Published Friday, March 6, 2009 | 7:03 p.m.
Updated Friday, March 6, 2009 | 8:02 p.m.
The past two World Series of Poker main event winners prevailed in their first-round matches Friday as the fifth annual National Heads-Up Poker Championship got under way at Caesars Palace.
Peter Eastgate, the 2008 World Series champ, defeated Andy Bloch, runner-up in last year's National Heads-Up Poker Championship. Jerry Yang, the 2007 World Series winner, ousted Clonie Gowen.
Fans lined up outside the Caesars poker room and crowded around the tournament gallery, which was filled to capacity, to catch a glimpse of the action. Tournament viewing is open to spectators on a first-come, first-served basis.
Eastgate and Yang were competing in the Hearts bracket based on Thursday night's random draw at Pure nightclub, which set up the 64-player field. Eastgate takes on Sam Farha, who beat Allen Cunningham, in Round 2. Yang faces John Phan, who beat Erik Seidel.
First-round action in the Clubs and Spades brackets was scheduled to continue through Friday evening, with second-round play resuming Saturday.
The tournament, with a $1.5 million prize pool, continues through Sunday night.
Also in the Hearts bracket:
Eli Elezra def. Johnny Chan
Erick Lindgren def. Howard Lederer
David Williams def. J.C. Tran
Scott Fischman def. Jamie Gold
In the Diamonds bracket:
Kenny Tran def. Antonio Esfandiari
Jennifer Harman def. Greg Raymer
Phil Laak def. Kenny Yeh
David Oppenheim (a late replacement for Layne Flack) def. Vanessa Selbst
Gus Hansen def. David Benyamine
Huck Seed def. Jonathan Little
Glen Chorny def. Chad Brown
Brad Garrett def. Annie Duke