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2008 National Heads-Up Poker Championship ratings strong

23 April 2008

UNITED STATES -- (PRESS RELEASE) -- The first two weeks of NBC's exclusive coverage of the 2008 National Heads-Up Poker Championship have drawn higher overnight ratings than in any of the previous three seasons. Ratings show that coverage of the Round of 64, which aired on April 13 and on April 20, averaged a 1.45 rating and a 4 share, solidifying NBC's coverage of this event as the most watched of all poker-related televised programming. The ratings are especially noteworthy in that the first episode was aired in some major markets during the time that coverage of The Masters Golf Tournament was taking place on another network.

This would seem to indicate that poker is still very popular among viewers, especially when they can see many of the very best players in the world competing in the same event. The field this year was the most difficult and talented ever assembled, one of the key reasons why many consider this year's tournament to be the best in the event's history.

Equally impressive is that the National Heads-Up Poker Championship on NBC, which began in 2005 as a replacement for the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs which did not take place because of a lockout, has continued to score high ratings despite some who have said that the poker boom peaked years ago. This would also suggest that poker's popularity on television not only remains strong, but that the formula NBC uses to bring viewers great poker combined with elements of fun and entertainment is indeed a winner.

This week's coverage of the National Heads-Up Poker Championship will feature the Round of 32 which will air in its entirety on Sunday, April 27 at 12:00 p.m. EDT (3:00 p.m. PDT). Viewers of this exciting two-hour episode will witness half of the 32 remaining players advance to the Round of 16 in their quest for the championship, and be guaranteed $25,000 in prize money for doing so. They will also see the dreams of winning the championship shattered for the other half, as they will go home only with thoughts of what might have been and hope for the opportunity to compete again next year.

All of the celebrities in the starting field except for Orel Hershiser met their demise in the opening round. Orel defeated 2006 NHPC champion Ted Forrest, and now draws another of the game's best in Allen Cunningham. Of the 11 World Champions who began, 8 are still remaining, but like Forrest, the other 2 previous winners of this event, Phil Hellmuth and Paul Wasicka, fell victim to Tom Dwan and Freddy Deeb respectively.

Of the players who made their debut in the NHPC this year and are in their early to mid-20s, 4 out of 5 have advanced and will see action again this week. They are Tom Dwan, Scott Clements, Brian Townsend, and Jonathan Little. Also surviving the opening round are the 2 elder statesmen in this tournament, Doyle Brunson and T.J. Cloutier. Fans of the ladies will pin their hopes on Vanessa Rousso and Clonie Gowen, the only 2 women remaining out of the 6 that began.

The Round of 32 is filled with intense heads-up action. Noteworthy matches include Phil Ivey battling two-time World Champion Johnny Chan, Barry Greenstein going up against David Benyamine in a clash of high-stakes cash game titans, and Mike Matusow trying to avenge the loss suffered by his good friend Phil Hellmuth in the first round at the hands of Tom "durrrr" Dwan.

The winners of this Sunday's matches will advance to the Round of 16, and move one step closer to the $500,000 first place prize. NBC will air that round on Sunday, May 4 in an action-packed 2-hour episode beginning at 12:00 p.m. EDT (3:00 p.m. PDT) as the remaining players battle to reach the quarterfinals.

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