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Top-10 heads-up matches we'd like to see at the WSOP

15 June 2009

Later this evening the winner of the $10,000 Heads-Up No-Limit Hold'em World Championship will be decided and while we have nothing against those still alive in the event, the remaining match-ups aren't exactly making us wish we could be there live to witness all of the action.

As far as we're concerned, heads-up play is the most fascinating part of a poker event to witness, especially when the match-up provides potential for tension, temper tantrums and comedic value. Unfortunately we probably won't see any of that kind of entertainment tonight. Now we know how the NBA felt when it didn't get the Kobe-LeBron head-on collision it so desperately wanted.

But unlike the NBA, there's still hope at this year's WSOP. With more than 20 events still on the docket, we still have plenty of opportunity to get a final table heads-up match that could provide the kind of drama we are looking for. And if we could somehow script 10 bracelet-event finales, here are the match-ups we would pencil in.

10. Gavin Smith vs. Phil Laak

This one would be fun to watch simply because these are two of the most amusing characters in the game. The conversation during this match would be comical and the poker would be pretty good too considering they are both outstanding players in addition to being entertaining.

9. Amarillo Slim vs. Doyle Brunson

Call it the "Living Legend" match-up. These are two of the oldest,

Erica Schoenberg
most-decorated players in poker and we'd be treated to a genuine "old school" showdown, one that would be even better if it were a cash game instead of a tournament finale.


8. Lacey Jones vs. Erica Schoenberg

Hands down, the two hottest and classiest women in poker. Enough said.

7. Robert Varkonyi vs. Jamie Gold

The two least-respected players to win the Main Event, so both would have something to prove. Varkonyi was a relative newcomer to the game when he outlasted a field of 631 players to win the Main Event in 2002, which just so happened to be the year before Chris Moneymaker won it and the poker boom erupted. Gold, meanwhile, beat a record 8,773 players in 2006, but since then he hasn't had much success on the felt. And with his brash personality during that miracle run in '06, Gold didn't exactly endear himself to fans or fellow pros. Like him or not, Gold makes for good theater.

6. Scotty Nguyen vs. Jerry Yang

Talk about a contrast in styles. This match-up of former Main Event champs would be hyped as "The Ultimate Drunk vs. The Ultimate Christian." Yang, one of the nicest guys you would ever want to meet, is a man of very few words and would be horrified if Scotty starting one of his patented drinking binges and acted belligerent at the table. Can't you just see Jerry looking to the skies and praying to God for Scotty, right after he requests a flush draw on the flop?

5. Howard Lederer vs. Annie Duke

The dynamic of a brother-sister match-up in a World Championship event would be intriguing. These two obviously respect and admire each other, but they are also both very competitive. And the fact that they know each other's personalities and poker games so well would make for a great match.

Clonie Gowen

4. Clonie Gowen vs. a Team Full Tilt member

Not only is Clonie easy on the eyes, but if she ever got into a heated match against a member of her former sponsor the potential for fireworks would be monstrous. Back in November, Gowen named 13 well-known Full Tilt poker pros in a $40-million suit in which she claimed a breach of contract. Those named in the suit included Howard Lederer, Andrew Bloch, Phillip Ivey, Christopher Ferguson, John Juanda, Phillip Gordon, Erick Lindgren, Erik Seidel, Jennifer Harman-Traniello, Michael Matusow, Allen Cunningham, Gus Hansen and Patrick Antonious. The suit has since been dismissed, but you just know that bad feelings linger and we're not afraid to admit that seeing the bad blood spill over onto the felt would be fun to watch.

3. Tony G. vs. Mike "The Mouth" Matusow

These are two of the most volatile players in poker. There would be tension with every hand and after each bad beat the back-and-forth would provide high comedy. We're willing to bet that within the first hour, Matusow would get under Tony G's skin and the high-strung Lithuanian would detonate. There's also a history here as Tony G. outdrew Matusow back in 2006 to win the WPT Bad Boys of Poker II. If there's a poker God out there, we will witness the heads-up match once again.


2. Sam Grizzle vs. Phil Hellmuth

Speaking of vaporous personalities, these two veterans have had their share of scuffles in the past both on the felt (see the video below) and in the parking lot where it is rumored that Grizzle once decked The Poker Brat. But they have never met heads-up at the poker table, as far as we can tell. In describing Grizzle, ESPN announcer Norman Chad nailed it when he once said that, "Sam isn't the type of guy who talks you off a ledge, he talks you on to it." Needling is what he does best and his delivery is "fingernails on the chalkboard" to his target thanks to that defiant southern drawl. If these two ever met with a bracelet at stake, the Rio would have to call in extra security because the verbal sparring -- and possible rematch in the parking lot -- would be explosive.





1. Gus Hansen vs. Phil Ivey

Not only would this allow us to see two of the more popular and best players in the game go mano-a-mano, but it would also be a match-up of aggressive player versus even more aggressive. The stare downs and facial expressions on display would be worth the price of admission alone.


Top-10 heads-up matches we'd like to see at the WSOP is republished from CasinoVendors.com.
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Best of Gary Trask
Gary Trask

Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT
Gary Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT