All-Star Showdown: Ben "Sauce123" Sulsky leads wire-to-wire, tops Tobias "KTPOKP" Kuder in first quarterfinal

ps_news_thn.jpgAttention high-stakes railbirds! The All-Star Showdown is here! The first of four quarterfinal matches has ended, with Benjamin "Sauce123" Sulsky beating Tobias "KTPOKP" Kuder in just under six hours to secure a spot in the semifinals.

The format for the All-Star Showdown is a variation on the SuperStar Showdowns of old, with the matches requiring players to play four heads-up cash sessions simultaneously. However, unlike in the SuperStar Showdowns where the matches would end after 2,500 hands even if a player hadn't busted, each All-Star Showdown match will continue until one player has won every last chip from his opponent.

The game is no-limit hold'em, with blinds of $50/$100. Each player is bringing $100,000 of his own money to the match (i.e., 1,000 big blinds). If the pair manage to get through 3,000 hands without one busting, the blinds will be increased to $100/$200 to accelerate the process.

Eight players, including new Team PokerStars Online member Isaac "IkeHaxton" Haxton -- are participating in this first All-Star Showdown. A draw determined the brackets for the single-elimination tournament. Here's the full schedule:

Quarterfinals
27 October: Tobias "KTPOKP" Kuder vs. Ben "Sauce123" Sulsky
28 October: Alex "Kanu7" Millar vs. Isaac "IkeHaxton" Haxton
30 October: Alexander "Sussie Smith" Roumeliotis vs. Dan "w00ki3z." Cates
31 October: Phil "mrsweets28" Galfond vs. Ben "ben86" Tollerene

Semifinals
2 November: Semifinal 1 (27 October winner vs. 28 October winner)
3 November: Semifinal 2 (30 October winner vs. 31 October winner)

Final
4 November: The All-Star Showdown final

Saturday's first quarterfinal match pitted the SuperNova Tobias "KTPOKP" Kuder of Austria against Ben "Sauce123" Sulsky playing from Canada. Like everyone else in the All-Star Showdown, both can be regularly found at the high-stakes tables at PokerStars, with Sulsky having additional renown for having some huge online tourney scores under his belt. Most notably, last May Sulsky took down SCOOP #37-H, the $21,000 buy-in heads-up NLHE event, an eyebrow-raising resume-builder for the All-Star Showdown.

Kuder and Sulsky took seats at the four "All-Star Showdown" tables just before 18:00 CET, and exchanged some friendly chat regarding previous heads-up encounters they'd had.

KTPOKP: gl gl
Sauce123: gl, hf
KTPOKP: u2
Sauce123: tx
Sauce123: hopefully our previous matches arent indicative of today :P
KTPOKP: i hope so :)

Soon play was underway!

Hour 1 (Hands 1-310)

Players started with stacks of $10,000 (100 big blinds) at each table, automatically topping off back up to $10K if they dipped below. Resetting of stacks would occur as well to ensure players would have at least $10K with which to play, until of course one began to run too low with his reserve funds to do so.

The pair traded small pots during the early going, with Sauce123 pushing to a $4,406 profit over the first 52 hands to grab an early advantage.

The lead quickly moved back to KTPOKP, however, in a hand on Table 1. In that one the flop brought Sulsky top pair of nines and Kuder the nut flush draw. The flush never came, but an ace on the river gave KTPOKP the better pair, so when Sulsky shoved the river Kuder called to win a $20,000 pot. Take a look:


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Moments later, Sulsky rebought and doubled up himself at the same table in a hand in which both players flopped trip fives, but the turn gave Sauce123 a full house. Advantage back to Sulsky.

Kuder recovered, edging in front on each of the the other three tables, and after 103 hands Sauce123's lead was just $1,323.

Over the next 50 hands or so -- played at a clip of about five hands per minute -- the lead remained about the same. Sauce123 then swiftly grabbed a series of medium-sized pots to widen his lead to about $20,000, but KTPOKP was able to carve back some in a preflop all-in in which Sulsky held J♦J♥ and Kuder A♣K♣. An ace flopped, KTPOKP's hand held, and after 202 hands Sulsky led by $12,329.

