So often in the poker world, players are judged by their overall tournament winnings, the number of WSOP bracelets they’ve won, or how many times they’ve appeared on television. Even the late great Chip Reese, perhaps the great cash game titan of all time, decided in the last few years of his life to enter more tournaments so his children could watch him play on TV. Cash game players have always had to work harder to earn the attention their tournament-grinding peers get and although Viktor “Isildur1” Blom and Daniel “w00ki3z.” Cates already play for Big Game-sized pots on a near-nightly basis, neither man has ever played a major tournament on U.S. soil, and for good reason. Both of them have yet to celebrate their 21st birthday.
Sunday’s edition of the SuperStar Showdown brought together two of online poker’s cash game elite for a four-table $50/$100 no-limit hold’em match. Blom’s challenger was a man he’s faced umpteen times on the virtual felt, heads-up NLHE and PLO specialist Dan Cates. Known to regularly play up to ten times these stakes, Cates is already a $750,000 winner in online cash games in 2011 despite taking some mid-six figure hits as recently as this weekend. And unlike his marathon match with Tony G earlier this month, Blom and Cates knocked off their 2,500 hands in just over four hours. Seriously. They didn’t even stop for a trip to the loo.
A few rule changes were implemented in time for this edition of the SuperStar Showdown. The 2,500 hands no longer need to be divided evenly between the four tables and “splitting stacks” is now permitted. For example, let’s say a player holds stacks of $60,000, $50,000 and $40,000 on three tables (representing his entire $150,000 match bankroll) but busts off the fourth. The fourth table, along with the one holding his $60,000 stack will be closed and both opponents will start again with 100 big blinds each on two new tables.
Both Blom and Cates were extremely aggressive right out of the gate. There was no tiptoeing around for this duo– they already know each other’s game well. Only eight minutes in, Blom made a preflop four-bet only to have Cates five-bet shove for his entire $10,000 stack. Blom gave up the hand as Cates demonstrated his willingness to get his chips in the middle straight away.
The first all-in took place less than five minutes later. After calling a preflop three-bet, Cates faced bets on every street, including a river shove. Although he called Blom down each time on the 3♥6♣2♦A♥2♥ board, Cates found himself in kicker trouble, his A♣Q♥ outpipped by Blom’s A♠K♣. Blom picked up another buy-in on Table 3 a short time later. Holding Q♥J♥, Cates led out for $1,200 on a 7♥5♠4♥ flop. Blom raised to $2,850, and Cates went for a semi-bluff with his flush draw and two overs, moving all-in for $14,450. Blom called and showed J♠7♠ for top pair, his hand holding up to win him another $20,000 pot. Cates attempted to regain some lost ground with another preflop five-bet shove, but this time, Blom did not surrender. His A♥K♠ flopped trips against Cates’ pocket jacks and with that $27,100 pot, Blom was up $19,550 after 30 minutes of play.
Blom’s early lead was short-lived, however as Cates stormed back over the next 200 hands. On Table 1, he picked up two back-to-back all-in pots, the first when he hit top set on a 9♥4♠2♦ flop against Blom’s pocket aces. Blom led out for $1,000 on the flop and another $2,200 when the Q♦ fell on the turn, Cates smooth-calling both times. The 3♠ on the river was an innocuous enough card for Blom to shove and Cates snap-called, raking in the $23,000 pot. On the very next deal that same $23,000 went in the middle before the flop, Cates making yet another five-bet shove. Blom called with pocket sevens, but could not catch a miracle to outrun Cates’ K♥K♦. Add to that a few more mid-sized pots and by the end of the first hour, Cates had completely reversed the situation, now leading Blom by an even $20,000 after 554 hands.
Six minutes later, Blom had won nearly all of it back. Fasten your seatbelts, kids. You might lose your lunch before this one is over.
If there is a patented “Isildur” move in no-limit hold’em, it’s the river overbet. He’ll make it with big hands, he’ll make it with complete air, and it confuses opponents to no end. Blom made the move twice during this six-minute comeback and it worked in both instances. Here, he followed up Cates’ turn check-raise with a river shove on a very wet board:
Meanwhile on Table 1, Cates and Blom once again got their stacks in the middle preflop, Blom’s pocket jacks holding up against Cates’ pocket eights. Less than a minute later, Blom picked off a river bluff when Cates missed his double-gutshot straight draw, his top pair, weak kicker good enough to earn him a $15,900 pot. With 600 hands complete, this match was dead even. But not for long.
In the largest pot of the match thus far, Cates made a crafty move preflop that enabled him to get paid off later in the hand. After Cates opened for his standard $200, Blom three-bet to $800, Cates four-bet it to $2,100 and Blom re-popped it to $3,850. Cates flatted the five-bet with A♣A♦ and they saw a 7♥4♥2♠ flop. Blom made a small continuation bet and Cates smooth-called the $2,850. The turn was the 2♥ and Blom bet another $4,650, about 40% of his remaining stack. Cates shoved for $22,350 and Blom quickly called off his last $7,100, unable to let go of his 8♣8♦. Cates’ aces earned him the $36,900 pot and he retook the overall lead, up more than $19,000 after 710 hands.
