hit a set of fives on the turn and value bet the river. At about the 35-minute mark, Duhamel took back the lead after he hit two pair on the river versus Ivey's flopped top pair. Moments later, after an 8d-5s-2s flop, Ivey led out, Duhamel three-bet and Ivey pushed all-in. Duhamel called and revealed Ks-8s and saw he was a slight favorite over Ivey's 9h-9d. With the entire room on their feet, the dealer slowly flipped over the two remaining cards. The turn was the 2d, keeping Ivey in the lead with a better two pair. After getting confirmation from the producers, the dealer placed the river card the ace of spades. Caesars Palace erupted. Duhamel had made his flush, gave a momentary shout of excitement, then collected himself to shake Ivey's hand just before being tackled by his friends and family.
The 2012 mock National Heads-Up Champion: Duhamel
I hope you enjoyed imagining the 2012 (mock) National Heads-Up Championship, and let's hope that the real tournament returns to the felt in 2013.