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By Dianne R. Davis
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Photos by Dianne R. Davis or Burt Davis

Annie Duke Wins Heads-Up Poker Championship at Caesars Palace

Let’s hear it for the girls!  Annie Duke defeated family friend Erik Seidel at the final table of the National Heads-Up Poker Championship held at Caesars Palace from March 5-7.   The event will be broadcast on NBC on six consecutive Sundays beginning  on April 18.

Duke received $500,000 for her win while Seidel, who has captured eight WSOP bracelets and ranks 9th on the all time money list, received $250,000.   Third and fourth place finishers Scotty Nguyen and Dennis Phillips took home $125,000 each for their wins.

Most of the best ranked players were there, including 2009 World Series of Poker winner Joe Cada, 2008 winner Peter Eastgate and 2007 winner Jamie Gold. Poker’s Elder statesman Doyle Bronson was another of the many notable 64 players. Celebrity participants Don Cheadle, Oren Hershiser and Jennifer Tilly were there as well as Gabe Kaplan.

The National Heads-Up Poker Championship featured 64 top poker players competing in a series of heads-up (one-on-one matches of No Limit Texas Hold'em) matches to determine the best heads-up poker player in the world.  This tournament has a unique, single-elimination, bracket-style format modeled after college basketball's championship tournament, except that the finals are the best of three.

First round opponents were selected at random during a Draw Party held at Pure Nightclub inside Caesars Palace on Thursday evening, March 4 following the traditional Red Carpet entries.

"I'm so excited to win such a prestigious event and join the likes of Huck Seed, Chris Ferguson and Phil Hellmuth as Heads-Up Champion," said Duke, who became the first-ever woman to win the National Heads-Up Poker Championship. "I came into this tournament really focused and it feels great to finally break through in this event."

The tournament was sponsored by, the world's largest domain name registrar. Final payouts were 1st Place: Annie Duke - $500,000, 2nd Place: Erik Seidel - $250,000, 3rd Place: Scotty Nguyen - $125,000, 4th Place: Dennis Phillips - $125,000, 5th Place: Jerry Yang - $75,000, 6th Place: Doyle Brunson - $75,000, 7th Place: Jason Mercier - $75,000, 8th Place: Peter Eastgate - $75,000, 9th Place: Paul Wasicka - $25,000, 10th Place: Eli Elezra - $25,000.

Annette Obrestad took 11th place winning $25,000 followed by 12th place winner Barry Greenstein who received. $25,000.  Gabe Kaplan took home $25,000 for 13th place.  Also winning $25,000 for their subsequent finishes were 14th Place: Phil Laak, 15th Place: Chris Moneymaker , and 16th Place: Jamie Gold - $25,000.

Craig Hummer, Leeann Tweeden, Ali Nejad

Dave Williams

Eric Baldwin

Gavin Smith

Huck Seed

2009 WSOP Winner Joe Cada

Johnny Chan

Mike Matusow

Patrick Antonius

2008 WSOP Winner Peter Eastgate

Phil Hellmuth

Scotty Nguyen and wife

Greg Raymer

Jamie Gold


Reel Awards Honor Celebrity Look A-likes and Tribute Artists

In one day at the Stratosphere, I saw one Charles Bronson, two Liza Minnellis, three president George Bushes, two Sean Connerys, and a few Michael Jacksons.  No, I wasn’t drinking at the time.  I was covering the The Reel Awards™ - A Hollywood Tribute!

The event, which is also called the "Oscars of the Tribute Artist Industry," was the  19th annual gathering of look-alikes.  The Red Carpet was a delight, with fans snapping photos of and with their favorites and press doing interviews just as they would with the real McCoys.  

I learned that for some of the participants, this is a full time occupation.  For others, it’s a part time thing that utilizes their looks to good advantage.

A few hours later after the celebrity impersonators and tribute artists from around the world enjoyed a special dinner together, I checkout out the Reel Awards show in the Stars Showroom of the Stratosphere Hotel & Casino.  The Reel Awards features guest Emcees and live performance similar to other Hollywood style award shows.  It recognizes the talents and achievements of outstanding individuals or groups who perform in the filed of impersonation.

Scott Mason, as Dame Edna,  did an outstanding job as emcee.  In real life, Scott was recently selected as the “real” Dame Edna understudy for her new Broadway, “All About Me!” with Michael Feinstein.  John Morgan as President George W. Bush and Dale Leigh as Presidnt Bill Clinton co-emceed with great comic flair and parodies of two of America’s recent presidents.

The show included comedy, singing, dancing and impersonations along with the presentation of the awards. According to Janna Joos, the show’s co-founder and producer, “The Reel Awards is our industry’s salute to the hard work and talent necessary to succeed as a tribute artiest.  We give recognition to the outstanding individuals or groups who perform in the field of impersonation.”

Vegas Tribute Idol winners were 1st Place - Suzie Kennedy as "Marilyn Monroe," 2nd Place - Michael Minor as our "Singing Ventriloquist," 3rd Place - Bobby Brooks Hamilton in his "Voices of Motown Revue,"  4th Place - Anne Kissel as "Roseanne," 5th Place - Lou Prince as "Lou Rawls," Joe Beddia as "Marlon Brando," and Troy Anderson as "Louis Armstrong."


Brad & Angie?


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