All Star Week Day 3: Challengers crank up the pressure

ps_news_thn.jpgby Chris Edge

Last year the inaugural All Star week went right down to the wire, with both sides deadlocked at 17-17 going into the final match of the series. The Pros ultimately prevailed to come out on top 18-17 victors.

Today the prospect of a repeat scenario seems as distant as ever, with the Challengers on Tuesday racking up a further four victories, surging them into an unprecedented 8-2 lead. In short, the Challengers have been running away with it.

On Wednesday the Pros pinned their All-Star hopes on WSOP stalwarts Hevad Khan, Ivan Demidov, Joe Cada, Joe Hachem and Johnny Lodden to get their beleaguered campaign back on track.

True to form however, it didn't start at all well for the Pros. Multi-tabling sensation Hevad
Khan was first to the felt, pitted against the Chicago-based, 'InstantLei'. Any observers who logged on eager to watch the drama unfold will have been left sorely disappointed as neither player showed up for the first 73 hands - with stacks dead-even on 2500 apiece.

On Hand #74 some 5 minutes in, InstantLei finally took his seat and can hardly have believed his luck to find a markedly unoccupied seat on the opposite side of the baize. In the easiest tie of the round, InstantLei raised every single hand to coast to victory after 16 minutes, with Khan sat out and automatically folded.


Onto match 12 at 14:00 ET and up stepped Russian Ivan Demidov, charged with negotiating the Challengers' 'Timmy K' in the day's Single Draw 2-7 Lowball event. First blood went to the Challenger, who had managed to chip up to 3200 at the half way stage after one hand in which he bet after drawing 2 cards to reveal the winning 9♣3♥7♥8♣5♦, for a 9,8,7,5,3 low.

Just 2 minutes later Demidov had all but wiped out Timmy K's lead in one foul swoop, his 9,5,4,3,2 low getting the better of Timmy K's 9,7,6,5,4, and enough to rake the 1500 pot.
That took Demidov to 2900 in chips, a lead he would never relinquish. After 58 hands Timmy K raised to 180, then called a Demidox re-raise to 420. Timmy K stood pat, and with good reason: his 9,7,6,5,4 representing a relative powerhouse in single-draw. Demidov drew one card and hit the miracle 2♠ to take down Timmy K with an 8,7,4,3,2 low, and restore some much needed cheer to the Team Pro ranks.

Match 13 saw reigning WSOP Main Event Champ Joe Cada go tête-à-tête against the
returning Hurloon, who on Tuesday saw off the challenge of David Williams.
Cada would go on to pose an altogether trickier threat for the Czech challenger, and add a further $1k to the Pro prize pool after 15 minutes of play.

Most of the damage came in the 20th hand. Hurloon made it 40 to go pre-flop, then called after Cada pumped it up to 140. The flop fell 7♠5♦8♠. Cada received calls of 200 and 420 on the turn and river, before Hurloon folded to his 1540 shove. What either player had is anyone's guess, with Cada opting not to show.

The following 52 hands passed with little noteworthy action, Cada all the while maintaining his lead and never falling below 2900 in chips. Hurloon finally found a hand to go to war with after 15 minutes, committing his stack after some pre-flop jostling with A♦9♠. Off to the races we went as Cada called with 7♣7♦ for two wired 7s. The subsequent 3♦2♣2♥7♠K♠ board handed Cada victory and reduced the overall deficit to 9-4 in favor of the Challengers.

The penultimate match of the day drew another observer favourite from Day 1, caprioli, back to the fore. His opponent for the PLO Match 14, yet another Main Event champ in the form of Joe Hachem.

With neither Moneymaker nor Raymer registering victories in their respective matches, Hachem was keen to buck the curse of the Main Event winners and prolong the Pros' recent Day 3 resurgence.

Such hope soon faded however, as caprioli marched into a 3:2 chip lead after just the 3rd hand. Hachem raised pre-flop to 100, looked up by caprioli. The flop brought an intriguing K♣7♦Q♠T♣, which drew checks from both parties.

The action hotted up again with the T♦ falling; caprioli betting then calling a 300 raise from Hachem. Both players slowed on the 2♥ river, with caprioli showing 9♥3♠T♥T♠ for the winning, three 10s.

caprioli went on to add a further chink in Hachem's armour on hand 21. The former check-called Hachem's bet on a flop of 4♥7♣8♥, before both checked the 2♣ turn. The 4♣ river elicited a bet from Hachem, looked-up by caprioli. It proved decisive as caprioli turned over 4♦Q♣T♦9♥ for trip 4s, which had got there against Hachem's 9♠T♣K♦K♠.

Hachem never recovered and the white flag was raised just 4 hands later. The 5♦5♣6♥ flop gave Hachem three 5s holding 7♦9♥Q♦5♥, and ample reason to ship his remaining 1000 stack to the middle.

caprioli was gambling with the 7♥A♣8♠Q♥ for an up-and-down straight draw, which duly came in on the 4♣ river to restore the Challengers' 6 game lead.

Nordic pro Johnny Lodden lined up against Czech player 'Brezi26' in the final match of the day at 20:00 ET. The chip lead see-sawed back and forth early on, with the first all-in confrontation witnessed after just 10 minutes of play.

Lodden opened the action with T♣T♠, re-raised to 400, then called Brezi26's 5-bet shove. The board ran out an emphatic K♣K♦A♠2♠6♥ to hand the Challenger's A♦Q♦ the 3460 pot and the chip lead.

Stacks evened out at the half-way stage, as Lodden assumed the role of aggressor, applying pressure both pre-flop and on the flop. On the half-hour mark Lodden's typically Scandi-approach paid dividends as he re-took the chip lead. Further exchanges late on saw Brezi26 claw back some lost ground, with neither player able to command a dominating chip advantage. The blinds soon caught up with both after 45 minutes play however, and coerced their stacks into the middle.

After Brezi26 raised to 300 with 7♣7♠, Lodden shipped it in with 4♥K♦. Naturally, Brezi26 obliged, a 70% favourite. The 5♣9♣8♥ flop was kind to the Challenger, although the 8♣ turn added counterfeit outs to the remaining 3 Kings in the deck to sweat.

Just like that Brezi's two sevens were toast as the 9♥ river slammed to give Lodden the same 9s and 7s, his King kicker playing to hand him the 4288 pot and all but seal the deal.

Sure enough Brezi26 pushed his remaining 1574 into the middle just hands later. Lodden looked him up with T♥K♦ and fortune favoured the Norwegian again as the virtual dealer dropped T♠K♠5♥6♠8♦. With that Lodden ended the day on a high note for the Pros, who now sit 5 matches adrift the Challengers at 5-10.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in PokerStars news