How to spice up the SuperStar Showdown even more? Just add a heaping dose of PLO and one of the year's top high-stakes cash game earners.
Chinese-born, Paris-dwelling poker pro Rui "PepperoniF" Cao has been riding a serious hot streak in the front half of 2011, but his desire to have a go at Viktor "Isildur1" Blom in the SuperStar Showdown dates back even further. Cao initially brought up the idea to Blom in the chat box while they were playing at the same cash game table in late December 2010. Although Cao would have preferred four tables of $50/$100 pot-limit Omaha to the half-NLHE, half-PLO terms they agreed upon, Cao and Blom finally booked their date on the felt last week, bringing the SuperStar Showdown back to Sundays after an eight-week hiatus.
Scheduled to duke it out for 2,500 hands, 1,250 of NLHE and 1,250 of PLO, the match came to an abrupt end when Cao busted his $150,000 challenge bankroll after 2,257 hands of play. The win vaulted Blom over the half-million mark in SuperStar Showdown earnings while improving his record to 8-2 overall. This isn't the first time Blom has busted a challenger in fewer than 2,500 hands or even the quickest-- those honors still belong to Team PokerStars Pro Daniel Negreanu, who was down $150k within 1,439 hands in his first match with Blom.
The pace and tone of this match was evident from the get-go, the first all-in pot materializing literally in the first 60 seconds of play. Blom called Cao's preflop three-bet and the two got their stacks in on the J♦9♦4♠ flop, Cao with K♥Q♥9♣4♣ (pair of nines and a gutshot to the nut straight) and Blom with J♣7♦6♣4♦ (two pair and a flush draw). The K♠ on the turn gave Cao the better two pair, but Blom hit his flush on the river when the 8♦ fell, giving him the $20,000 pot. Cao immediately countered by stacking Blom on the other PLO table. Cao three-bet shoved with A♣A♠T♠6♠ on a 9♠7♦2♥ flop and Blom made the call with K♠J♥9♥2♣, his top pair trailing Cao's overpair. Although the J♠ on the turn made him two pair, Cao binked a set on the river with the A♦ to wrest away the pot.
Blom won the first NLHE all-in, Cao four-betting his A♠Q♥ preflop and Blom getting saucy with T♦8♦. Blom hit a flush draw on the A♦J♥4♦ flop against Cao's top pair and their stacks quickly went in the middle, Cao a 3 to 2 favorite to double up. Blom being Blom, however, he found a way to get there, the 7♣ and the 9♠ falling to make him a runner-runner straight. Only a few minutes later, raising war broke out on one of the PLO tables, $15,300 apiece going in on an 8♦7♦6♠ flop. Blom's flopped nut straight held up against Cao's nut flush draw when the turn and river fell the J♥ and the K♠, giving Blom the $30,600 pot and a $41,300 lead after 303 hands.
After 431 hands, Blom had expanded his lead to $59,800, most of that coin coming from a PLO pot where he flopped a straight against Cao's set of sixes. The PLO portion of this challenge was turning into a veritable bloodbath, Blom winning seemingly every all-in confrontation. Cao flopped trips and turned the nut straight draw, Blom was lying in wait with a full house. Cao got sassy bluff-shoving the turn on a dry board and Blom made the call with top pair. And then, inside of twenty minutes, all hell broke loose, Blom nearly doubling his lead and sending Cao into a tailspin.
Cao was coolered in a NLHE pot where both players rivered a flush on a T♠8♥2♥4♠J♠ board, Blom's 5♠8♠ winning at showdown over Cao's 2♠6♠. Following that $31,800 pot, one more than twice that size brewed over on the PLO table, Blom four-betting to $2,700 preflop with K♣J♥9♣6♥ and Cao making the call with A♣Q♦T♣9♥. Cao hit the nut flush draw on the 8♣7♣5♠ flop and led out for $3,500. Blom smooth-called with his nine-high straight. When the turn came the Q♠ Cao fired again, making it $12,400 to go. Blom repotted to $49,600 and Cao called all-in for his remaining $15,250. The river blanked with the 7♦ and Blom shipped the $67,700 pot. After 956 hands, the Swede had relieved Cao of two-thirds of his challenge bankroll, up $99,650.
