Only 8 Players Remain in NBC's National Heads-Up Poker Championship

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Overnight ratings for the previous two episodes continue to impress

Quarterfinal action in NBC's 2008 National Heads-Up Poker Championship takes place this Sunday, May 11, as the remaining eight players each try to win their bracket and advance to the semifinal round. This is a 2-hour segment, with the first hour devoted to the Hearts and Diamonds brackets, and the second to the Clubs and Spades brackets. Each player is now assured of a $75,000 payday, and those who advance to the semifinals next week will be guaranteed $125,000 in their quest for the title.

Competing in the Hearts bracket will be baseball great Orel Hershiser and one of poker's most analytical players in Andy Bloch. Hershiser's "Cinderfella" story has been one of the most talked about feats of this year's championship, as the amateur has fanned poker heavyweights Ted Forrest, Allen Cunningham, and Freddy Deeb. Bloch, who reached the quarterfinals last year in his first National Heads-Up appearance, will look to improve on that performance by adding Hershiser's name to the opponents he has defeated this year, a list that includes Shannon Elizabeth, Vanessa Rousso, and Scott Fischman.

The Diamonds bracket features one of only two players who have made the money in each of the previous three years of the NHUPC in Huck Seed, who seems to thrive in this event. He will face high-stakes cash game specialist David Benyamine, who is making good in his second appearance in this event after being eliminated in the opening round last year. Seed has defeated Jason Alexander, Brian Townsend, and Michael Mizrachi to reach this level, while Benyamine has disposed of superstars Jennifer Harman, Barry Greenstein, and Doyle Brunson.

Action in the Clubs bracket will see Jonathan "Fiery Justice" Little going against the man they call "Jesus" in Chris Ferguson. Little, one of 5 players who participated in their first National Heads-Up Championship this year who were in their early to mid-twenties, has played very aggressively in defeating Erik Seidel, Gabe Kaplan, and Greg Raymer. Ferguson now has the best record of any player who has competed in all four years of this event, as he is now 13-3. Succumbing to Ferguson's extraordinary heads-up skills this year have been John Juanda, Gavin Smith, and Mike Matusow.

Another great story takes place in the Spades bracket, as Phil Ivey, who is on a heater after his 2008 WPT L.A. Poker Classic victory the day before this tournament began, takes on "The Great Dane," Gus Hansen. This is a clash of two of the most recognized faces and most successful poker players in the world, and both enjoy enormous fan bases. Ivey has defeated online qualifier Alisha Kunze, Johnny Chan, and J.C. Tran, while Hansen has knocked off Don Cheadle, Scotty Nguyen, and Phil Laak. Shortly after this match was filmed, Hansen finished 2nd in the 2008 WPT Championship, adding another $1.7 million to his coffers. What a match this should be!

Especially noteworthy is that NBC's coverage of both the Round of 32 and the Round of 16 in the 2008 National Heads-Up Poker Championship once again garnered higher overnight ratings than for the same weeks in the previous year. The overnight ratings for the third week were 1.3 with a 3 share and for the fourth week 1.3 with a 4 share, so all four episodes of the 2008 tournament have done better in the overnight ratings category than the comparable weeks that aired in 2007.

This would appear to be an indicator that interest in this year's championship remains strong, especially in the major cities where overnight ratings are taken from. According to experts, the overnight ratings are used by top advertising executives and media distribution houses who consider them key to the success of selling advertising for poker programming, as the majority of the customers they are trying to reach live in these major metropolitan areas.

The quarterfinal round of the 2008 National Heads-Up Poker Championship will air this Sunday, May 11, beginning at 12:00 p.m. EDT on NBC. The exciting conclusion to this year's championship will take place the following Sunday, May 18, with a special 3-hour episode featuring action in both the semifinal and final rounds. Check your local listings for the exact time in your area.

This press release was written by Dennis Oehring, who serves as the Public Relations Coordinator for the firm POKER PROductions.

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