KTPOKP grabbed a few more chips back over the next 100 hands, gradually closing the gap back under $6,000. When the match reached the one-hour mark the pair took their first five-minute break, and with 310 hands in the books, Sulsky still led by $5,724.

52 hands: Sauce123 +$4,406
103 hands: Sauce123 +$1,323
156 hands: Sauce123 +$658
202 hands: Sauce123 +$12,329
250 hands: Sauce123 +$8,179
310 hands: Sauce123 +$5,724

Hour 2 (Hands 311-605)

The first 10 minutes of the second hour went very well for Sulsky, highlighted by a $13,200 pot won in a hand on Table 4 in which Sauce123 held A♦K♥, flopped a king, and managed to collect a couple of post-flop streets' worth of value. That one helped push Sulsky's lead up around $25,000.

Kuder soon got those chips back and a few more, however, in a hand at the same table in which KTPOKP got it all in on the turn with the board showing 9♥2♥J♠3♥. Kuder held J♥5♥ for a flush while Sulsky had 2♣2♠ for bottom set, and when the river brought a harmless king, KTPOKP had earned a $20,510 pot.


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Undeterred, Sulsky kept pushing and grabbing small and medium pots, and by the time they crossed the 400-hand mark he had once again pushed his profit up close to $20,000.

The aggression from both players began to increase, with more four-bets before the flop and several back-and-forth battles over pots after. Sulsky continued to add to his stacks, leading significantly on three of four tables while Kuder had a small edge on Table 4.

In a hand on Table 3, they'd reach the river with the pot $3,400 and the board showing 2♣K♠7♣5♦Q♦. KTPOKP took a $2,500 stab at the pot, but Sauce123 raised all in, forcing a tank and fold from his opponent. The lead had moved up over $30K.

Sulsky then won a huge $24K-plus pot in which he called a Kuder river shove with the board showing J♠9♥4♣K♥4♠. KTPOKP had A♦T♥ for ace-high and had hoped to earn a fold, but he'd run into Sulsky's Q♦T♦ -- a king-high straight.


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They crossed the 500-hand mark, with Sauce123's lead having moved up around $45K. Thanks to the topping off, the total amount of money spread across the four tables was up over $150,000, with nearly two-thirds of that sitting in Sulsky's stacks.

The second hour soon came to a close, with Sauce123 still comfortably in front.

352 hands: Sauce123 +$15,420
401 hands: Sauce123 +$19,488
452 hands: Sauce123 +$30,123
480 hands: Sauce123 +$40,182
499 hands: Sauce123 +$45,254
507 hands: Sauce123 +$41,999
555 hands: Sauce123 +$37,370
605 hands: Sauce123 +$40,092

Hour 3 (Hands 606-890)

The third hour began with Sulsky continuing to press his advantage, pushing his lead up over $50,000 at one point.

There was a lot of action on Table 3 to start Hour #3. First Sulsky won an $18K-plus pot after turning trip fours versus Kuder's top pair of kings. Then Sulsky gave those chips back in a couple of $10K pots when Kuder flopped two pair in one, then in another was dealt pocket queens and saw his hand hold up.

Kuder then earned a nearly $20K pot on Table 1 in a hand in which he three-bet from the small blind preflop, Sulsky called, and the flop came 2♦3♥6♣. Both checked, then after the 7♣ turn KTPOKP bet $1,400 and Sauce123 called.

The river brought the 3♠ and a bet of $1,500 by Kuder into the $4,400 pot. Sulsky raised to $7,500 and Kuder called. KTPOKP showed J♥J♠ for jacks and treys, which was good versus Sulsky's K♦2♣.


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After that hand, KTPOKP actually led on two of the four tables, but Sauce123 maintained a better than $30K advantage overall.

Table 3 was the site of still more action, with a huge hand in which the board brought three tens and an ace and big betting on the river to put KTPOKP all in. Sauce123 held an ace for tens full, but KTPOKP had the case ten in his hand for quads. Take a look:


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"Nh," typed Sauce123 afterwards, adding "should fold river u have quads."

The lead was suddenly back down under $20K. The gap would tighten even more after another nearly $25K pot went KTPOKP's way on Table 1 in a hand in which both players flopped two pair, but Kuder's were better.

