If the online rail of the SuperStar Showdown was a Greek chorus, this would've been Tuesday's song: "Either you weather the storm, or you don't. That's life."
It was an axiom delivered by a railbird named skllzdatklls just before the world's poker community watched a bloody, eye-gouging brawl that saw two poker players prone and spent in the middle of the street. Weeks of careful analysis would surely follow, but for the moment both Isaac Haxton and Viktor "Isildur1" Blom looked as if they knew the truth. Neither had won. Neither had lost. And yet, both had lost, and both had won. No, it didn't make sense, but little does in the fog of war.
The storm in question actually began several days ago when Isaac "philivey2694" Haxton's Maltese home suffered the battering of a record-breaking storm. The resulting internet outage cost Haxton more than a night of watching cat videos on YouTube. When Sunday's SuperStar Showdown shut down due to Haxton's connectivity issues, he was down nearly $100,000 to Blom with fewer than 700 hands of the 2,500 match played. It was a gigantic hole in which Haxton was force to sit for 48 hours before the Showdown could resume.
There was already a history between these two. Haxton was Blom's first SuperStar Showdown opponent in 2010, and he was the only one to leave the field of battle with a profit against Blom. When they met on Sunday, it was time for Haxton to prove himself again and time for Blom to seek his revenge.
And so, when the fight resumed today, it was up to Blom to hold his massive lead. It was up to Haxton to come back. What happened?
Blom extended his lead to almost $130,000.
Haxton erased all of Blom's profit.
Haxton moved nearly $80,000 into the black.
Blom won it all back to bring the contest even again.
And in the end, Haxton eked out a $5,093 win, a number that at once represented a victory, a loss, and a tie.
Here's how it played out.
FAIR WEATHER FRIENDS
"Sorry again about the connection last time," Isaac Haxton said. Down nearly $100,000, he was still apologetic about his early exit on Sunday.
No problem, Blom said, "Hope no storm today."
Haxton came out of his chair swinging. Within a few minutes, he had recovered more than $20,000 in losses when his Q♣K♣ out-kicked Blom's K♦J♣. They got it on a king-high flop and Haxton's hand held for the $42,144 pot. The recovery didn't last long. Within seconds, Haxton got A♦J♣ all in against Blom's A♠A♥ and lost a pot worth more than $48,000.
All being fair in love and kicker battles, neither man was too worse for the wear until the following monstrosity that likely left Haxton looking for sharp objects.
Rivered and soaking wet, Haxton was down $125,122 after 1,013 hands. Forty-five minutes had passed and the niceties a friendly talk about the weather was done.
As if something awoke inside him, Haxton went to work on Blom. A series of traps and big bets saw Haxton erase $50,000 of Blom's profit in just a matter of minutes. For a moment, it looked as if all of Blom's work in the early going was not only going to be for naught, but also perhaps be his undoing. Haxton seemed to have figured something out. An hour into play, he was only down $77,000.
And then this happened.
Blom came in for a 3x raise to $600. Haxton three-bet to $2,200, and Haxton called. On a flop of Q♣4♣A♥, Haxton led for $2,640 and Blom called. The turn brought the J♥. Haxton led out again, this time for $7,100. Again, Blom only called. The 6♠ fell on the river and Haxton pushed for $18,590. Blom snap-called with J♣J♦, a turned set, and always ahead of Haxton's 5♥8♥. The pot was worth $61,060 and a huge morale bump for the young Swede.
At the halfway point in the match, Blom was up $117,845. It seemed just a matter of time before he could officially declare victory over Haxton.
BOAT ON BOARD
If this narrative needed a fulcrum to help us understand the balance between the opponents' resolve, we found it an hour and 15 minutes into the day's festivities. Blom's haymakers had hit, they had missed, and they'd been met in kind. Something had to happen to define the rest of the match. This was it.
This board got checked all the way to the river: 8♦8♣Q♠Q♦Q♥.
There was precious little in the pot when Haxton moved a $7,200 bet into the center. It was a giant over-bet in front of Blom. His response? All-in with more than enough to cover the rest of Haxton's stack.
Haxton thought for a good long while, but finally released his hand.
There was something about that moment that, perhaps, neither of the opponents will remember. But for those of us watching on the rail, it seemed to signify the moment something flipped in Haxton's head.
After that move, Blom wasn't going to screw with Haxton anymore.
Over the next hour, Haxton refused to be bluffed. He picked Blom off time and again. With a thousand hands left to play, Blom's profit was down to $49,775. All Haxton needed next was a game-changing hand.
If the Boat on Board hand defined the psychological battle between the two players, The Game Changer came in the form of pure poker, a sort-of cooler that could've gone a lot of ways, but ended up with Haxton nearly erasing Blom's lead. You can watch it as we did in the video below.
After that hand, Blom's lead was barely more than $8,000, a minuscule amount compared to his profit just an hour before. A few minutes later, Haxton flopped two pair to Blom's top pair, and just like that, Haxton had his first lead of the day. After 1,800 hands, he was up more than $40,000, a $140,000 swing in less than 1,200 hands.
Haxton continued to work on Blom through the next three hundred hands, finally hitting his high-water mark at 2,150: $78,921 profit.
THE BIG ONE
In a battle as bloody as this one had been, a a fight between two people so similarly stubborn and vicious, it all would essentially come down to this hand:
Haxton min-raised, Blom three-bet to 1,600, Haxton four-bet to $4,000, and Blom called. Blom check-called $4,000 on a 8♦7♣Q♦ flop, and $10,400 on a 7♦ turn. When the 3♠ hit on the river, Blom checked again, and Haxton moved all-in.
The effective amount was Blom's $29,000 remaining stack.
Haxton's J♦6♦ flush was no good against Blom's Q♠7♠ boat. The pot was worth $94,800 and effectively erased half of Haxton's comeback. Though he held the lead for another couple hundred hands, before long, Blom had done enough work to cut Haxton's lead to $363...less than a min-raise.
THE DENOUEMENT AND THE RAIL'S RESPONSE
There would be more hands. About eighty more, in fact, but the blood-thirsty rail was left with the understanding that nothing was going to end with satisfaction. Both men would be bloody. Both would be tired. But neither would be dead. Everyone was...say it with me...so.un.sat.is.fied.
As if to confirm the even nature of it all, one of the last hands was a huge all-in that saw Haxton turn up king-ten for a full house...and Blom turn up king-ten for a full house. It was over. It didn't matter who won, because it would be a tie.
With three hands remaining, PokerStars paused the game long enough to ensure it would go no longer than the specified 2,500 hands. When the game resumed, Blom won this giant hand, but it wasn't enough to off-set Haxton's lead. It was a three-run homerun when he needed four.
And so it was on the day after the day after the day. A storm came. A storm went. Isaac Haxton lost. Isaac Haxton won. Viktor Blom won. Viktor Blom lost. In the end, it was likely the worldwide rail that profited the most. At least we got a show out of the deal.
Now, Blom has just a few days to regroup before taking on English high-stakes standout Alexander "Kanu7" Millar. That match kicks off this coming Sunday at 12pm ET.
And, of course, now begins the call for Haxton to come back. He's still the only player besides Blom to profit on the SuperStar Showdown.
Will there be a Round 3 to give Blom another chance at the guy they call Ike?
We sure hope so.