All-Star Showdown: Ben "Sauce123" Sulsky slays Ike Haxton in 19-hour semifinal match

ps_news_thn.jpgIt took more than 4,200 hands and nearly 19 hours, but the All-Star Showdown has its first finalist. After a grueling match that saw more than a dozen lead changes and both players climb out of six-figure holes, Ben "Sauce123" Sulsky defeated Team Online's Ike Haxton and will move on to play in Sunday's championship round.

In the semifinials, the action was kicked up a notch. Now armed with $200,000 bankrolls, each player bought in for $20,000 on four tables of $100/$200 no-limit hold'em. Blinds would double at the 3,000-hand mark and double again should they last more than 5,000 hands. And as you'll see, there were more than a few instances when we thought that might just happen.


Team Online's Ike Haxton

HOURS 1-2 (Hands 1-496)

Well-aware how long the quarterfinal heats ran, Haxton and Sulsky briefly considered an alternative method of deciding today's match before settling in for the long grind.

Ike Haxton: this should be fun, i'm excited
Sauce123: im half excited and half preparing myself to play 15 hours
Ike Haxton: yeah that too
Sauce123: i say we just decide the match on whoever drinks more cups of coffee
Sauce123: save ourselves some trouble
Ike Haxton: could be quite a contest
Ike Haxton: i think i was around 12 vs kanu
Sauce123: im at 1.5, but i dont consider myself awake yet

Within the first hundred hands, Haxton jumped out to a $65,000 lead, but Sulsky halted his surge by winning a 200 BB flip, his A♥K♦ flopping an ace against Haxton's 8♦8♠. By Hand 360, Sulsky had erased the gap entirely. He won two more all-ins, his T♣T♦ making a straight against Haxton's unimproved A♣K♥ as well as this $40,000 hand where Sulsky made a hero call with third pair after Haxton three-bet the flop and shoved the turn:

Sulsky continued steaming ahead and as the 500-hand mark approached he held a four buy-in lead.

50 hands: Haxton +$31,844
100 hands: Haxton +$64,474
300 hands: Haxton +$28,911
360 hands: Sulsky +$2,841
403 hands: Sulsky +$42,673
470 hands: Sulsky +$92,621
496 hands: Sulsky +$80,115

HOURS 3-4 (Hands 497-981)

Sulsky was on fire at the top of the third hour, growing his lead to $102,500. Off his rhythm, Haxton seemed to be picking all the wrong spots to bluff, like this spot where Sulsky caught him with two pair:

Thankfully for Haxton, his funk didn't last long. Momentum shifted toward Haxton following this $59,000 pot where Sulsky hit top pair on the flop but Haxton caught running kings to double up:

Haxton continued running well and the rest of the gap melted away by the end of the fourth hour. He doubled one stack when Q♦Q♠ held against 5♦5♥, saw jacks win a $40k pot against A♣2♣, and picked up queens again, this time against Sulsky's J♦J♣. In the space of 356 hands, Haxton won $105,000 and moved back into the black.

524 hands: Sulsky +$72,835
625 hands: Sulsky +$102,515
650 hands: Sulsky +$63,115
683 hands: Sulsky +$40,368
737 hands: Sulsky +$58,448
848 hands: Sulsky +$51,074
925 hands: Haxton +$7,508
972 hands: Sulsky +$8,750
981 hands: Haxton +$2,542

HOURS 5-6 (Hands 982-1,502)

Sulsky temporarily regained control, leading off the hour by claiming a $49,000 pot. On a 8♠4♥3♠ flop, Sulskly check-raised Haxton's $660 bet to $2,600, then led out for $6,000 when the T♦ came on the turn. Haxton looked him up and they saw the K♥ hit the river. Sulsky bet $15,400 and Haxton called, Sulskly turning over K♠4♠ for a rivered two pair and the win.

Sulsky increased his lead to $40,000, but the reset button was pushed again when Sulsky bluffed all-in on a A♠Q♥5♦2♥2♣ board holding 3♥7♥. Haxton called with A♥6♠ and raked in $64,752. Sulsky's lead was down to $8,000, and Haxton set off on another aggressive tear, winning more than $76,000 in the next 122 hands. In this pot, Haxton got uber-lucky, catching running cards to make a full house against Sulsky's flopped flush:

1,022 hands: Sulsky +$20,106
1,114 hands: Sulsky +$40,682
1,117 hands: Sulsky +$8,106
1,165 hands: Haxton +$4,478
1,237 hands: Haxton +$37,910
1,267 hands: Haxton +$63,394
1,287 hands: Haxton +$81,138
1,405 hands: Haxton +$77,776
1,502 hands: Haxton +$61,336

