Alex Millar is not a household name. He doesn't travel the tournament circuit, preferring a quieter life in his native England. Unlike many of his fellow online pros, Millar is neither a social media maven nor a self-promoter. He's given only one interview we know of, and it happened to be about today's undertaking, a $100/200 NLHE SuperStar Showdown match with Viktor "Isildur1" Blom.
Although he has thus far avoided the limelight, Millar is hardly one to shy away from a challenge. Over the last year, the man best known as Kanu7 has been stealthily working his way up to the nosebleed stakes, solidifying his position as one of the most feared heads-up NLHE specialists in the game. On a daily basis he'll sit down with players that leave even hardened regulars shaking in their sneakers, screen names like Sauce123, takechip and RaiseOnce. Challenging Blom makes for an auspicious and very public debut for any player, but these two have met on the felt before. In high-stakes NLHE cash games on PokerStars, Blom has won about $160,000 from Millar. However, aside from last week's Showdown match with Isaac "philivey2694" Haxton, Blom has preferred to grind PLO as of late. Nonetheless, Blom maintains a fearsome 10-3 record in Showdown matches with net earnings closing in on $650,000.
Blom and Millar's 2,500 hands of $100/$200 NLHE were fraught with steep swings that saw Blom lay claim to almost half of Millar's $300,000 challenge bankroll. Although the match ended with Blom $37,687 in the black, in many ways it still felt like a victory for Millar, who dug in and nearly pulled himself out of a $148,000 hole in the last hour of play.
BLOM BREAKS AWAY
There was no easing-in phase to this match; the first hand dealt on Showdown 3 was an all-in pot and three more followed in the first 11 minutes, Millar and Blom splitting them 2-2. Millar's first mis-step came when he was dealt J♦T♣ on the button and opened for a min-raise to $400. Blom three-bet to $1,600 with Q♠6♠ and Millar came along. Blom hit top pair on the Q♥8♥4♦ but played it slow, check-calling $2,000 from Millar. The turn brought the 7♣ and Blom checked again. Millar fired another $5,200 and Blom called. Blom checked a third time when the K♠ fell on the river. Millar shoved for $16,025 believing he could move Blom off his hand, but the Swede looked him up and took down the $49,650 pot.
A few minutes passed before Millar check-raise shoved his king-high flush draw on a 6♥4♦3♦2♥ board and Blom called with pocket fives. However, the A♠ missed Millar's K♦7♦ on the river and he dropped another buy-in. After 164 hands, Blom was already out to a formidable $68,400 lead.
KANU CLAWS BACK
Millar stopped the bleeding after hitting a couple of heaven-sent river cards. All-in on a 4♣9♦J♠Q♠ board, both players turned over king-ten for a king-high straight. However, Blom's was in diamonds and Millar's in spades. A freerolling Millar hit the 4♠ on the river to make a flush and take down the $42,000 pot. Then, on a 9♠7♣J♠T♠Q♠ board, Blom shoved with 6♠8♠ for the queen-high straight flush, only to have Millar take down the $55,600 pot with K♠4♠... the king-high straight flush.
Millar steadily hacked away at Blom's lead-- getting value on pocket queens and outkicking top pair-- but it was another fortuitous river card that sent him back into the black:
Seconds later on another table, Millar flopped top pair and turned top two, good for two streets of value and an $18,400 pot. With 504 hands in the books, Millar had erased Blom's gains and edged out to a $4,425 lead, but he'd hold onto it for only ten minutes before another river card changed the course of this match.
LIVE BY THE RIVER, DIE BY THE RIVER
The hand started out innocuously enough, Blom opening for a 3x raise with 4♦9♦. Millar called with K♠6♣. There was no way for Millar to know just how hard Blom hit the 9♣9♠4♠ flop, and figuring his king high was good here a lot of the time, Millar check-called Blom's $1,000 continuation bet. When the 8♠ on the turn gave Millar the second-nut flush draw, he check-raised Blom's $2,800 bet to $9,200 and Blom smooth-called. The river Q♠ was perhaps the worst card in the deck for Millar, making his flush and leading him to bet $14,500. Blom shoved for $27,295 and Millar called, Blom taking down the $77,450 pot with nines full of fours. The pot put Blom back in the lead by $33,700, and he widened that margin to $60,800 by hand 902.