Blom kept raking in chips, expanding his lead to $108,000. Then $118,000. With less than $32,000 remaining, Cao was playing short-stacked on every table, finally moving the last of his chips on Table 4 (PLO) in the middle with top pair, a straight draw and a ten-high flush draw. Blom called with middle pair, a smaller straight draw and the nut flush draw, turning the club he needed to bust Cao and move out to a $122,599 lead.
Things were looking bleak for Cao, but he caught a glimmer of good fortune when he got his money in preflop on Table 2 with pocket jacks and Blom called with pocket sevens. Seconds later he doubled on Table 1 as well, Blom calling all-in on a A♣7♥4♥ flop with Q♥8♥ for a flush draw. Cao's pocket queens held and he claimed the $10,300 pot. Cao ground his challenge bankroll back up over $40,000, enabling him to play all four tables, but he busted off both PLO tables in short order, leaving himself on only $26,451 after 1,306 hands.
Play continued on the two NLHE tables; Cao doubled up twice on Table 2, first with a flush against Blom's second pair and next when he paired the board on the river to outdraw Blom's flopped fours full with sixes full. With his stack up to more than $34,000, the action paused for a short break. When action recommenced, Cao's stacks were again split and reset to $10,000 each... but not for long. Only two hands in, Blom felted Cao, first raising his $1,400 river bet to $5,800 on a J♦9♠7♠2♥T♠ board. Cao called, but mucked at the sight of Blom's A♠6♠5♣2♦ for the nut flush. On the next hand, Cao committed the last of his chips on the 4♥4♦2♦ flop holding K♠J♦8♣3♦, for a jack-high flush draw, but had hardly a shot at all in the face of Blom's trip fours and king-high flush draw with K♦Q♦4♣3♣. Blom's hand held, taking his lead up to $122,199 after 1,561 hands.
Blom tried to deal the death blow, but kept missing wildly. Over the next 100 hands, Cao ground back more than $36,000 of his losses. He quickly acquired a monster stack on Table 3 (PLO) after winning back-to-back all-ins, including a $34,300 pot where he flopped a set of tens against Blom's two pair. After 1,659 hands, Blom was up by $85,740 and after 2,063, his lead was cut to $81,649. Could Cao really turn this around?
Whatever the outcome, he'd certainly have the chance to gamble. With their earlier foray into two-tabling NLHE, they'd already crossed the 1,250-hand mark in that game. The remainder of the Showdown would play out on four PLO tables. Our boys strapped in and Blom almost immediately claimed a $23,200 pot, the money going in on a A♥Q♦4♥ flop. Cao turned up A♠Q♠T♥8♠ for top two pair while Blom was drawing to the second-nut flush with Q♥J♠5♦2♥. Blom missed his heart when the 7♦ fell on the turn but hit it with the 9♥ on the river, taking his total lead back into six-figure territory.
Soon, Cao was below $10,000 on all four tables. Although he picked up a $14k pot when he turned two pair against Blom's aces, he was felted on another table only a few seconds later:
Over the next ten minutes, Blom picked up what remained of Cao's bankroll, busting him off three of the four tables. Left with one $10,700 stack, he managed to double up when he flopped the nut flush against Blom's pocket kings. However, he couldn't hold on to that momentum for long. The final hand saw Cao open for $300, Blom three-bet to $900 and Cao make the call. Blom led out for $1,300 on the 7♠5♦2♦ flop and Cao called. The turn came the J♥ and Blom fired again, making it $2,850. Cao shoved for $11,988 and Blom called, turning over 9♠9♣5♥5♠ for the flopped set. Cao showed K♣J♠8♠7♥, his prospects dim with only two pair. The river fell the 9♥, making Blom an even bigger boat and this match was over, Blom's total haul adding up to $150,002 in 2,257 hands. The two were simple and cordial in the chat box, offering each other a quick "gg."
With half a million in the bank after 10 matches, who will be the next to take on the King of Swing? You know, ElkY's got that brand-new WSOP bracelet on one wrist, a SCOOP watch on the other, and has never been one to back away from a challenge. Nothing presumptuous here, but I'm just sayin'... that would be a helluva thing to watch.