Matchups key in WSOP Heads-Up event

Phil Hellmuth
Probably best not to draw Phil Hellmuth in Round 1 of the HU World Championship.

Kenny Tran likes his shot at a repeat in the WSOP's $10,000 Heads-Up World Championship.

"I think I'm fifty-fifty," he told PokerListings.com. "Either I win or I don't."

A tongue-in-cheek pronouncement, to be sure, but Tran - who beat Alec Torelli two out of three to win last year's Heads-Up World Championship and $539,040 in cash - has to be considered one of the favorites this time around.

Besides his bracelet win last year, Tran can boast a thirteenth-place finish in the 2009 NBC Heads-Up Championship earlier this year.

"I always like to start off slow and study my opponent," Tran said. "I like to see my opponent's style and play against it."

The World Championship pits 256 of the world's best and richest heads-up players against each other in a single-elimination format with the top 32 finalists getting paid.

With matchups determined by random selection, the pros agree that drawing good opponents is essential.

Gavin Griffin
Small ballin!

"Draw really good," said Gavin Griffin, when asked for the keys to success. "I wish I could say there was more to it than that, but the draw is really important."

The Team PokerStars Pro finished sixth in the 2008 event, cashing for $54,144.

"Last year I had a nice set of opponents," he said. "My first opponent was probably above average compared to the rest of the field, but was the easiest player I played all tournament."

"So it's important to get a good draw and run good."

"For sure, who your opponent is, is a massive factor," said Scott Montgomery. The former November Niner took 16th in 2008 for $36,096.

"Some of the best heads-up players in the world are playing in this event."

Tran said luck played a major factor in his victory as well.

"I was catching cards," he said. "I got lucky."

Beyond basic luck, Montgomery pointed to aggression as a vital component of his heads-up game.

"Controlled aggression is key," he said. "Try not to be stealing every pot, but know when to turn up the aggression."

Kenny Tran
Mano a womano!

Griffin, meanwhile, prefers to build a stack early and wait for the blinds to increase.

"I've played quite a few heads-up sit-and-go's on PokerStars so I feel like my game is strong," he said.  "I like to play small ball at first.

"I feel like most of the people in this tournament won't be as good when it gets to the jam or fold stage, so I think that's where I'll have an edge.

"Obviously, I'd like to have a chip lead when it gets to that stage, so that's where the small ball comes in."

Action in the Heads-Up World Championship kicked off at 5 p.m.

Phil Hellmuth, Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, Tom "durrrr" Dwan and Barry Greenstein were among the most noteworthy players to take part, with Dwan defeating Nam Le to advance to the second round and Barry Greenstein succumbing to Yevgeniy Timoshenko.

Evelyn Ng, Jason Mercier, Gavin Smith and Dario Minieri have also advanced.

Round 2 will begin at 10 p.m. tonight.

Check out the live updates in the WSOP section for full coverage.

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