They were nearing the end of the third hour when what would ultimately prove the biggest pot of the entire day arose, once more on Table 3 where the effective stacks had risen to more than 240 big blinds.

After an opening raise by Sauce123 to $200 from the button, KTPOKP reraised to $800 and Sauce123 called. The flop came J♦K♦4♠ and KTPOKP check-called a bet of $1,200 from Sauce123. The turn was the 5♣ and once again Kuder checked. Sulsky bet $3,200 this time, and Kuder called.

The river was the 2♦. Kuder checked once more, and this time Sulsky pushed out a big bet of $14,400 and Kuder called. Sauce123 showed 9♦7♦ for a diamond flush, and KTPOKP mucked as the $39,200 pot slid Sulsky's way.


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Not long after that one, KTPOKP managed a quick double-up on the same table after flopping a set of fives, and the pair soon reached the three-hour break.

670 hands: Sauce123 +$30,267
704 hands: Sauce123 +$33,271
729 hands: Sauce123 +$18,984
771 hands: Sauce123 +$16,341
800 hands: Sauce123 +$18,241
838 hands: Sauce123 +$32,246
890 hands: Sauce123 +$22,341

Hour 4 (Hands 891-1,159)

Another five-minute break passed, and the pair were soon back at it.


allstarshowdown-sauce123vKTPOKP.jpg


Sulsky started the fourth hour on the right foot, swiftly snaring a $22,200 pot on Table 1 after turning a flush to nudge his lead back over $30K. A rush of pots then went Sauce123's way on Table 2, and as they crossed the 1,000-hand mark Sulsky's lead had ballooned back up over $50,000.

Still more went Sulsky's way in a hand that saw KTPOKP three-bet preflop, then check-call all three post-flop streets as the board came Q♠K♣J♦6♠2♣. KTPOKP showed A♠A♥, but Sauce123 had flopped a straight with T♠9♠ and claimed another $20K-plus pot.


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Gradually KTPOKP's overall total fell down close $40,000, and play was halted on Table 3 in order to ensure Kuder could keep battling with at least $10,000 on each of the other three tables.

An all-in preflop situation soon arose on Table 2 in which KTPOKP picked up A♥K♦ but unfortunately for him Sauce123 had been dealt A♦A♠. Five cards later, Sulsky had added still more to his stack.


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With Kuder down to around $30,000, Table 2 was thus halted, and soon the fourth hour concluded with play continuing on two of the four tables.

941 hands: Sauce123 +$29,791
993 hands: Sauce123 +$52,860
1,016 hands: Sauce123 +$51,160
1,072 hands: Sauce123 +$54,860
1,108 hands: Sauce123 +$55,735
1,126 hands: Sauce123 +$63,435
1,133 hands: Sauce123 +$73,535
1,159 hands: Sauce123 +$68,785

Hour 5 (Hands 1,160-1,354)

The fifth hour began with KTPOKP chipping up enough to reopen a third table.

A preflop all-in soon followed on Table 4 with KTPOKP holding Q♦Q♠ against Sauce123's T♥T♠. A queen flopped, KTPOKP's hand held, and Kuder earned a timely boost to his comeback efforts.

That hand pushed Kuder back up over $40,000 total, and the fourth table was opened again.
KTPOKP's good fortune swiftly hit a wall, however, after running A♣K♠ into Sauce123's K♥K♦ and losing all of his stack on Table 2. The flop brought the case king but also a gutshot to Broadway for Kuder. However, the turn and river bricked out and a $24K-plus pot went to Sulsky.


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Sauce123 would soon grab eight straight small pots on Table 3 to force KTPOKP from his seat there, and they were back down to two tables.

Soon all-in river push by Sauce123 on a K♦A♣6♠6♥9♥ board on Table 1 was called by KTPOKP. The latter showed A♦4♥ for aces and sixes, but Sulsky had A♠A♥ for a full house and another $20K pot. That table closed, and they were down to just one.

Kuder had less than $10K, and Sulsky took to the chat box to see if his opponent might be ready to gamble the rest away.

