The poker community has been enjoying a whirlwind of action in the past week, and still have more to look forward to in the coming days. In the world of live poker tonight we have the dramatic conclusion to the main event, which would usually mark the most news worth event in poker. However, the online poker realm has really stepped it up by offering us a week’s worth of rail action in the form of the All-Star Showdown on Pokerstars.
The showdown began on October 27, so if you have missed out thus far now is the time to tune it. Although the showdown is set up in a tourney format, it is more conducive to cash game players than most other tourneys. If you would like to gather some details about the showdown’s format and player pool you can visit Pokerstars’ blog, or this thread on the 2+2 forums, which is following the matches live.
Sunday’s match featured Alex “Kanu7” Millar, who has become recognized as one of the top heads up no limit players in the world over the last two years. Unfortunately, as fate would have it, he drew a first round match up against one of the only players in the field that was likely to give him a run for his money, Ike Haxton. The two battled it out on the felt for a grueling 17 hour match that eventually saw Ike go on a heater at the right time, resulting in a win for the American. We were lucky enough to catch up to Alex after the match to get his thoughts on the Showdown.
Hi Alex, thank you so much for giving us a few minutes of your time. Now, for the readers who don’t know, the idea for this Showdown promotion originally came from you. So, first of all, is the final product for this promotion similar to what you had in mind when you originally came up with the idea?
Alex: It’s pretty different from the original ideas. Basically I gave the ideas to stars and they said they might be interested in holding it later in the year and then they came back a few months later with the current format and then we discussed minor alterations like the blinds doubling after 3k hands to stop it going on forever etc. I think the format that is taking place is better than the original ideas in terms of getting enough players to play and in testing out the type of event given that it’s the first time anything like this has happened so stars have to take credit for that.
Yea, it seems like they did a good job putting the whole event together. If they decided to do something similar again in the future, is there anything you would like to see changed or done differently?
Alex: I’d have to think about that a bit more but on first impressions I’d say it may be better to have matches run over 2 days rather than have a 17 hour marathon session. That would probably make it easier for players and railers alike. Also, I think the best way to cover the event would be for someone like Vanilla Thunder to cover the matches as he has been for those who want to rail it real time and then to have a 15-30 minute highlights program of each match where someone goes through the match, talks about key hands etc. for people who want to just check up on how it went without spending hours of their time following it.
Vanilla Thunder has definitely done a great job running the live rail thread on 2+2. I think a highlight show with some commentary by someone with some heads up high stakes experience would really liven up the event, so that’s a really good idea. Now, many people would question why you would be willing to put up 100k of your own money to play against some of the top players in the world in the first place. So, what exactly was your motivation for creating, and playing in, an event with such a stacked lineup?
Alex: I just thought it’d be cool. There’s not enough competition at the top in poker. It’s kind of a weird landscape in that the best players in the world quietly get along with making millions online and then there’s a huge fuss made over loads of events where much worse players battle it out over tiny sample sizes for tournament titles. It’s kind of like if all the top tennis players played matches among themselves behind closed doors and nobody paid them any attention and then all the top tournaments were played out by a load of club level players where it’s the first to win 3 points wins the match and everyone watched that instead. It’s definitely good for poker to have those tournaments and for them to be so publicized but I thought it’d be cool to have the top players on display at least to some extent for those who are interested also.
Alex: Yea, I’ve never looked at it that way before. There really are only a small number of people who get to see the crazy online matches when compared to the huge ESPN audiences that tune into World Series events. Now, you had a tough draw in the first round. We all know Ike is very good player who deserves a lot of respect. Were you more excited about the challenge of playing him or disappointed because of the tough draw for yourself?
Alex: I was actually mainly disappointed to get drawn to play at the weekend! I was supposed to be away and had to pay £200 to get a cab back home at midnight sat night to be ready for the match on Sunday, was hoping to win the flip to get drawn in the bottom half of the draw! Any draw would have been tough but having to beat Ike then sauce to get to the final… doesn’t get any tougher than that so I guess I felt a little hard done by in terms of the draw also. I didn’t mind that too much though, I was mainly just excited to be playing the event whoever I was up against.
That really sucks. It seems like you just ran bad for the whole event. Of course, it’s never any fun getting knocked out in the first round, but to anyone railing your match with Ike, I think it was obvious just how evenly matched the two of you were and realized that variance would likely play a big part in deciding a winner over a relatively small sample of hands. This being the case, 16 hours still seems like a very long match. Were you surprised by how long the match took and were you prepared for a marathon when it began?
Alex: I think we all overestimated how many hands per hour we’d get in so I didn’t expect it to take as long as it did. Stupid as it sounds I don’t really know how many hands per hour I usually get in. I play such a mix in terms of number of tables and 6max/HU that I rarely just play a 4 table HU match for x hours in a day to see how many hands i got in per hour. I could look it up fairly easily obviously, but I haven’t so yeah I was surprised how long it took. That being said, I did expect it to take quite a while, I spoke with ike beforehand and we’d both noticed that if you start 7k hands ago in the matches between us, neither of us had gotten up or down 1000bbs from that point at any time in that 7k hands! So there was always a good chance that we’d make it to the 3k hand point where the blinds double, we just expected that to happen sooner.
17 hours does seem like a long time to get in 3k hands, but you guys were both put to some tough decisions, so I’m sure that adds to the time a lot. Now, it seemed to the rail that the match got more and more aggressive the longer it went. Do you think that was more in part due to your increasing familiarity with each other’s game or due to fatigue you each were willing to play a slightly more high-variance style?
Alex: I certainly didn’t ever plan to play more aggressively to make it high variance so that it ended quicker so I’d guess either the first one or maybe partly just variance in that we happened to get hands which naturally played more aggressively later in the match. Although I think for the last couple of hours I was really card dead so I don’t think I played very aggressively then.
That’s really unfortunate that you got card dead when the blinds doubled. It seemed like that was going to decide the match once we got an idea of just how evenly match the two of you were. Finally, there are still some great players left in the field, several of which you have some experience against. If you were a gambling man, who would your money be on to ship a format like this?
Alex: It’s hard to say for sure but I’d have bet on sauce at the start and seeing that he’s made it through round 1 I guess there’s no reason to change that. He’s got a really tough one up next in Ike though of course which I’m looking forward to watching so we’ll see.
Alright Alex, thanks again for your time and for helping put this event together. It’s been great talking to you and best of luck at the tables.