All Star Week: Pros still lead, Challengers close gap

allstarweek_thn.jpgAfter falling back to a 7-2 deficit after Day 2 of PokerStars All Star Week, Team PokerStars Pro rallied back for big wins on Day 3 and complete sweep on Day 4. The message to the Challengers: don't try that silliness again.

After suffering the Day 4 sweep, one could have expected the Challengers to be chastened such that Friday's matches would look a lot like the previous day's rout. The Challengers had a different idea, taking three of the five Day 5 matches to bring the score to 14-11 in favor of the Pros.

Match 21: Katja Thater Vs GoMukYaSelf (NLHE)

GoMukYaSelf had the unenviable position of stepping into the game on the first post-sweep match. What's more he had to face the always-scary German Team Pro Katja Thater.

In the opening hands, Thater played him hard. For more than 30 deals, Thater whacked on the Challenger and at one point opened up a 1,700-chip lead. That's when the following hand hit.

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After the hand, Thater congratulated her opponent and then wondered if she might have slipped by him if the two pair hadn't come in.

"If no jack, you could lay it down?" she asked.

"For sure," GoMukYaSelf said, "No jack and I likely check back turn, though."

Thater managed one double-up a few hands later and even took a little time to indugle her opponent with a quick interview. GoMukYaSelf had some questions.

"Quick, before it's over," Thater joked.

GoMukYaSelf then asked Thater to name her favorite European tourneys. She was quick with answers, both from the European Poker Tour.

"Barcelona city-wise," she said. "Monte Carlo tourney-wise."

A few hands later, Thater, down nearly 3-1 in chips, came in for a raise and got a call. The flop came down 2♣ J♠ 6♣. GoMukYaSelf pulled a check-raise on Thater and got called. The turn was the 6♠. GoMukYaSelf checked and Thater moved all-in. GoMukYaSelf called with his J♣ K♣, way ahead of Thater's 7♠ 7♥. Thater missed the river and the match was over.

On the first match of the day, GoMukYaSelf scored his team's ninth win to pull within three games of Team PokerStars Pro. More importantly for the All Star Challengers, Team Pro's winning streak was over.

Match 22: Andre Akkari Vs bluffblocker (NLHE)

Near the beginning of of Match 22, bluffblocker suffered an internet outage that left Andre Akkari available to steal blinds with abandon. Instead, he played the role of the good sportsman and simply said, "I'm waiting." He sat out until bluffblocker was able to return 40 hands into the match. Akkari had good karma on his side.

Anyone who has been paying attention knows bluffblocker is a grinder. He played the longest match of All Star Week so far, a marathon two and half hour match where he eventually succumbed to Team Pro Chris Moneymaker.

And grind bluffblocker did. For 30 minutes and more than 100 hands, bluffblocker gradually chipped away at the Brazilian's stack.

Finally, 117 hands into the match, bluffblocker scooped his first big pot.

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After that hand, Akkari realized karma wasn't going to carry the day and it was time to do some grinding of his own. Over the course of the next 70 hands, Akkari nearly evened the stacks.

It didn't last long. Akkari called bets from bluffblocker on every street of a 8♥ 9♦ 4♦ 2♠ J♣ board, only to see he was behind the whole way against bluffblocker's K♠ K♣.

Akkari managed to hang on for a little while longer, but one hour into the match he got 5♦ 5♠ all-in against 8♦ 8♠. Bluffblocker flopped his set and the game was over.

The score:

Team PokerStars Pro: 12
All Star Challengers: 10

Match 23: Barry Greenstein Vs Canuck (5-Card Draw)

After four days of nothing but Texas and Omaha hold'em, Match 23 brought a welcome change. Barry Greenstein and All Star MVP contender Canuck sat down a little limit five-card draw action.

Canuck really wasn't looking forward to it. "I never play limit five card draw," he said.

Greenstein didn't softplay Canuck. Over the course of the first 40 minutes of the match, Greenstein opened up a better than 2-1 chip lead.


Canuck did the best he could, but over the course of a 199-hand tournament, Greenstein dominated and picked up Team PokerStars Pro's first victory of the day.

Match 24: Humberto Brenes Vs psimalive (NLHE)

Match 24 brought the godfather of Costa Rican poker to the table. His job? To extend the lead of Team PokerStars Pro. Up against psimalive, Brenes came out of the gates with all guns set to annihilate. Fortunately for the All Star Challengers, Brenes' gun sights were a bit off.

Witness: After falling back to a nearly 2-1 deficit, Brenes came in for a raise pre-flop and got the call. On flop of 3♦ [Ad K♠, Brenes took psimalive's check as permission to bet. He did and found a call. The 6♠ turn drew another check-call from the Challenger. On the K♣ river, psimalive bet out 640 and Brenes raised to 1520.

Could Brenes actually have the full house? Quads? Who knew. He was representing something huge. Psimalive didn't buy it, though, and called with A♠ 9♦. Brenes was forced to turn up his Q♥ J♦.

Down 4-1 in chips after just ten minutes, Brenes worked his way all the way back up to take the chip lead over the next 30 minutes. To put Brenes away, it took one fairly ugly hand.

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With that hand, the All Star Challengers picked up its 11th win and pulled within two games of Team Pro.

Match 25: Daniel Negreanu Vs lordhuttyx (NLHE)

It was finally time for Kid Poker Daniel Negreanu to make his way into All Star Week. It was clear from the outset that Negreanu was playing it seriously. The only game he had open was his All Star match. For 45 minutes, he and lordhuttyx played it tight. Only a few hundred chips separated them as they entered the fourth 15-minute level.

A few minutes later, the All Star team appeared on the rail to root for their man.

Gunslinger3 said, "Daniel, you are an old friend, but I have to root for my All Star team."

After a break, Negreanu sounded like he might have a date.

"Does anyone know how long the average match has been running in these?" he asked.

When told the average match was running about an hour, Kid Poker wondered, "How?"

Seconds later, Negreanu got a bet in on every street of Q♥ 3♦ J♣ 8♦ 6♦ board with J♦ 8♣ and took the chip lead.

An hour and 25 minutes into the match, Negreanu had lordhuttyx down to 2110 in chips. They checked a flop and turn of 2♠ 5♦ 6♥ 6♣. On the river, 3♣, Negreanu made a small bet and lordhuttyx moved all-in. Negreanu snap-called with his 2♦ 6♦, well good enough to beat 4♠ Q♦ and maintain Team Pro's lead.

Saturday brings some new Team PokerStars Pro faces to the table and one new game.

Victor Ramdin Vs psimalive (NLHE)
Steve Paul-Ambrose Vs Sumpas (NLHE)
Greg Raymer Vs Canuck (Limit O8)
Humberto Brenes Vs kAmIkAdZeEe (NLHE)
Joe Hachem Vs 666 INRI (NLHE)

You can catch any of these matches under EVENTS--SPECIAL in the PokerStars tournament lobby.

Good luck to both teams this weekend.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in PokerStars news