All Star Week Day 6: Challengers take title from Team PokerStars Pro

ps_news_thn.jpgby Chris Edge
Following a decidedly tumultuous campaign, Team PokerStars Pro headed into the penultimate day of 2010's installment of All Star Week needing to produce nothing short of a miracle if they were to restore faint hopes of securing back-to-back titles following last year's maiden triumph.

In the opposite corner the Challengers need to win just one of the remaining 10 matches to become victors in 2010. Stranger things have indeed happened but on current form, don't bet against the Challengers being out of site by the day's end.

Standing between the Challengers' perennial Hurloon and All Star honours at 12:00 ET was the Pros' Australian ANZPT winner, Tony Hachem.

After just six minutes of play Hurloon made one giant leap towards realising the Pros' worst fears after a pre-flop all-in confrontation, which played out in the most bizarre of fashions.

Following the tedium of raise-and-take-it that shaped the match's first 25 hands, Hachem inexplicably open-shoved pre-flop with 136.5 big blinds behind, holding 8♠Q♣ - apparently committed to engagements elsewhere. Hurloon found his foe's hands caught deep inside the cookie jar as he peered down at the mother of all starting hands, A♥A♣. With the easiest call he will ever wish to make, Hurloon's aces came out on top on the resulting Q♦7♠K♥T♥4♣ board, and looked to have sent Hachem to an early bath. Rarely are gifts donated so cheaply.

In fairness to the Aussie Pro he managed to regain his composure and take a more considered, patient approach to the remainder of the match. A case of less learnt for the younger sibling of one charismatic Joe.

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Tony Hachem

Some pre-flop sparring saw the chips fly on hand 83, Hachem's 6♥A♥ needing help from above against the Challenger's 7♦7♠. The poker gods obliged and spread the board A♣8♣3♥9♦5♠ to put Hachem back into contention.

Hachem was able to resist Hurloon's onslaught for much of the encounter, before the chips again found their way to the middle pre-flop on hand 149. The Challenger's A♣T♦ had his opponent's A♠3♠ in dire straits, and sat poised to make history. The board came down an uneventful 4♣7♠Q♦5♦9♣ to engrave the Challengers' names on the trophy, and leave the Pros with just pride to play for in the remaining 9 matches.

With the pressure off, it was the turn of Timmy K to twist the dagger and put further gloss on the Challengers' unassailable 18-8 lead. The UK's Julian Thew provided the opposition for the tea-time encounter.

The chip lead changed hands on several occasions in the early running, before Thew laid down a marker on hand 33. On a A♣9♠2♥ flop Timmy K check-called the Pro's bet, with the action echoed on the K♦ turn. The 5♣ river just what the doctor ordered for Thew, who again earned himself a call from the Challenger, flipping over 9♣A♦3♣4♥ to scoop both the hi and low with the wheel.

The hand did little to fluster Timmy K, who produced a spirited comeback to wrestle back the chip lead on the half-hour mark.

A cautiously played 9♥9♦6♠ flop brought us to an A♦ turn, where things got a little heated. Thew checked to Timmy K, then sprung into action by re-popping it to 320. The Challenger smooth-called before looking up Thew on the 5♥ river. Both players shared the same 7,6,5,3,A low, with Timmy K's 7♣A♣K♣3♣ besting Thew's 6♣3♠7♦5♠ to three-quarter the man from Nottingham, England and take a 3:2 lead.

40 minutes in and with the turn reading 3♦2♥9♣4♥, the Challenger checked-called a 240 bet to see an A♣ river. Thew called all-in for his remaining 210 holding 9♥J♠3♠K♥, and got the bad news he feared with Timmy K revealing 5♣4♠9♠5♠ for the wheel.

2009's Team Pro Captain Victor Ramdin was up for his second appearance of the series in Match 28, with badblood1 representing the Challenger contingent.

With the outcome of the series a formality one could be forgiven for thinking both sides would throw caution to the wind with little on the line other than pride and individual bragging rights. Ramdin is made of different stuff, however. A charitable man and forever honourable, Ramdin took to the game as if his life depended on it, keen to salvage what little pride was left in the Pro tank.

Indeed Ramdin wasted no time signaling his intent. By the eight-minute stage he'd chipped up to 3,858, on the right end of a 1,736 pot having turned a full housed with 6♥6♦, with the board laid a tasty 6♣4♠5♥4♣T♠.

For all his endeavors the Pro wasn't having it all his own way however. badblood1 succeeded in extracting maximum value holding 8♦8♣, with a bet of 188 on a J♠4♦2♣ flop and 375 on a T♠ river looked up by Ramdin, and enough to propel the Challenger into the chip lead.

It was a lead that badblood1 would soon surrender after Ramdin made aces full of eights on a 8♠A♠A♦A♣T♣ board, holding 6♥8♥. Shortly after the match was in the books as Ramdin called the short-stacked Challenger's all-in holding 9♣K♥, which prevailed over his adversary's dominated T♦9♦.

Timmy K dusted himself from his earlier win to fill the Challengers' seat for Match 29. The tie was originally slated to feature Friend of PokerStars, Bill Chen. Prior commitments rendered his services unavailable however, and his Canadian counterpart Greg DeBora stepped in at the 11th hour to fill the void.

The Pros may be living to regret Chen's absence as Timmy K made it back-to-back wins on the day, in what proved to be the longest match of this year's series so far.

The sedative Limit structure of Razz lends itself to a largely drawn-out affair, in which both sides must adopt a patient and selective approach if they are to ultimately emerge victorious. It is a style of play divorced from the cut-and-thrust fury of No Limit Hold'Em that many of today's internet whizzkids are so accustomed to.

And so Match 29 proved no different, with chip stacks locked at 2,655 - 2,345 in the Challenger's favor at the half-way stage.

Timmy K would go on strengthen that lead on hand 112 with Q♦8♠J♠ showing on 3rd street after some bet-calling on 2nd. The 2♣ landed for the Challenger on 6th street, prompting a check-check. On the river Timmy K bumped up a DeBora bet, his 3♠7♠6♠2♦J♣2♣A♦ enough to scoop the 980 pot with a 7,6,3,2,A low.

Timmy K never relinquished his advantage after that point, calling DeBora's all-in raise on 4th street of the final hand with 9♣2♦ up front. The Challenger's hand ran out 5♣4♠9♣2♦Q♦T♦T♥ to put the knife in DeBora's J♦K♠5♥3♦3♣7♦A♦ and heap more misery on the Pros.

The final match of Day 6 pitted the Challenger's MOJOEX1 against Argentinean beau, Veronica Dabul.

In contrast to the protracted manner of the preceding match, MOJOEX1 made short work of the Latin Team Pro, taking a 3:2 lead in only the 3rd hand after his all-in river bet got through Dabul, with 2♦4♠K♠3♠7♥ exposed.

The Challenger made a straight holding T♣T♠ 16 minutes in, hitting gin on an 8♥ river to consolidate his lead and all but sign the Pro's death warrant. Sure enough all the money went in on the next hand, Dabul's 7♠6♥ staying behind MOJOEX1's 9♦6♠ all the way on a resultant 4♣9♠7♥6♦K♠.

That leaves the scores at 21-9 to the Challengers with just one day's play left. Check back to PokerStars Blog on Monday to find out whether the Pros can redeem themselves and add some much-needed respectability to their beleaguered cause.

Simon Young
@MrSimonYoung in PokerStars news