Just two of the 64 players who entered the 2013 NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship remain, with all the makings of a classic final match between Phil Hellmuth and Mike Matusow. Scott Seiver and Joe Serock put up quite a fight but fell in the Semifinal round, leaving the tournament with $100,000 consolation prize for their runs in this event.
The final will be played in a best-of-three format, with the champion taking home $750,000 and the runner-up settling for $300,000. Here’s how the semifinal round played out.
Phil Hellmuth vs. Joe Serock
The majority of the matches in the 2013 NBC Heads-Up Championship featured two players who were at least a little bit familiar with one another. That was not the case in the Semifinal match between Phil Hellmuth and Joe Serock, though, and Hellmuth sought out some tips from Matusow and Seiver before the Semifinals began. Neither had any experience playing against him but conveyed his reputation as an aggressive player, and when Hellmuth claimed to have ‘scouted’ Serock, Seiver and Matusow took the opportunity to reveal that information to the crowd and the television cameras.
It moved fairly slowly in the early stages of the match, but a big pot developed as Serock took an aggressive line on an A 5 4 flop, check-raising Hellmuth and firing again on the Q turn. Hellmuth wouldn’t budge though, calling all the way down to the 9 river and revealing 5 4 for two-pair and a sizable pot. That gave him a lead of 614,000 to 186,000, putting Serock in a tough spot as he hovered around 20 big blinds. In spite of the ever-increasing stakes the atmosphere in both matches was light and jovial, and Serock kept it that way by responding to Hellmuth donning his signature sunglasses with a pair of his own.
Serock couldn’t string together many hands and the momentum seemed to keep swinging back in Hellmuth’s favor every time Serock tried to reduce his deficit. On the deciding hand of the match, Serock opened to 24,000, Hellmuth raised enough to put him all-in and Serock called with Q J. Hellmuth was well ahead with A J and stayed that way on the 8 7 3 flop. The A turn brought visions of Serock’s previous matches, as he stayed behind Hellmuth who made a pair of aces but picked up a flush draw in the process. A third runner-runner flush was not in the cards for Serock, however, as the T sealed the match and a return to the finals of the NBC Heads-Up Championship for the first time since he one the inaugural event in 2005.
Mike Matusow vs. Scott Seiver
Mike Matusow made his name in the early days of poker by being entertaining, loud and over-the-top, and in Scott Seiver he drew a Semifinal opponent who was a worthy verbal adversary. While Hellmuth and Serock were cracking smiles, there were few hands during the match between Seiver and Matusow where there wasn’t some amount of laughter from one or both players. Having played with each other numerous times, Matusow and Seiver engaged in some playful needling back and forth as their match went along.
An big four-bet early followed by trip jacks on an ensuing hand gave Matusow an early lead that he eventually extended to almost 1.7 to 1. The momentum would soon swing, however, as Seiver opened and Matusow three-bet to 48,000, drawing a four-bet all-in for 336,000 from Seiver and a call from Matusow to put the match on the brink of ending. Seiver’s 7 7 was flopping against Matusow’s A K, with the Q Q 5 flop keeping it that way. Matusow picked up three outs on the 8 turn but the T on the river gave Seiver a substantial lead of more than 5-1.
It didn’t stay that way for long, though, as another all-in soon followed. It was a coinflip with Matusow at risk this time, his A J up against the 9 9 of Seiver. The A in the window and K and T behind it gave Matusow a comfortable lead in the hand, with the Q on the turn making a straight for Matusow and leaving Seiver with only outs to chop. The 2 sent the whole pot Matusow’s way and brought him over 300,000. It only took a couple of pots at the escalated blinds to bring Matusow back to even, after which the lead was passed back and forth numerous times over an extended period of time.
Matusow opened up a commanding lead by flopping two-pair with Q 8 on a Q 6 6 board and getting some value through the river, where he improved to sixes-full to take a 630,000 to 170,000 advantage. Seiver and Matusow traded all-in bets as the wiggle room in the structure continued to shrink until finally they couldn’t avoid it any longer. Seiver chipped back up to 260,000 before getting all-in with J T, which was well behind the A T of Matusow until the J 5 3 flop. Seiver was poised to double back into the lead as the 2 on the turn gave Matusow four more outs. The crowd grew silent for a moment and then exploded as the A on the river gave Matusow the pot and the match in dramatic fashion.
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