Monday, March 9, 2009 | 12:40 a.m.
Huck Seed, whose laconic demeanor at the poker table belies his ferocious talent, won the fifth annual National Heads-Up Poker Championship on Sunday night at Caesars Palace, defeating Vanessa Rousso in two consecutive matches in the best-of-3 final.
Seed, the 1996 World Series of Poker main event winner, earned the heads-up tournament's top prize of $500,000 for his victory.
"I felt like I was pretty much on top of things as far as making the right moves at the right times," said Seed, the only player to cash in all five editions of the National Heads-Up Poker Championship. "I kind of felt one step ahead. I was getting really good reads on where (Rousso) was at and what she was doing."
Seed, who had advanced to the final four of the heads-up tournament in 2006 and 2008, improved his lifetime record in the event to 18-4. He joined Chris Ferguson and Phil Hellmuth as World Series of Poker main event winners who have also won the heads-up title.
On the final hand, all of the chips were pushed to the center of the table in the tournament gallery at Caesars on a board reading king-8-3-10. Rousso was holding 10-jack for a pair of 10s. Seed had king-7 for a pair of kings. A 5 on the river clinched the title for Seed.
Seed defeated Sam Farha, David Oppenheim, Glen Chorny, Gus Hansen and Jonathan Little to reach the final match.
Rousso advanced to the final match by defeating Bertrand Grospellier, who had ousted Hellmuth in the quarterfinals. Rousso, one of six female players in the field of 64, became the first woman to make the final table since the tournament's inception.
Rousso faced a brutal lineup of opponents in advancing to the finale. She beat Doyle Brunson in the opening round, then got past Phil Ivey, 2007 heads-up champ Paul Wasicka, and Daniel Negreanu to make the final four.
Rousso earned $250,000 for her second-place finish.
The National Heads-Up Poker Championship, a bracket-style tournament that's single-elimination except for the best-of-3 final match, carries a $20,000 entry fee and a $1.5 million prize pool.
NBC Sports will televise the tournament on six consecutive Sundays beginning April 12.