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Gaming Guru

Jeff Haney

Jeff Haney shares a Henderson man's idea for a new poker format

20 February 2008

AS VEGAS, Nevada -- The National Heads-Up Poker Championship at Caesars Palace has become so entrenched in the poker scene that it's virtually certain tournament officials would not consider tinkering with the format.

But if a rival organization wanted to create a new heads-up tournament to compete with the Caesars event — which will conduct its fourth annual championship Feb. 28 through March 2 — its leaders should consult with Henderson's Phil Zajac, who has proposed a novel idea for heads-up play.

Taking a cue from the popular game of duplicate bridge, Zajac suggests a single-elimination, bracket-style poker tournament like the National Heads-Up event — but in a "duplicate poker" format.

"Don't you think it would be more watchable if with 64, 32 or 16 players left, every table received the same cards by suit and rank?" Zajac wrote.

Using a duplicate poker format would eliminate some of the luck factor that's all too prevalent in heads-up tournaments, which typically employ a quickly escalating blind-and-ante structure, Zajac said.

In duplicate Texas hold 'em poker, players in a particular seat position at each table would receive the same two starting cards from identically arranged decks. The five community cards also would be the same, and winners would be determined by how many chips players have in relation to their opponents who were dealt the same cards.

Duplicate poker is played online, usually for small stakes, and most players seem to view it as primarily an intellectual exercise.

A duplicate poker format also was used in one of those human-versus-machine matchups last year, in which poker pros Phil Laak and Ali Eslami eked out a victory against a computer developed by the University of Alberta Computer Poker Research Group.

The format wouldn't work in every tournament, but does appear suited to a heads-up, bracket-style tournament.

"This is the only tournament where viewers could see what the professionals do with the exact same cards," Zajac wrote.

On the air

Tournaments from Las Vegas will be featured in four of the first six weeks of GSN's World Poker Tour broadcast schedule, which begins March 24 and concludes Aug. 25 with the showing of the annual World Poker Tour Championship at the Bellagio.

GSN (Cox cable Channel 344) picked up the TV rights to World Poker last year after the Travel Channel, which aired World Poker's first five seasons, opted out.

Announcers Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten return for their sixth season. The World Poker Tour will air at 9 p.m. Mondays after "High Stakes Poker."

The season's complete TV schedule: March 24: Mirage Poker Showdown; March 31: Bellagio Cup, Part 1; April 7: Bellagio Cup, Part 2; April 14: Legends of Poker; April 21: North American Poker Classic; April 28: Mandalay Bay Poker Championship; May 5: Borgata Poker Open; May 12: WPT Ladies Night; May 19: Turks and Caicos Classic; May 26: Gulf Coast Poker Championship; June 2: Spanish Championship; June 9: Foxwoods World Poker Finals; June 16: Doyle Brunson Five Diamond Classic; June 23: World Poker Open, Part 1; June 30: World Poker Open, Part 2; July 7: Borgata Poker Classic; July 14: L.A. Poker Classic; July 21: WPT Celebrity Invitational; July 28: Bay 101 Shooting Star; Aug. 4: Reno World Poker Challenge; Aug. 11: Foxwoods Poker Classic; Aug. 18: WPT Ladies Championship; and Aug. 25: World Poker Tour Championship.

Wynn tourney

The second annual Wynn Classic, a three-week poker tournament capped by a $10,000 buy-in no-limit Texas hold 'em main event, is scheduled to begin Tuesday and run through March 19 at Wynn Las Vegas.

The field and prize pool at this year's tournament are expected to exceed the inaugural tournament's nearly 2,600 entrants and $4.5 million in prize money, according to David Eglseder, director of the Wynn Classic.

Last year's main event at the Wynn generated a tough final table that included pros Scott Fischman, Ted Lawson, Michael Mizrachi, Johnny Chan, Mike Matusow and Chau Giang. Zachary Hyman of San Francisco, a relatively unknown player, outlasted the rugged field to win the top prize of nearly $750,000.

Besides no-limit hold 'em, the tournament schedule features specialty games such as Omaha high-low, pot-limit Omaha and HOSE, which combines hold 'em, Omaha, 7-card stud and 7-card stud high-low split 8 or better.