HOURS 7-8 (Hands 1,503-2,069)

Sauce123: i think im just getting warmed up
Sauce123: only 16 more hours to go

Haxton built his lead to over $108,000 and nearly had Sulsky down to three tables before he was able to stop the bleeding. Sauce got his mojo back on a cooler of a hand, his nut flush edging out Haxton's second-nut flush for a $40,000 pot:

Sulsky worked his way back and even took a $12,000 lead before getting his Table 3 stack in preflop with A♠K♥ against Haxton's 8♠8♣. Although Sulsky flopped a king, Haxton hit a set on the turn and raked in the $42,800 pot. But despite another sudden turnaround, both players remained good-natured (and well-caffeinated).

Sauce123: what's your coffee count ?
Sauce123: im on 4.5
Ike Haxton: 3 and working on a cup of tea
Ike Haxton: like a *****
Sauce123: shocking to hear such langauge from a team pro
Ike Haxton: :X

Haxton ended the eighth hour with a one-two punch. After making a nine-high straight, Haxton extracted value on the turn and river to take down a $39,900 pot, but the best was yet to come. Just as those chips flew into his stack, this $88,000 monster unfolded, Sulsky making an ill-timed river bluff into Haxton's flopped two pair:

1,536 hands: Haxton +$108,908
1,653 hands: Haxton +$93,177
1,673 hands: Haxton +$108,125
1,700 hands: Haxton +$84,221
1,750 hands: Haxton +$23,209
1,852 hands: Haxton +$75,226
1,905 hands: Haxton +$38,826
1,942 hands: Haxton +$9,062
1,994 hands: Sulsky +$12,018
2,050 hands: Haxton +$26,062
2,069 hands: Haxton +$88,394

HOURS 9-10 (Hands 2,070-2,586)

Haxton hit a few bumps in the road, but largely maintained his lead over the next two hours. Sulsky made up some ground when his K♦K♣ held up against Haxton's 9♣9♥ in a $65,000 pot, but Ike finished hour ten on a high note, catching Sulsky's river bluff with second pair:

2,121 hands: Haxton +$80,894
2,158 hands: Haxton +$86,826
2,203 hands: Haxton +$60,832
2,304 hands: Haxton +$33,282
2,376 hands: Haxton +$57,502
2,402 hands: Haxton +$29,102
2,450 hands: Haxton +$54,507
2,500 hands: Haxton +$29,898
2,550 hands: Haxton +$62,958
2,586 hands: Haxton +$98,082

HOURS 11-12 (Hands 2,587-3,064)

Haxton took a $100k lead into the eleventh hour of play, but once again, the five buy-in mark proved to be a hump neither player could get over. In a three-bet pot, Haxton barreled the flop, turn, and river on a A♣T♣3♥9♦6♠ board and Sulsky called him down with K♠T♦. Second pair was good against Haxton's Q♠J♦ and Sulsky picked up the $47,800 pot.

That hand set off a winning streak for Sulsky and for the fourth time in this match, Haxton saw a six-figure advantage evaporate as Sulsky not only dug himself out of the hole, but ground out a $42,000 lead with 2,950 hands completed.

The blinds doubled to $200/$400 at the 3,000th hand, inspiring a reinvogorated Sulsky to make a music change.

Sauce123: i think i need a new music choice
Sauce123: im gonna go with ACDC
Sauce123: it's about that time of the evening
Ike Haxton: that's a good choice
Ike Haxton: i'm on pharoah monch at the moment
Sauce123: not bad

Moments after moving over to the $200/$400 tables, Sulsky was on the highway to hell, his pocket sixes turning a set only to have Haxton river a higher set with pocket tens. Haxton snagged the $80k pot. A minute later they were all-in again, Haxton's queens and jacks taking out Sulsky's jacks and nines:

In under 100 hands, Haxton had managed a $90,000 turnaround, ending the twelfth hour of play up $42,741.

2,592 hands: Haxton +$100,782
2,628 hands: Haxton +$106,382
2,634 hands: Haxton +$80,666
2,728 hands: Haxton +$55,272
2,786 hands: Haxton +$3,467
2,813 hands: Sulsky +$5,577
2,851 hands: Sulsky +$30,687
3,033 hands: Haxton +$54,640
3,064 hands: Haxton +$42,741

HOURS 13-14 (Hands 3,065-3,468)

The lead changed another five times over the next two hours. Sulsky raked in $103,000 in under 140 hands, a good chunk of it coming when he flopped the nut flush and Haxton caught a running two pair in an $80,000 pot. However, Haxton got it all back just as quickly when both players flopped top pair and got it all in on the river, Haxton's K♦Q♥ outkicking Sulsky's Q♦J♦.

