Try to absorb the raw numbers.
It took 5,030 hands for Viktor "Isildur1" Blom to win half a million dollars cash from Isaac "philivey2694" Haxton. In total, they played for just about 12 hours over three days. Blom earned more than $40,000 an hour for his work. Blom is 21 years old.
It's a ridiculous conceit by almost any normal person's standard. Forty thousand dollars an hour is the kind of pay CEOs make. It takes well-educated people with great jobs years upon years to earn that much, let alone save enough of it to see $500,000 in the bank.
Viktor Blom picked that much money up over a long weekend.
If you're just tuning in, this did not happen in a vacuum. Blom's quick path to half a million bucks came by way of the PokerStars SuperStar Showdown promotion, a series of heads-up poker matches in which anyone with the cash can challenge Blom to a four-table game. Most of the SuperStar Showdowns last only 2,500 hands and had a $150,000 stop loss.
This match, however, was different. Haxton was Blom's SuperStar Showdown nemesis. They had played two matches before, and Haxton had profited both times. The grudge was growing deeper with each meeting. So, last week, the two players negotiated special rules. The game would be played over four tables of $200/$400 No-Limit Hold'em. Both players would put up $500,000. They would play every day for four hours a day until one of the two heads-up titans had a million bucks and the other one had nothing.
On the third day, Blom won it all.
"It feels good. It was a tough game," Blom said afterward. "Haxton played good as usual. Maybe he played a bit too passive."
No layman--and maybe nobody else in the world--could analyze this game without making a fool of himself. To do so would be like picking up a river rock and using it to explain the cosmos. Only Blom and Haxton know what really happened inside those five thousand hands, and only they know the true significance of the match. We can only look at what happened at the end and try to make our heads understand it.
THIRD VERSE, SAME AS THE FIRST
Viktor Blom opened Day 3 of the $1 million match with a $281,365 lead. He was more than halfway to his goal of $500,000. On the very first hand, he cut another $40,000 from Haxton's stack. The video below shows it happen.
Thirty minutes later, Blom tore another $40,000 from Haxton's grasp. Blom raised the blinds to $1,200, Haxton three-bet to 4,200, and Blom called. On a [2h][7c][Kd] flop, Haxton check-called a $4,800 bet. The turn brought the [Ks]. Again, Haxton check-called the bet, this time $9,600. The river, [4d], was another check-call, now for $22,200. Haxton held a pair of nines, but Blom actually had it. He tabled [Kh][Jc] for the $81,600 win.
That was the story of the hour. After 60 minutes of play, Blom had stretched his lead out to $370,720.
THE DEFINING HANDS
There will be countless analyses of this match. The railbirds and other experts will try to define what happened to the exceptionally-talented Haxton. There will be defenses and counter-defenses. There will be a thousand different explanations for how today turned out as it did. Many of those experts will point to two hands as the ones that undid the man they call Ike.
The first was an exceptionally chilly cooler. Haxton min-raised the button, Blom made it $3,200, and Haxton called. On a flop of [2s][Qs][Kd], Blom check-called $3,000. The turn brought the [9d]. Blom checked, Haxton bet $6,000, and Blom simply shoved in enough to cover the rest of Haxton's chips. Haxton snap-called with [9h][Ks] and got the chill of his life when he saw Blom's [9s][9c]. Haxton couldn't find a two-outer on the river and dropped the $48,768 pot to Blom. It wasn't the biggest pot of the day, but it might have been the most demoralizing at the time, as it meant one of the four tables had to be closed down. Why? Because Haxton didn't have enough money to continue on all four.
Haxton, however, did not give up. He made several big hands and managed to build his stack back over $120,000. Queens full versus a flush. Flush over flush. A well-timed trap with two pair. It seemed for half an hour that Haxton was on his way to mounting a massive comeback.
And then came the big one.
Haxton had aces. That much you should know as you watch the video below play out.
That pot was worth $106,000. Blom was up nearly $425,000. Haxton's $500,000 had been reduced to $75,000. It wasn't only demoralizing. It also meant another table had to close down. Fifteen minutes later, Blom took out Haxton's third table. It looked as if everything was going to be over just two hours into the day. With just one table remaining, Haxton's stack seemed to evaporate. Within a few minutes, he was down to $16,000.
It was over.
Except, it wasn't.
No one will ever call Isaac Haxton a quitter. Even when he had less than 2% of the money in the match, he didn't give up. He took his last $22,352 and put it in the middle with king-jack versus Blom's pocket queens. A king spiked, and Haxton went on a tear that made more than a few Blom fans scream "Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh!" on the rail.
He trapped Blom with two pair. He got big value with the nut straight versus Blom's second nuts. By the beginning of the fourth hour, Haxton had turned his $16,000 stack into $160,000. It was a comeback that drew cheers and jeers across the rails. The closed tables were opening back up, and Haxton was back in business.
Indeed, Isaac Haxton was back.
The problem with playing against the over-betting, hyper-aggressive King of Swing Viktor Blom is that sometimes he has a real hand. A real big hand.
And so it was that, after his big comeback, Isaac Haxton slipped, flipped, and flopped.
THE SLIP, THE FLIP, AND THE FLOP
The slip began with a min-raise from Haxton, a three-bet by Blom, and call from Haxton. On a flop of [5d][6c][4h], Blom bet $4,000, and Haxton shoved for more than $22,072. Blom snapped him off with pocket aces. Haxton had [8d][Ah], missed his four-outer, and lost the $50,544 pot.
Minutes later, Haxton flipped. He put $37,056 in the middle pre-flop with [Qh][Ac] and found himself flipping against Blom's pocket fours. A pair of tens on the flop helped Haxton's case, but he whiffed. The comeback was over.
All that was left was the long, painful death rattle to the end. Haxton managed to hold on for a while, and even double up a couple of times, but he never had a workable stack again. Finally, just a few minutes before the day was scheduled to end, Blom put Haxton down.
There will be those who say this proves Blom is the best heads-up player in the world. There will be others who say that it's just another step down the long road of Blom's career. It's impossible to say who is right.
Haxton didn't respond immediately to a request for comment, but Blom said even he doesn't know what the match signifies about his talent versus Haxton.
"I just try play my best game," Blom said.
Today that was worth half a million bucks.