Flashback Friday: Erik Seidel Wins 2011 NBC National Heads-Up Championship

Erik Seidel continued his multi-decade dominance of the poker world this past week with a fifth-place finish in the Aussie Millions Main Event. So, for this edition of Flashback Friday, let’s look back to one of his finest moments: the 2011 NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship.

Erik Seidel poker nbc

After all these years, Erik Seidel is still a beast on the felt. (Image: YouTube)

Seidel found himself matched up against 2003 world champion Chris Moneymaker in the 64-player finale. He was in this same spot a year earlier, but lost to Annie Duke for the title. Runner-up is a familiar position for the New York poker pro. In 1988, he lost heads-up in the WSOP Main Event to defending champ Johnny Chan after picking the wrong time to shove all-in — Chan flopped the nut straight.

Despite his memorable runner-up finishes, Seidel has won his share of titles, including eight WSOP bracelets. Only Chan, Doyle Brunson, Phil Ivey, Johnny Moss, and record-hold Phil Hellmuth, have more. He sought another major poker title at the 2011 NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship.

Seidel vs. World Champ

Seidel opened the best-of-three match with a win. That meant Moneymaker would have to win consecutive games or fall short of the heads-up title. There was a significant pay jump involved with winning this $25,000 tournament. The champion would take home $750,000, with $300,000 going to the runner-up.

Moneymaker took control of the second game early, amassing better than a 2-1 chip lead minutes after it began. His aggressive play was paying off. But he picked a bad spot to bluff with pocket 8’s on a 10-5-K flop. The former world champ three-bet Seidel to 240,000, about 20-percent of his stack. With K-9 in the hole, Seidel then moved all-in, forcing a fold.

The chip stacks were back to nearly even, and both players would trade jabs over the next half hour. Seidel then picked up the aggression, bluffing Moneymaker off a few pots he could have won. But Moneymaker’s game plan was to match Seidel’s aggression. The only problem was, on a few occasions, he picked the wrong time to bluff.

Moneymaker would make one last misstep. After Seidel, who held 5-4, check-raised Moneymaker on a flop of 5-5-9, the world champ attempted an all-in bluff with K-10. Seidel made the easy call and finished off the tournament.

Coincidentally, 5-4 was the hand Moneymaker held when he won his Main Event title, hitting a full house to defeat Sammy Farha. You live by the sword, you die by the sword, right?

Champion Sets Poker Record

In securing the NBC Heads-Up title and $750,000, Seidel surpassed Daniel Negreanu for the top spot on the all-time live tournament earnings list at $14.6 million. He would hold onto that record for a couple more years before Negreanu took it back. Justin Bonomo would then unseat Negreanu in 2018 before being topped by Bryn Kenney, the current leader, last year.

The high-roller scene has changed drastically since 2011. Seidel’s $14.6 million in earnings back then would be worth just 46th place today.

Seidel didn’t stop winning big after shipping the heads-up match against Moneymaker. In fact, he’s more than doubled his career earnings to $37.5 million, good for fourth all-time behind Kenney, Bonomo, and Negreanu.

The fifth-place finish at the Aussie Millions for $261,571 this week reminded the poker community that Seidel is still one of the best in the world, and has been since the 1980s. New decade, same great player.

Written by
Jon Sofen
Semi-pro poker player with 17 years experience on the felt and more than five years working as professional poker media.


Poker Orifice wrote...

Well done Seiborg!

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