The PokerStars.net Million Dollar Challenge returned on Sunday to Fox following NFL coverage and saw Brian Barboza take down a celebrity, a poker pro, and show front man Daniel Negreanu en route to a $100,000 payday and a trip to the 2010 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure.
Before Barboza, Oluwasegun “Big Mike” Odumuyiwa, a former defensive end from Northville, Michigan, took to the stage and squared off against Super Bowl champion Jerome Bettis, who won a ring as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. In the first round, blinds began at 400-800 and each player began with 20,000 chips. Negreanu could give players advice as needed, but was unable to see anyone’s hole cards. Odumuyiwa had one time out to use at any point to seek advice.
In a key moment, Odumuyiwa called pre-flop with J-3 of spades and Bettis raised to 10,000 with pocket nines. Odumuyiwa used his time out, with Negreanu telling him to fold J-3 and come out firing in future hands. Odumuyiwa obliged and then promptly pushed on the next hand with just 6-3 before the flop. Bettis looked down at A-5, called, and the board ran out 9-8-9-K-7. Bettis took home $5,000 for charity and that was all she wrote for Odumuyiwa, who departed empty-handed.
The next contestant to take to the stage was Barboza, a 31 year-old salesman from Massachusetts. He faced former Playboy Playmate of the Year Jayde Nicole in the first round. Only three hands from the match were shown and, in the final pot, Barboza raised all-in with K-7 of clubs pre-flop and Nicole called for her stack with A-8 of hearts. The flop came 9-6-10 and the turn came a jack. Barboza needed a king, queen, or eight to hit on the river and, sure enough, a queen fell, giving the challenger a king-high straight and a $5,000 trip to the 2010 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure.
For his next trick, Barboza took on Team PokerStars Pro member Vanessa Rousso. In the second round, Negreanu could see Barboza’s hole cards and communicate with the amateur via headset. Rousso, in turn, could invoke the Dome of Silence twice, cutting off all communication between Negreanu and Barboza. To ensure a fast-paced match, each player started with 20,000 in chips and blinds began at 1,000-2,000. In the key hand of the battle, Rousso called pre-flop with A-6 and Barboza picked up Q-2. Negreanu told him to push in order to pick up the blinds and he obliged. Rousso snap-called, but the queen of spades hit on the flop. Negreanu actually called for the card to come and Barboza took a 34,000-6,000 edge in chips.
In the final hand between Rousso and Barboza, the former was all-in and dominated with 8-5 against J-8. The board ran out 6-J-9-3-K, giving Barboza $25,000. He was then faced with a decision to take the money or risk it all for a chance at $100,000. He selected the latter option and faced Negreanu heads-up.
Barboza nearly doubled Negreanu up with A-4 against A-J, but the board ran out 2-3-3-2-7, giving both players deuces and threes with an ace for a chopped pot. In the final hand, Negreanu called with 8-2 of clubs pre-flop and Barboza knocked the table with J-2. The first three cards came 8-3-J, giving Negreanu middle pair and Barboza top pair. Barboza bet 4,000, Negreanu shoved, and Barboza called, having the PokerStars pro covered. The turn and river fell a four and a king, respectively, giving Barboza $100,000 and a shot at $1 million.
The $100,000 winners will play in the show’s final episode next month for a chance to play Negreanu heads-up for $1 million.