Qualifiers Stumble on PokerStars Million Dollar Challenge


Last weekend, two online qualifiers struggled to gain momentum on the PokerStars-sponsored Million Dollar Challenge, which airs on FOX alongside the network’s coverage of the National Football League (NFL). Comedian Mark Britten was the first to take to the stage on the poker game show and faced off against Victory Poker’s Sara Jean Underwood, a former Playboy Playmate of the Year.

In the first round, show front man Daniel Negreanu sits alongside each contestant. He is unable to see their hole cards, but can offer up insight and advice throughout the match. Each challenger is allowed one timeout to talk strategy with “Kid Poker” in private and on the line is a $5,000 trip to the Bahamas for the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure.

Underwood applied pressure throughout her battle with Britten, who ultimately called all-in before the flop with 7-6 and found himself up against Q-J. Underwood flopped a queen and a 10 on the turn left Britten drawing dead to the river. Underwood won money for charity and the first contestant of last week’s Million Dollar Challenge hit the rails empty-handed.

The next challenger was Joe Sticco, a 26-year-old financial planner from the East Coast. Sticco had a thick accent and was playing to pay for his mother’s breast cancer treatments. He squared off against “Dancing with the Stars” host Brooke Burke, who in one hand bet 4,000 with the nut flush draw on an all-club flop. After consulting with Negreanu, Sticco, who held the queen of clubs, moved all-in and Burke called for her tournament life. Burke hit her nut flush on the river and doubled up.

Sticco flopped a wheel with A-5 on a flop of 4-2-3 and checked over to Burke, who bet 4,000 with K-2 for bottom pair. Sticco min-raised to 8,000 and Burke called to bring a jack on the turn. Sticco pushed all-in and Burke called drawing dead to the river. Sticco took home a $5,000 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure prize package.

In the second round of the PokerStars Million Dollar Challenge, contestants face off against sponsored pros of the world’s largest online poker site for $25,000 in cash. This time, Negreanu moves to an isolation booth, where he can communicate with qualifiers through an earpiece and see their hole cards. Each PokerStars pro can cut off that communication twice during the match by invoking the “Dome of Silence.”

Vanessa Rousso strolled out as Sticco’s opponent. In the first major hand, Sticco just called pre-flop with pocket jacks and Rousso raised to 2,800 with K-10. Sticco 3bet to 5,000 and Rousso called to bring a flop of 4-J-5. The action went check-check to a seven on the turn. Once again, both players checked and the river was an ace. Done slow playing, Sticco bet 7,000 with his set of jacks and Rousso folded her hand face up.

Then, Sticco raised to 4,000 with A-9 and Rousso moved all-in over the top with A-6. Sticco called and was way ahead, but a board of Q-K-Q-2 gave Rousso outs to a chop. The river was an ace, which split the pot much to the dismay of the amateur.

On the final hand, Rousso picked up K-4 and invoked the “Dome of Silence.” The Go Daddy Girl promptly moved all-in and Sticco called all-in with J-9 of hearts. No help came for Sticco and he was eliminated from the Million Dollar Challenge in a rough showing for the qualifiers.

The next new episode of the Poker Stars-sponsored Million Dollar Challenge will air on October 24th on FOX. Check your local listings for full details.


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