Just as Cates began pulling away, momentum swung back toward Blom. In a hand that walked the fine line between genius and lunacy, Blom picked off Cates’ three-barrel bluff with third pair to win this $24,200 pot:
At the 900-hand mark, Blom had clawed back to a $4,450 lead. Six minutes later, he was down more than $22,000. They don’t call him the “King of Swing” for nothing.
Blom already had pocket aces snapped off once already, and when he picked them up again, he couldn’t have been too disappointed to see a K♦8♥2♦ flop. Blom fired out $1,200 and Cates called. The turn was the 8♦, putting three diamonds on the board. Although he held the A♦, Blom decided to slow down and checked, leading Cates to bet $3,400. Blom called and the river blanked with the 5♣. Blom checked again, Cates shoved for $10,950, and Blom called, only to watch the $32,900 pot shipped the other direction, Cates revealing 8♣10♣ for trips.
With Cates up nearly $30,000 how long do you think it took for Blom to turn it back around? If you said seven minutes, well, drinks are on me. Another preflop all-in saw Blom’s queens hold up against Cates’ sevens, and in this $20,000 pot, Cates paid off Blom’s turned straight with top pair:
Down $9,500 at the halfway point, Cates ran over Blom in the hour that followed, leading by more than $60,000 at his high-water mark. Cates took a page from the Isildur playbook, shoving the river with a very polarized range and Blom was willing to pay him off in several spots with very light holdings. In one $22k pot, Cates opened for his typical $200 with A♠J♠, then smooth-called Blom’s $800 three-bet. Blom did Cates’ bidding for him on the J♣8♥7♥ flop and led out for $1,200. Cates called, then bet $2,800 after Blom checked the 6♠ on the turn. Blom looked him up, then checked again when the K♣ hit the river. Cates pulled the trigger and shoved for $28,250. Blom called off the $6,500 he had behind with only 8♣9♣ for third pair and Cates relieved him of another buy-in.
Just as things were getting truly ugly for Blom, he picked up a $32,000 pot in what was perhaps the cooler of the match. With the board reading 3♥6♣4♣A♥8♥ on the river, Blom moved all-in for $11,050 into the $9,800 pot and Cates called. Blom turned over K♥J♥ for the nut flush while Cates showed Q♥5♥ for the second nuts. Blom continued to hack away, gathering momentum as he got maximum value on a full house against Cates’ two pair in a $21,000 pot and three streets of value on an ace-high flush to win a $15,300 pot.
Blom had cut Cates’ lead to around $15,000 when a monsterpotten unfolded. Blom opened for $300 on the button holding Q♦J♣ and Cates three-bet to $1,300 with K♠10♠. Blom called and they saw a 10♣8♠4♣ flop. Cates led out for $1,500 with top pair and Blom called with his overcards and gutshot straight draw. The turn brought the A♠, giving Blom four more outs with a double-gutter. Cates led again, making it $4,200 to go and Blom called. The K♦ on the river was Blom’s gin card; he made Broadway while Cates improved to kings up. Cates fired out $11,500, Blom raised to $22,600, and Cates called off his last $6,250 only to see the bad news. With 505 hands remaining, Blom was back in the black to the tune of $10,450. Within four minutes, he increased that margin to $24,100.
The last hour of this match belonged to Blom and were it not for the miracle river card Cates caught in this $54,400 pot, he may have lost a lot more. The forum kids will be discussing this one for a while:
The final half-hour was marked by a flurry of all-ins, the majority of them falling Blom’s way. Cates bluffed one stack off with queen-high. Blom bluffed one of his off with ace-high. And in another hand that left observers scratching their heads, Cates check-raised the river with king-high and Blom snap-called with bottom pair to take down a $28,400 pot:
It was only fitting that a dramatic river card decided the last major pot of the match. Following Cates’ $200 opening raise, Blom three-bet to $800 and Cates made the call. Blom led out for $1,000 on the A♠10♥8♥ flop and Cates caled. The turn brought the Q♣ and Blom fired again, making it $2,200 to go. Cates raised to $4,900 and Blom called. The river was the K♦ and Blom shoved, setting Cates all-in for his remaining $6,000. Cates made the call and turned up Q♠Q♥ for a turned set, but Blom revealed J♣10♣, having rivered the nut straight.
While the last edition of the SuperStar Showdown ended in a with a flurry of chatter (most of it from Tony G), these two rivals offered each other a simple “gg” before departing the tables. Blom banked $51,196 in this match, his SuperStar Showdown record now standing at 2-1. While a loss of that magnitude is enough to leave many of us mere mortals searching for a suicide hotline, for this duo it’s just another day at the office.
Who will be the next player to step up to the plate and take a shot at Isildur1? Although Daniel Negreanu has publicly stated several times that he isn’t comforatble four-tabling, he just might be getting the itch.
KidPoker (TeamPro): good game guys
KidPoker (TeamPro): well done Isildur
KidPoker (TeamPro): email me later
KidPoker (TeamPro): I have some questions about the rules