All Star Week Day 4: Challengers lay down a marker
by Chris Edge
After enduring a rather torrid start to all Star Week, the Pros managed to dust themselves off and regain some ground on the Challengers on Wednesday. The triumvirate of Ivan Demidov, Joe Cada and Johnny Lodden all registered victories to briefly relent the Challengers' surge and cut their advantage to 5.
Leading the charge for the Pros as we entered Day 4 of the series was Magic: The Gathering graduate and Team Argentina Pro, Jose Barbero. Standing in his way was the Brazilian caprioli, off the back of 2 straight victories from Days 1 and 3.
Akin to yesterday's opening match in which Hevad Khan regrettably no-showed, Barbero too was nowhere to be seen as caprioli took his seat and secured the easiest of passages to the winners' enclosure. Raising every hand, it took just 13 minutes of caprioli's time to reduce Barbero's stack to ruins and push the Challengers further in front.
UK hotshot JP Kelly was next up attempting to cut the Challengers down to size. His foe was 'Timmy K', yesterday seen off by WSOP Main Event Runner-Up, Ivan Demidov.
The game choice proved something of a novelty for both players and observers alike: the mysterious Badugi posing a somewhat tricky threat to both parties.
The match ebbed and flowed early on, with neither side willing to give too much away in the somewhat uncharted, Badugi waters. It wasn't until hand 44 that Timmy K was able to steal a march on his adversary and take the 1st real significant chip lead in the match.
JP Kelly brought it in for 100, which Timmy K called. The former opted to discard 2 cards on the 1st draw, while Timmy K drew 1. Again the action went bet, call. On the 2nd draw Kelly called a Timmy K re-raise after discarding 1, with Timmy K likewise drawing a solitary card.
Timmy K's J♠ spiked on the 2nd draw made a final T♦5♣4♥J♠ badugi - enough to earn a 200 river look-up from Kelly, who could only muster the meagre 3-card 6,3,2, holding 7♦2♦3♥6♠.
The Challenger was having it all his own way, ramming home his advantage and exploiting Kelly's apparent inexperience within the discipline. Indeed Timmy K sensed something amiss 48 minutes in, questioning Kelly "do you play this game?", to which the UK pro could only ruefully confess "never played before".
On Tuesday we saw Vicky Coren succumb to a lack of practice within her chosen poker variant; PLO. The very same fate yesterday befell Kelly, who was vanquished shortly after; his 3-card: 8,7,A proving no match for Timmy K's 9-low Badugi, holding 4♦5♣Q♥9♠.
A combination of factors throughout the first 4 days of play were acting to conspire against the Pros, hampering their cause and pushing the Challengers into a 12-5 lead. Perhaps instigators of their own fall, indeed the Pros' cause was not helped by 2 non-appearances, coupled with a lack of practice within the respective game-choices.
Keen to put an end to the Pros' plight in Match 18 was the more-rounded, wrecking-ball, Lex Veldhuis. The Dutchman's opposite number for the day, the returning 'MOJOEX1'.
Fans fortunate enough to have caught a glimpse of the hyper-aggressive Dutchman's stints in the poker spotlight won't have been left surprised by the nature of his exit, nor of the time taken to consign the match to history.
MOJOEX1 wasted little time in asserting his dominance, amassing a 3:2 lead after just 2 minutes. Perhaps mindful of his foe's knack of raising light, a series of MOJOEX1 pre-flop 3-bets and flop steals served to orchestrate Veldhuis's demise.
On hand 14 RaSZi called after MOJOEX1 had re-popped it to 80, with the flop laid out Q♥A♣5♥. The A♠ turn dissuaded the Pro, firing out a further 80. Undeterred, the Challenger obliged before both checked the innocuous-looking 8♣ river. Veldhuis' reputation perhaps preceding him as MOJOEX1 turned over 6♥Q♦ for the victorious Aces and Queens.
The Pro's remaining 330 made its way to the middle just hands later with the lowly 6♣T♣. MOJOEX1 made it a 100% win-rate on the day for the Challengers after calling with J♦9♣, and coming out on top on the resulting K♥2♠8♦3♦2♦ board.
Waiting in the wings for Match 19, the godfather of Dutch poker and upside-down-shade-wearing, Marcel Luske. 72good represented the Challengers' charge for the 3rd time in the series, hoping to avenge his loss to Henrique Pinho on Day 3.
After the cut and thrust clash of RasZi v MOJOEX1 2 hours prior, observes will have revelled in the relative snail-pace, much more tranquil affair of Match 19. Luske opened proceedings by parodying a Mike Sexton catchphrase, declaring "let the hand s be great and the play even better" "lol", which set the cordial tone that would dictate play for much of the 37-minute encounter.
After losing the lead early on without often getting to showdown, Luske was able to wrestle back the momentum 11 minutes in, calling down a 72good 120 river bet with A♠8♠ on a 8♥5♥4♠Q♦ 7♦ board. His single pair of 8s enough to scoop the 840 pot against 72good's J♣9♥, for a whiffed gutshot.
Any sense of a comeback from the affable Luske was sadly dashed on only the very next hand. The Dutchman raised it up pre-flop to 120, then called the further 60 to see a flop of Q♠3♦A♠ - something for everyone as Luske called 72good's bet of 60. Both the turn 7♦ and 6♥ river played out in similar fashion, before 72good showed down K♥K♦ - able to extract maximum value from whatever Luske was guarding and ship the 960 pot his way.
Luske restole the chip lead on the half-hour mark after his A♥5♦ elicited a river call with the board spread 5♥4♦9♠9♦2♠, following some turn bet-calling. 72good's hand no match for Luske's 9s and 5s, setting up the prospect of a maiden Day 4 win for the Pros.
Once again however the Pros' optimism proved misplaced as late on Luske's hard work went undone, making a seemingly reluctant laydown after some turn-tussling once the K♠ fell, following the 4♣3♠6♥ flop. The subsequent 3♣ river induced a final 200 bet from 72good; enough to convince Luske his hand was toast and send the 2400 the way of the Canadian.
Luske met his maker moments later, committing his final 115 chips on a board of 9♣K♣8♥5♥ holding T♠Q♦ for a whole lot of nothing. 72good's J♥A♥ was ahead anyway, and flushed Luske away on the 2♥ river for the overkill and overall 14-5 lead.
Days 1 and 2 of All Star Week saw the Challengers head into their final match 4/4 victors on the day, and salivating at the thought of a Challenger clean-sweep for the first time in All Star History. However on both occasions the Pros' blushes were spared by the efforts of Chad Brown and Henrique Pinho respectively, who took just the slightest gloss of an impeccable Challenger turnout.
This time round the Pros called on the services of yet another member of the Dutch Team Pro faction, Noah Boeken, to wipe their eggs from the faces and restore some credibility to the tragic-looking 14-5 scoreboard.
Whether Boeken's heart was really in the Match or whether his hand-reading capabilities have plummeted will remain to be seen, as he brought an abrupt end to proceedings after just 120 seconds of play.
The thorn in the Pros' side MOJOEX1 once again spoiled their party, calling Boeken's inexplicable all-in shove overbet on the K♣J♦T♥ flop holding Q♦9♦ - translated loosely as the 2nd nuts. Boeken revealed J♥A♦ which picked up re-draw outs on the T♠ turn. The 3♥ river was fatal, signalling the Challengers' virgin whitewash to leave the scores an emphatic 15-5 in their favour.
Join us tomorrow to find out whether the Pros can reverse their fortunes for the 2nd half of the week, under the 'Tourney/Special' tab in your lobby.