Over the course of the next 150 hands, Millar chipped away at Blom's stacks, reducing his lead by half. It was Kanu's turn for a monsterpotten of his own, flopping the nut straight against Blom's top two pair in this $71,800 hand:
With 1,100 hands complete, Millar was back in the lead by $13,650 and he more than doubled that margin after flopping trip fives with Q♦5♦ for a $36,800 pot. Blom bounced back within the next hundred hands, but Millar made a risky call with K♠K♣ on a A♥2♥8♠7♠ board when Blom shoved for $16,500. Blom turned over 5♠6♠ for the open-ended straight flush draw, but missed the river, the T♣ falling to send the $41,400 pot to Millar. A few small pots later, Millar held a $62,350 lead over Blom. But once again, he wouldn't hang on to it for long.
Like a wounded animal, Blom reared and charged, completely erasing Kanu's profit over the next 150 hands. Picking up pocket aces certainly helped his cause. In a pot that was five-bet preflop to $10,600, Blom shoved for $31,925 on the Q♣6♣8♦ flop and Millar called with 4♣7♣ for straight and flush draws. Millar blanked on the turn and river, Blom raking in the $85,000 pot.
Millar barely had time to recover from that hand when the match's first (and only) six-figure pot developed. Blom opened for a 3x raise to 600 holding K♦4♦, Millar three-bet to $2,600 with 6♣7♣ and Blom called. The flop fell A♦J♥4♣, bottom pair for Blom and absolutely nothing for Millar, who led out for $4,000. Blom called. The turn brought the 5♠, giving Millar an open-ended straight draw and enough of a reason to bet out $11,500. Again, Blom called. The 9♦ on the river missed Millar, but he nevertheless shoved for his remaining $32,350. Somehow, via psychic powers or ancient Scandi magic, Blom found a call and shipped the $100,900 pot with bottom pair.
"Haha he's back," quipped Millar in the chat box, before offering a "nh."
With that pot, Blom was $59,275 in the black after 1,625 hands. That lead grew to $91,000 by Hand #1,700 and reached $133,175 by Hand #1,783. Millar took a five-minute break to regroup and it turned out to be a good move, as he picked up this $94,750 monstrosity by flopping two pair against Blom's top pair:
Although that temporarily trimmed Blom's lead, he quickly rebounded and then some, reaching his high-water mark of $148,275 in profit after 2,066 hands. Millar had already been forced to split his largest stack and nearly everything that remained of his $300,000 challenge bankroll was spread across these four tables. With 434 hands to go, Millar was probably not thinking about victory so much as how to get unstuck. But as we know all too well in this game, everything can turn on a dime.
Millar's recovery got off to the right start when he picked up Q♥Q♦. Following a 3x raise from Blom, Millar three-bet to $2,600 and Blom called with T♣9♥. The 8♦6♠2♦ gave our Swedish friend nothing more than an open-ended straight draw to go with his unimproved overcards, but he still found a call for Millar's $4,000 lead bet. The turn came the 5♠ and Millar relinquished control of the pot, checking over to Blom who fired $8,400. Millar called. When the 2♥ fell on the river, Millar checked again and Blom shoved for $32,825 effective. Millar didn't waste too much time before calling, his overpair good for the $95,650 pot.
It was just the confidence booster Millar needed. He picked off a river bluff from Blom with top pair. Moments later, he shoved the river on a A♠Q♥5♥9♣2♠ board and Blom went for a hero call with only a pair of fives. Millar turned over A♥6♥ and snagged the $40k pot. On the very next deal of the cards, Millar raked in another $40k pot when his K♣Q♠ turned trips against Blom's pocket jacks. Blom pulled out all the stops with second pair on a A♦9♦6♠4♠3♦ board, overbet-shoving for $33,000 effective into an $18,800 pot. Unfortunately for him, Millar rivered aces up and took down $85,600. Within twenty minutes and 192 hands, Millar had cut Blom's lead from $148,000 to $51,650. And there were still 242 to go.
ALL HAIL THE VIKTOR
Blom inched his profits up to $70k when he fired three bullets with an open-ended straight draw and got there on the river. Millar, however, got in one last jab on the river in this hand, where he hit trip nines against Blom's top pair for $28,000:
When the final river was dealt, Blom's profit for the match stood at $37,687-- just short of two buy-ins. Undeterred, Millar gave railbirds a treat before signing off, letting them know he was open to a rematch.
Blom may have earned the "W" in this meeting, but tonight, Millar proved himself as a force to be reckoned with and an exciting player to watch. Hopefully the wait won't be too long before their next battle. But for tonight, Millar should relax with a pint and a football game, knowing he can hang with the best in the world.