Haxton chipped up to a $73k lead before the pendulum swung the other way, and more than 3,300 hands after this match begun, our competitors were essentially tied. That's when Sulsky caught a rush, winning three all-ins in a row to lead by $107,673. Haxton regained a bit of ground when his pocket kings flopped a set against A♦T♠, but Sulsky was able to hold off a rapid advance, ending Hour 14 up $73,000.

3,092 hands: Haxton +$5,997
3,145 hands: Sulsky +$26,710
3,200 hands: Sulsky +$61,204
3,245 hands: Haxton +$50,381
3,315 hands: Haxton +$73,191
3,324 hands: Haxton +$34,384
3,333 hands: Sulsky +$11,560
3,356 hands: Haxton +$889
3,368 hands: Sulsky+$39,225
3,378 hands: Sulsky +$103,769
3,468 hands: Sulsky +$72,874

HOURS 15-16 (Hands 3,469-3,731):

Sulsky stayed on the attack and passed the $100k mark when his J♦J♠ flopped a set and rivered a boat just as Haxton turned a Broadway straight. He landed another haymaker less than ten minutes later, when both he and Haxton flopped a pair of aces, Sulsky's A♦J♣ winning the kicker battle against A♣5♦. Rocked on his heels and left with only $60,000 in chips, Haxton asked Sulsky if he could split his stack in half and play two tables, even though he didn't have enough left to buy in for 100 BB at each one. With permission granted from the PokerStars Overlords, Haxton bought in for $29,000 on Tables 1 and 2.

For the most part, Sulsky kept Haxton on the ropes, waiting patiently for the right moment to finish him off. But Ike still had a little run-good left in him and cut Sulsky's lead to $109,000 when he flopped fives full and Sulsky hit trips.

3,505 hands: Sulsky +$71,533
3,524 hands: Sulsky +$102,877
3,541 hands: Sulsky +$147,877
3,548 hands: Sulsky +$145,933
3,555 hands: Sulsky +$142,133
3,601 hands: Sulsky +$149,096
3,631 hands: Sulsky +$127,496
3,667 hands: Sulsky +$145,153
3,731 hands: Sulsky +$109,630

HOURS 17-19 (Hands 3,732-4,207)

Although Haxton gave him a bit of a scare around the 4,000-hand mark, from there on out it was all Sauce. Sulsky kept Haxton confined to one or two tables, but seemingly every time Ike dipped below $30,000, he found a way to squirm out of pots alive.

It seemed there was no end in sight, especially after Haxton flopped a set of jacks and turned jacks full against Sulsky's two pair, picking up a $68,000 pot. Sulsky's lead was back in five-figure territory and all it would take were another couple of all-ins to put Haxton on top again.

Sulsky dealt another blow to Haxton, calling his ace-high river bluff to win a $90k pot. Moments later, Sulsky check-raised all-in on the turn, the board reading A♥J♦3♠8♦. Haxton called with 9♦T♦ for an open-ended straight flush draw. Sulsky showed J♥8♥ for two pair and faded the river to leave Haxton on his last $18,000.

Almost 19 hours after cards went in the air, Sulsky finally closed out the match. And with these two, it was naturally a cooler, Sulsky flopping a jack-high straight while Haxton made two pair:

3,754 hands: Sulsky +$106,250
3,817 hands: Sulsky +$137,304
3,985 hands: Sulsky +$60,842
3,966 hands: Sulsky +$78,900
4,002 hands: Sulsky +$142,140
4,114 hands: Sulsky +$136,051
4,118 hands: Sulsky +$95,995
4,146 hands: Sulsky +$91,491
4,182 hands: Sulsky +$182,699
4,207 hands: Sulsky +$200,000

Kudos to Ben "Sauce123" Sulsky on earning his spot in the All-Star Showdown final. On Sunday he'll play the winner of tomorrow's today's semifinal match between Phil Galfond and Dan Cates, which kicks off about five hours from now, at 1pm ET. Sulsky is also officially in the money, guaranteed at least $250,000 for his performance. Still at stake are the title, bragging rights, and the $550,000 first-place prize. Make sure to check back with the PokerStars Blog for all the details from that semifinal. But for now, along with Ike and Ben, we're more than ready to hit the hay.

Kristin Bihr is a freelance contributor to the PokerStars Blog.

Kristin Bihr
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