In a $100,000 buy-in tournament, there are few people who have anything to prove. When the PCA Super High Roller tournament kicked off yesterday, the field had a combined live earnings of more than $100 million. These are not men who need another tournament victory to mark their worth in the poker community.
Yet, among the final table players who earned their seats today, there isn’t one among them who hopes for anything less than the first place trophy. What’s more, a couple of them have recent runner-up finishes that they’d sooner have lower down on their resumes. That is to say, they have no monkeys on their back. They have no chips on their shoulder. They simply have an aching familiarity with winning that makes losing seem so foreign and distasteful.
And so, with 2011 PCA main event champion Galen Hall at the top of the heap of superstar high rollers tonight, the final eight are ready to come back tomorrow for a final table battle to the winner.
We expected a fast day today, and we got it. Under the television lights, it took just six hours to eliminate the requisite ten players. Now eight remain. Of those men, only five will walk out with cash for their efforts. Here’s a bit more about them (in the order of their starting stacks for the final table):
Galen Hall (1,748,000)–Hall, who has proven himself to be a great sprinter here at the 2012 PCA, is still basking in the glow of his 2011 PCA main event championship. What’s more, he turned one-time chip leader Isaac Haxton to dust in just a few hours. A friendly, young, smart multi-millionaire, Hall seems unfazed by his recent entry into poker’s elite. Now he’s got the chip lead and a head of steam.
Jonathan Duhamel (1,336,000)–After a 2010 in which he won the WSOP Main Event, Duhamel probably knew 2011 wouldn’t be as good. He just didn’t know how bad it would end. As most people know, Duhamel was recently the victim of a home invasion during which he had tens of thousands of dollars, a Rolex, and his Main Event bracelet stolen. What’s more, he was the first person in this year’s High Roller to be eliminated. Thanks to PokerStars allowing re-entry, Duhamel bought in again. A min-cash tomorrow would earn him $50,000 for three days work. A championship? That might just make up for a bad few weeks.
Daniel Negreanu (1,230,000)–The Team PokerStars Pro has some history with this event. It was only one year ago he made his way all the way to a heads-up battle with Eugene Katchalov, only to finish runner-up. As we wrote earlier today, that moment briefly launched Negreanu to the top of the all-time money winners list. Saturday, Negreanu will work to finish one spot higher than he did in 2011.
Viktor Blom (1,228,000)–Isildur1 may not have any big tournament cashes to his name, but his online cash play puts him among the elite. After his coming out party here at the 2011 PCA, Blom spent the year playing SuperStar Showdowns, crushing big time cash games, and working to improve his tournament game. A major finish here could be proof that he spent the past 12 months well.
Dan Shak (1,199,000)–Though Dan Shak’s last major cash was a runner-up finish at NAPT Mohegan Sun last year, he has experience in winning super-high buy-in events. In 2010 Shak won the Aussie Millions $100,000 buy-in event for $1.1 million. He’s been on the low end of the chip counts for most of the day, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t mount an effort tomorrow to put up his second $100,000 event championship.
Scott Seiver (556,000)–With a final table at the $50,000 Players Championship at last year’s WSOP and a $1.6 million WPT title in 2011, Seiver is coming off a career year. In the prior 12 months, he put up nearly $2 million in winnings. A win tomorrow would make 2012 his second-best career year with 51 weeks remaining to work on making it his best ever.
Mike McDonald (360,000)–Since he was a teenager, Mike McDonald has been winning big events and wowing his peers. It happened as recently as last month when McDonald finished second at an EPT Prague side event for $150,896. If he managed to win tomorrow, it would be his second-biggest career finish after his $1.3 million EPT Dortmund win.
Humberto Brenes (343,000)–Though known widely as The Shark, Humberto Brenes doesn’t play the part of a whale very often. Nevertheless, this is his second straight year in the Super High Roller. Last year, Brenes took fifth in this event. It was good for $200,000. He’ll be looking to improve on that on Saturday in his second straight Super High Roller final table.
Of course, to get to this point tonight, we were forced to say goodbye to several other heavyweights, including Chance Kornuth, Tom Marchese, Yevgeniy Timoshenko, ElkY, Jason Mercier, Will Molson, Erik Seidel, Doc Sands, Sam Stein, and Day 1 chip leader Isaac Haxton.
Tomorrow’s final table will, again, be worth nothing to the next three people eliminated. The five top finishers get this:
1. $1,254,400 + Shamballa Jewels bracelet
Though this low-key, high-dollar action has been fun to watch, tomorrow is when this all kicks off. The PCA main even begins on Saturday, a time when hundreds of people will sit down for their chance at millions. It’s once again time for PokerStars to prove the message behind their We Are Poker campaign. Alongside all that, in the coming days, people here at the PCA will have an opportunity to compete for freeroll seats, meet the Team Pros, and keep an eye on Team PokerStars Online’s Randy Lew setting a Guinness World Record.
Join us at noon ET for live updates, feature stories, interviews, and all the news that’s fit to print (and a little that’s not).
Until then, goodnight from Paradise Island.
All photos © Joe Giron / Joe Giron Photography