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Down to Elite 8 at Heads-Up Championship

McmanusallinAfter two days, the field of 64 is down to the elite eight (listed after the jump), and while there have been some surprises along the way, no one should be surprised that these particular eight are still battling it out for the $500,000 cash and the coveted title. They are indeed some of the best practitioners and students of the game, with two WSOP main event champs represented and 20 total WSOP bracelets won between the final eight. Indeed all players remaining have found themselves at a final table at the WSOP, and all but two own at least one WSOP gold bracelet (also, it's worth noting that all but one are generally likeable players you wouldn't mind seeing with the title).

The quarterfinals gets underway at 11am in the new Caesar's tournament room. Stay up on the action over at CardPlayer.com and be sure to check out the player interviews from the tournament over at All In magazine's new website (btw, those 8 you see in the photo above may or may not be the final 8, so read on below). The All In interview with Jim McManus is particularly interesting as he comments on the difficulties of playing a televised tournament where production stops play and momentum is often stalled. We expect to hear more players expressing grief about this, even though it's part of the game now, and will be for some time. Anyone at the 2005 WSOP saw how the flow of the game is repeatedly halted with the call for cameras to come over to the table, and no doubt it's frustrating in a game where the clock is always running and the blinds increasing.

For a list of the Elite Eight, what the match-ups look like in the Quarterfinals and how each player got to this point, please read on after the jump . . .

Elite Eight + Quarterfinals Pairings

Clubs: James McManus v. Chris Ferguson

Spades: Huck Seed v. Barry Greenstein

Hearts: Daniel Negreanu v. Sean Sheikhan

Diamonds:Ted Forrest v. Sam Farha

Winner of "Clubs" bracket plays "Spades" in semifinal. Winner of "Hearts" plays "Diamonds".

The Road to the Elite Eight

McManus: McManus drew perhaps the best Round 1 match when he got paired with the amateur online satellite winner, 21-year-old Josh Lochner. After sending Josh home to Ft. Lauderdale, McManus then faced David Chesnoff after the latter knocked off "Action Dan" Harrington in Round 2. Ironically (but not as ironic had Harrington made it past Round 1), McManus said he studied Harrington's chapter on heads-up to prepare for this event, but it was the teacher who went home early as the student goes on to the quarters.

Ferguson: Ferguson, last year's runner-up, is on his way to a repeat final table appearance but his side of the brackets won't be easy as he first has to eliminate McManus, a great student of the game, and then go up against either Huck Seed or Barry Greenstein, two of the most intimidating guys to see sitting across the table. Ferguson didn't get the Round 2 rematch against Phil Hellmuth he wanted after last year's champ flamed out in his first match against Chip Reese. Ferguson instead eliminated Reese then went up against and defeated Atlanta's Josh Arieh who had beaten his Bodog mate David Williams in Round 1.

Seed: Huck is one of our pre-tourney favorites but facing Greenstein in the quaterfinals doesn't make for an easy journey to the final table. Huck is proving he's due, first beating David Oppenheim, then sending home Erick Lindgren in Round 2 before eliminating Scott Fischman for a spot in the quarters.

Greenstein: In Round 1, Barry drew and defeated Cyndy Violette, one of only 4 women in the tourney (Jennifery Tilly, Evelyn Ng and Annie Duke being the other 3), and then went on to outlast the fearlessly aggressive Tuan Le who knocked out Chris Moneymaker in Round 1 thanks partially to the latter slowplaying his pocket aces when Le held 10-7 and turned trip tens. Barry G then faced Amir Vahedi, who was along the same bracket path as his 2003 nemesis Moneymaker, but Chris didn't make it out of Round 1 and Amir was stopped in Round 3 when Greenstein took the match.

Negreanu: Negreanu beat his gal pal Evelyn Ng in Round 1 before knocking 2004 WSOP champ Greg Raymer to the rail in Round 2. Then it was on to T.J. Cloutier for Round 3, where Negreanu showed that he's starting things off right in 2006 after a disappointing '05. Now he just has to get by The Sheik and either Forrest or Farha for a seat at the final table. Practically a cakewalk. OK so he has his work cut out for him but we're certainly expecting him to end Sheikhan's improbable run here at the heads-up championship.

Sheikhan: You'll be hard pressed to find someone rooting for the Sheik, who miraculously came off as more obnoxious than Matusow at the 2005 WSOP. Sheikhan, a Caesar's poker room regular, though is still a quality player and he's proven his heads-up skills with some big upsets against Gus Hansen in Round 1, Doyle Brunson in Round 2 and David Grey in Round 3.

Forrest: Forrest, along with Ferguson, definitely has to be seen as a favorite here to take the title as he's certainly one of the best heads-up players and minds in poker. He proved this again when he battled and conquered Erik Seidel in Round 1, then sent Chad Brown back to acting school in Round 2 before defeating Ernie Dureck in Round 3.

Farha: Farha had a pretty easy Round 1 match-up against Celine Dion's hubby Rene Angelil (btw, we still can't understand why he's never faced any child perv conviction for deflowering the prepubescent Dion back in the day). Anywho, Farha then defeated Barry Shulman in Round 2 before facing the machine himself, Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi, who had just sent home Howard Lederer in Round 2. Farha though found the upper hand against The Grinder to earn his spot in the quarters and a tough match against Forrest.

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Forrest eliminates Farha and Sheikhan takes down Negreanu. I'm predicting a Forrest v. Huck Seed match-up, though it seems crazy to not pick Ferguson to win it all. The Sheik's got to go...but he deserves some major cred for knocking out Papa Brunson, Danny Negreanu, David Grey and Gus Hansen to earn his spot in the final four.

Kid Dynamite

Regarding Sheik: Don't hate the playa, hate the game! actually, you can hate him - he's a total douchebag. After watching his weak-tight play on the WSOP and again on High Stakes Poker, I'm eager to see how he got by the Great Dane and Texas Dolly.



Ferguson knocks out McManus and Huck defeats Barry Greenstein so it will be Chris Ferguson and Huck Seed in the semifinals on that side of the bracket. Farha/Forrest and Negreanu/Sheikhan are still going at it.

Huck will face a tough match no doubt against Chris but we're still sticking with Huck to be at the final table.

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