All Star Week Day 1: Team PokerStars Pro takes a beating
by Chris Edge
With the dust settling on the World Series for another year, the focus for many Team PokerStars Pros shifts from the live to the virtual scene, with the second annual All Star Week.
Over the course of this week the ranks of Team Pro square off against an array of recent top performing PokerStars players in a series of 35 heads-up matches.
Yesterday's first day of five matches did not go well for the Pros - they lost 4-1!
The curtain raiser pitted Team Pro and WPT winner Alex Gomes against Spanish-based 'jimenezzzz' in the opening NLHE event.
Following a conservative opening jimenezzzz stole the chip lead thanks to some well-timed check-raises and generally revealing winners when play reached showdown. Twelve minutes into the match and jimenezzzz took a firm grip on proceedings to extend his lead to a near 3:1 chip advantage. With the board reading 7♥3♦5♣Q♥ Allingomes fired out a bet of 90, duly called by jimenezzzz holding a lowly 4♠3♥. The 3♣ river proved Gomes' downfall; calling a 330 bet, only to be shown trip 3's by jimenezzzz.
Minutes later and it was all over; jimenezzzz hitting gin on the 9♦5♦4♣ flop holding 9♥5♣, to Gomes' A♦A♥, for two red aces. All the money found its way in the middle on the T♥ turn, with jimenezzzz fading the eight outs on the river to chalk up the first victory for the Challengers and prompt a "gg" from the vanquished Pro.
Two hours later it was the turn of 'traction1' to face off against Team Pro. He would need to overcome Brazilian heavyweight, Andre Akkari (aakkari) in the Limit Stud event of the series.
A fiercely contested encounter saw aakaari gain much of the early momentum, aided by several continuation bets that forced traction1 out of the action. Just three minutes into the match and aakkari surged into a 2:1 chip lead after raising a 7th street bet from traction1, showing down K♥A♦4♥6♣A♥3♦6♠ for two pair; enough to better traction1's holding.
At one point traction1 was down to just 876 as aakkari continued to apply pressure with the dominating stack. Undeterred, traction1 rallied before a big hand 11 minutes in all-but restored parity.
Following some jousting back and forth, both players made it to 7th street with 720 in the middle. aakkari displayed some pot control to check-call traction1's 100 river bet, only to be shown the winning A♥Q♣Q♥9♥9♠K♣J♠.
It was 2 pair that again set traction1 up for victory approaching 40 minutes in, earning a 200 call on the river and with it the chip lead for the 1st time in the match, holding 8♣8♥5♣7♥9♠3♦9♦.
Only minutes later and down to just 670 in chips, Akkari's fate was sealed when he committed his remaining stack on 4th street. traction1 obliged and again his K♥7♣7♦Q♦8♣4♣4♥ was enough to take victory and double the Challengers' lead.
Match 3 between Team Pro Canada's Greg DeBora and challenger 'caprioli' proved a much shorter affair. The early exchanges saw caprioli race to an early 3:2 chip lead, after receiving a 490 call on the river with a full house, holding 2♠T♠. Lady Luck's allegiance remained with caprioli as the very next hand he showed down 8♠J♠ on a 6♠4♠8♣A♣ 8♦. His three eights enough to take the 1820 pot and a 4:1 chip lead.
Eight minutes in and the Challengers had established a 3-0 lead, after DeBora pushed his remaining 1255 into the middle on the 5♣4♥K♣7♦ turn, holding 7♠6♦. caprioli snapped him off with 6♥K♠, and his top pair held up to make it an impressive 3/3 for the Challengers.
traction1 returned to the felt for the Limit Triple Draw 2-7 Lowball Match 4, hoping to replicate some of the good form demonstrated against Andre Akkari. His adversary on this occasion was Dutch Pro Ruben Visser.
Most of the early skirmishes favored traction1, who got a real stranglehold on the match 26 minutes in, with both players having made lows after the 3rd draw. Unfortunately for Visser, his (Lo: 9,7,6,5,4) was no match for the dominating (Lo: 9,7,5,4,3) of traction1.
rubenrtv went on to reduce the 4:1 deficit on the half-hour mark, standing pat after the 3rd draw with (Lo: T,7,5,4,3) - enough to better traction1's (Lo: J,9,4,3,2). Only three hands later and the writing appeared on the wall for traction1, who lost a huge 3200 chip pot after calling rubenrtv's river raise, and subsequently mucking after being shown the monster 7,5,4,3,2.
Five minutes later, and the see-sawing chip lead reversed yet again; traction1's 8,7,6,4,3 enough to take the 1800 pot, and driven a decisive nail in Visser's coffin. At 18:45 ET and boasting a 6:1 chip advantage, traction1 called Visser's 90 all in bet following the third draw, revealing (Lo: J,9,8,7,4) against Visser's (Lo: A,8,7,5,3), and taking with it, the 4th straight scalp for the Challengers!
Match 5 saw badblood1, representing the Challengers, line up against Team Pro Chad Brown, keen to restore some battered pride to the Team Pro cause before the day's end.
Much cagey to-ing and fro-ing early on set the pace for much of the match; with Brown understandably apprehensive over the prospect of a Day-1 whitewash. His cautious approach helped badblood1 chip up 3:2 by the half way stage, himself adopting some Negreanu-esque smallball poker to steal pots in favorable situations.
Brown recovered to eat into badblood1's lead and after hand #97 there remained little to separate the two. Blinds stood at 25/50 and stacks at 2510 v 2490 in favor of Brown, with the match continuing in the same, cagey tone.
badblood1's aggressive approach once again dwindled Brown's stack until he was reduced to all-in/shove poker at the 35-minute level. Brown duly committed his stack on Hand #142 but yielded no call. Moments later his stack found its way to the middle again, and the prospect of a clean-sweep by the Challengers suddenly seemed a very real one upon badblood1 calling. That was until the moment badblood1 revealed the anti-climatic, identical KT. To no-one's surprise the pot was chopped up and we played on.
Then came the pivotal 'Hand That Might Have Been'. With both players all-in on the T♠6♦4♣ flop, Brown's 6♣2♥ was in dire straits and needing urgent help against badblood1's 8♦T♦. The inconsequential A♣ left Brown drawing to five outs on the river, 91% likely to hit the felt and hand victory to the Challengers yet again. The cards had other ideas, however, and in true Hollywood fashion the 6♠ spiked like a lightning bolt, to hand Brown the chip lead late on.
It was a cruel blow to badblood1, who six hands later shipped it in with 8♦Q♥. Brown obliged with A♦T♠, and the 6♣5♣K♥T♣8♠ board sent Match 5 the Pros' way to leave the scoreboard at 4-1 to the Challengers after Day 1's play.
Join us tomorrow to see whether the Pro's can avenge their Day 1 performance and claw back some of their lost ground. You can follow the action in the PokerStars lobby, going to Tourney >> Special.
For the 11 challengers there is $1,000 to be won in each individual match, plus they'll get to share a $25,000 prize if they win the series. For Team Pro, any winnings they get will be added to a special $11 fan tournament on PokerStars at 4pm ET on August 8.