Sauce123: want to flip ?
Sauce123: one table boring
KTPOKP: no..why should i do this?
Sauce123: fine, ill just play bad instead

Kuder battled gamely, earning a double-up in a hand in which both players flopped top pair of queens, but Kuder had the better kicker.

Sulsky continued to talk about flipping, noting that a big pot-limit Omaha game was running. "you can fold every hand and play plo instead," answered KTPOKP. "i don't care."

Play continued, with Sulsky in fact joining a couple of $200/$400 PLO tables as it did. In one hand, Sulsky put in a four-bet preflop, and after a long pause Kuder shoved all in, forcing a quick fold from Sauce123. But KTPOKP mostly kept out of harm's way while preserving his remaining chips.

Slowly but surely, Sauce123 edged to an advantage on the lone remaining table as the next hourly break arrived.

1,201 hands: Sauce123 +$57,635
1,237 hands: Sauce123 +$73,485
1,264 hands: Sauce123 +$91,585
1,273 hands: Sauce123 +$82,570
1,345 hands: Sauce123 +$86,389
1,354 hands: Sauce123 +$87,689


Hour 6 (Hands 1,355-1,457)

Play resumed, and soon KTPOKP was back down close to $11,000.

They reached the river in a hand in which the Kuder three-bet before the flop, then led with bets on the flop and turn as the board came 3♠Q♣9♦2♦. The river brought the 6♣ and a shove from Kuder, and after thinking a bit Sulsky let his hand go.

Another hand arose in which Sulsky raised Kuder's river bet with the board showing J♣J♥A♦7♣2♥ and after some thought Kuder called. Sauce123 showed 7♠2♣ (jacks and sevens) while KTPOKP turned over J♦T♠ for trip jacks.

Alluding to Sulsky's PLO game -- and perhaps their hand strengths in that just concluded hand -- Kuder started typing:

KTPOKP: this is not omaha
Sauce123: nh
KPTOKP: we are playing holdem here
Sauce123: oh ****
KTPOKP: just for your notice

Kuder had built a stack up close to $20,000, meaning despite being down in the match he had an edge at the table as Sulsky had but about half that amount in play.

At about the five-and-a-half-hour mark, a relatively big hand finally developed that swung the advantage back to Sauce123.

Following a preflop three-bet by Sulsky, the flop came monotone -- K♠3♠T♠ -- and Sulsky check-raised a bet from Kuder. The turn brought the T♣ and a $3,000 bet from Sauce123, called by KTPOKP. The river was the 9♣, and after hesitating a moment, Sulsky shoved, and KTPOKP let it go.


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Sulsky kept leaning on Kuder, and before long had the Austrian down under $5,000. But Kuder would double that in a hand in which both players flopped flushes, but KTPOKP's ace-high flush beat the jack-high one of Sauce123.

They were just a minute or so shy of the the six-hour mark when the end finally arrived on the 1,457th hand of the match.

Sauce123 started it with a raise to $200 from the button, with KTPOKP coming back with a three-bet to $700 which Sulsky called. The flop came K♦2♠Q♦. KTPOKP bet $800, and Sauce123 called. The turn then brought the 7♠ and action. KTPOKP initially checked, and when Sauce123 fired $2,000, Kuder check-raised all in for $7,972 and Sulsky quickly called.

Sauce123: K♣6♣
KTPOKP: K♠J♠

Kings for both, with Kuder enjoying the better kicker (plus a flush draw). But the river brought the 6♥, delivering a second pair to Sulsky along with the last of his opponent's money.


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1,427 hands: Sauce123 +$88,278
1,457 hands: Sauce123 +$100,000

Congratulations to Ben "Sauce123" Sulsky for winning the first of four quarterfinal matches in the first ever All-Star Showdown, essentially leading from start-to-finish! Sulsky will play the winner of tomorrow's match between Alex "Kanu7" Millar vs Team PokerStars Online member Isaac "IkeHaxton" Haxton.

We'll be back tomorrow here at the PokerStars blog for coverage of that match. We'll also have reports for all of the other remaining matches in the All-Star Showdown, too, so stay tuned!

Martin Harris is a Freelance Contributor to the PokerStars Blog.

Martin Harris
@hardboiledpoker in All Star Showdown