by Chris Edge
With the Pros etching their names into the history books following All Star Week's 2009 maiden victory, any onlookers will have salivated at the prospect of another close-fought encounter one year on, as the Challengers set out to avenge their narrow defeat.
In reality what we saw over the course of the previous six days blew all expectations out of the water, a combination of factors conspiring against the Pros to catapult their opponents into a commanding 21-9 lead going into the last day.
The Challengers had the win all wrapped up by 12:42 ET on Saturday, after Hurloon overcame the threat of Team Pro Joe Hachem. What made the title so impressive was that there were still nine more matches to be played. The manner of the Challengers' triumph came in stark contrast to 2009's dramatic finale, in which they were felled at the final hurdle, going down 18-17.
With the outcome of All Star Week now a foregone conclusion, the Pros turned their attentions to Bocce specialist, Pat Pezzin to heal the open wounds left by the Challengers, with '72good' shouldering the winners' responsibility in the day's opener.
Carrying on from where they left off, the Challengers added a further feather to their collective caps with just six minutes on the clock. Pezzin ensured no bad blood between the two sides, humbly congratulating 72good on his team's achievements, before proceedings turned more business-like.
With 72good 3,413 - 1,587 ahead after forcing the issue with some well-timed aggression, the two saw a flop of 3♥9♠Q♠, prompting a round of checks. The T♥ turn heated matters, 72good check-calling a 260 bet from Pezzin, before calling the Pro's all-in shove on the J♥ river. Pezzin revealed T♣J♦, his rivered two-pair going down in flames to the Challenger's turned straight holding J♣K♣.
2009 Pro captain Victor Ramdin was later put to the sword by the Challengers' InstantLei, in the Pot Limit 5-Card Draw fixture. The lightning pace of the match had its reasons, with Ramdin failing to show for his 14:00 ET showdown. Without breaking sweat InstantLei obliged by raising every hand until the encounter was settled just five minutes in.
The hapless Pros were going down with a whimper on the final day. It never rains but pours. Unlike her US counterpart Ramdin, Pro Vanessa Selbst had clearly made room in her diary to fulfill her obligations for the day, as she locked horns with a new face for All Star Week, that of 'papadelpoker' in Match 33.
The Challenger made all the early running, before Selbst's stack found its way to the middle on Hand 30. papadelpoker brought it in for 60 pre-flop, which the Pro called to take us to a flop of T♦J♠8♠. Selbst triggered the check-raise to 300, before the Challenger then came over the top for all the bones, with Selbst calling the 1,445 to put herself at risk.
9♣Q♦ for papadelpoker and the flopped straight, 7♠6♠ for Selbst and a slew of outs. The 9♠ turn gave Selbst the flush and the double-up, with the river falling a T♠ to hand the Pro an emphatic straight-flush.
Patched up in her newly found PokerStars colors, Selbst would surrender the lead 25 minutes in, when her miss-timed 3 bet all-in pre-flop was called by papadelpoker, holding 3♦3♠. The Pro was in the best shape she could hope for, flipping over 8♠4♠. However the Challenger won the race, with the board falling T♠T♥9♦Q♥3♣ for the full-house and the double-through.
The chip lead swung back and forth several times throughout the remainder of the match, with papadelpoker finally extinguishing the Pro's hopes on hand 141. With the blinds catching up on Selbst, she shipped it in pre-flop holding 8♥T♠, and found herself a 60/40 dog up against the Challenger's A♥2♥. The flop came down 6♥6♣A♠ leaving Selbst on life-support, with the tie over by the 2♦ turn. The inconsequential 5♥ river made it 3/3 on the day for the Challengers, leaving the Pros to lick their wounds at the prospects of yet another whitewash.
Next out of the traps for the Pros was Randy Lew from the US, whilst Prague's 'Brezi26' pulled up his chair for the penultimate encounter of the series.
It was the Challenger who made the most of the early sparring in the 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo event, chipped up to 3,827 at the half way stage after making three Tens on 6th street with 3♣9♣J♣T♦T♣K♦T♠.
25 minutes in and Brezi26 appeared to be pulling away, raising a 5th street bet up to 240 with T♥5♦6♥ showing. 6th street brought the Challenger the K♣, prompting a 120 bet that Lew looked up. Both cooled it on the river, with Brezi 1st to show T♣6♠T♦5♦6♥K♣7♣ for Tens and Sixes. That left the Pro to muck and plot a turnaround if he was to successfully blunt the Challengers' charge on the day.
Noted for his racehorse-like stamina, turn it around 'nanonoko' eventually did as a solitary pair of Jacks holding J♠J♥3♣T♦A♠2♣K♥ crushed the Challenger's own pair of Fives with 3♠5♠T♠9♥2♦5♥Q♦.
That was to signal something of a rebirth for the Pro, who moments later ousted the short-stacked Brezi26 on 5th street with 3♠3♥7♣ showing, to the Challenger's 2♣8♦J♥. The Pro's hand ran out 6♦2♦3♠3♥7♣5♥A♠ to scoop the pot with a pair of Threes and 6,5,3,2,A low, enough to see off the Challenger's A♥6♠2♣8♦J♥2♥4♦.
Brezi26 stuck around to bring the curtain down on a dramatic 2010 series two hours later, with Richard Toth flying the flag for the Pros.
A short and sweet affair saw neither side make much headway after 22 hands, before the Hungarian Pro raced out in front holding 9♥8♦. Toth pumped it up to 44 pre-flop, then called Brezi26's 3-bet to 120. The flop fell 3♣T♠7♦, leaving Toth open-ended. Brezi26 c-bet for 111, which the Pro called. The Challenger fired a further 260 on the Q♦ turn. Again Toth smooth-called, before the 6♦ river smacked him square on in the jaw to put a lock on the hand.
Perhaps cautious of the runner-runner flush, Toth opted to just call Brezi26's final bet of 640, taking down the hand with the straight and vaulting his stack north of 4,000.
The Challenger's capitulation was confounded just eight minutes later, committing his final 1,000 before the flop holding 8♠A♦. Toth duly obliged with the dominating A♣J♠, and with the resulting J♣5♦J♦K♦9♥ board the Pro sealed his side's second win of the day, leaving the final scoreline a Challenger-favorable 24-11 and bringing an end to a fascinating All Star Week 2010.
Congratulations to the Challengers for their fine achievement and the $25,000 they will divvy up amongst themselves. A special mention must go to Challengers 'Timmy K' and 'caprioli', who each won four out of their five respective ties and get to take home a combined $15,000 in winnings. Secondly, commiserations to the defeated Pros, who will be back in 2011 to make amends and attempt to reclaim the title.
Thanks to everyone who's logged on over the previous seven days to watch the drama unfold. It's been a blast.
If you can't get enough of All Star Week for one year, then register for our special $11 'All Star Week Fans Tournament' on August 8 at 16:00 ET, where the Pros' 11 wins means a further $11,000 will be added to the prize pool by PokerStars.
Until next year and in the words of one Marcel Luske: "Let the hands be great and the play even better!"