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Jesus is Heads-Up champ
The third time was the charm for Chris "Jesus" Ferguson at the NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championships. After coming in second two out of the three previous seasons, Ferguson returned again this year to make it to the final, and this time he walked away the winner.
Early in their match, it looked like Little might be the player to keep Ferguson from making a third final table at the NHUPC. After the first few hands, Little was up $220,000 to Ferguson's $100,000.
True to his nickname, though, Jesus came back from the dead, building back from a $280,000 to a $40,000 chip deficit. On the final hand, Little was all-in with T-7 suited, and Ferguson called with pocket nines. The board didn't help Little, and Ferguson was once again moving on to face Phil Ivey.
Ivey was coming off his first World Poker Tour win last week when play began at the NHUPC. Not only did he have the momentum from his win when play began, but he was up against the PokerStars online qualifier in the first round.
While Alisha Kunze held her own and at times looked like she could defeat the newly crowned LAPC champion, it was pretty much expected that Ivey would defeat her and advance, and he did.
Ivey is well-known for having the nuts when players decide to look him up in a hand, but Jesus managed to perform a miracle and call Ivey's all-in on a hand where Ivey wasn't holding the winner.
On the final hand, action started with Ivey raising; then Ferguson re-raised to $34,000, and Ivey called. The flop came 3-4-9 rainbow, and Ferguson bet $45,000 and got another call from Ivey.
The turn brought a five, and Ferguson made it $10,000 to go. This time Ivey pushed all-in, sending Jesus into the think tank for quite a while.
He finally made the call, showing pocket eights, and Ivey flipped over pocket sixes. His only chance was to catch a six or to find a deuce to complete a straight. Instead, a queen came on the river, giving Ferguson his third trip to the final of the National Heads-Up Poker Championship.
There he would meet Andy Bloch, who had made his way up through the Hearts bracket where he defeated Shannon Elizabeth, Vanessa Rousso, Scott Fischman and Orel Hershiser to win the division. He then faced off against Huck Seed, the winner of the Diamond bracket, in the semifinals. While Ferguson and Ivey had quickly tangled, Seed and Bloch took more time sizing each other up.
Bloch's steadily increasing pressure, however, helped move him into the lead. Bloch had a 2-1 chip lead when he pushed in with A♦ Q♣, and Seed called quickly with 9♦ 9♥. The flop came 5♦ 2♣ 6♣, helping neither player, but a 6♠ on the turn paired the board to Seed's benefit.
But an A♣ on the river gave Bloch the higher two pair and a seat against Ferguson in the final.
The final was set as a best of three, and Bloch was looking good as he took the first set. Jesus was redeemed in the second set, though, and the match had to move on to the tie-breaker third round.
Ferguson slowly built up a lead over Bloch through some small pots before coming down on the final hand. Ferguson started the action on that hand with a raise to $25,000 from the button. Bloch called and they saw a flop of 10♣ 3♠ 7♠. Bloch checked, and Jesus bet $35,000. Bloch re-raised to $105,000, and Jesus called.
After the turn brought 7♥, Bloch bet $150,000, and Ferguson went all-in. After a long deliberation and a coin flip, Bloch made the call with 10♠ 4♠ and found Ferguson holding J♣ J♠. Bloch needed a spade or a ten to get back into the action, but a 7♣ on the river gave Ferguson the win.
For more details of the NHUPC matches and an interview with Ferguson, visit the Live Tournaments section.