The poker world started off the year watching an online whiz kid make incredible reads and work magic en route to a title at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. Galen Hall earned $2.3 million for his victory in the Bahamas and immediately set himself on a path of poker success. Four days into the World Poker Tour Championship, a $25,000 buy-in event in Las Vegas, Hall is leading the way (3.4 million in chips) and is hoping to capture his second major of the year.
"The event has been good, really fun," said Hall to the World Poker Tour after Day 4. "The thing I do really well is just like apply tons and tons of pressure on people. I chipped up massively on the bubble since I'm not afraid to bust on bubbles so I was playing super-aggressive on the bubble. ... You play in poker tournaments and play to win. That's all that I have really been playing for this whole time."
Hall opted to enter the event on Day 2 as late registration was available. He had returned from Madrid and the EPT Grand Final the day before and to nobody's surprise, he had a pretty good trip. Hall made the final table in the 25,000 euro buy-in High Roller Event (won by Bertrand Grospellier), then was runner-up to Jason Mercier in the first EPT Champion of Champions event. Oh, and in between PCA and those cashes, he also finished 18th at the WPT's Bay 101 Shooting Star. It's easy to say that he's on a heater, but before all this live success, Hall was ranked as one the top online players in the world for being one of the most consistent and dominant players around.
Of the 15 players that remain, three of them are also playing for a secondary title: the World Poker Tour Player of the Year. Andy Frankenberger was eliminated on Day 4 and now waits on the sidelines to watch Shannon Shorr (1.7 million in chips), Sam El Sayed (2.7 million in chips) and Steven Kelly (1.6 million in chips) as they chase the tour's top prize. Shorr and El Sayed need at least a fifth-place finish to make their claim for the honor (a fourth-place result would give them the victory), while Kelly needs at least a third-place finish for him to win.
Here's a look at some other storylines to follow when action resumes Wednesday:
• David Williams: The defending champion is still putting up a fight, but he's the short stack heading into play on Day 5. No winner of the WPT Championship made it back to the final table the following year.
• Shannon Shorr: Forget the player of the year race; Shorr has had an incredible run in general this year. He made a final table in a side event at PCA, finished fourth at the WPT Southern Poker Championships, third at the LAPC $5,000 event, 11th at the WPT LAPC main event and then won the heads-up tournament at the Big Event.
• Scott Seiver: Last year by this point, Seiver had already cashed in for more than $750,000. This year has been a different story. Seiver only has two cashes so far in 2011, one on the World Poker Tour. He'll be looking for his first final table in nearly six months, and when he gets there, he's one of the best at closing it out.
• Ashton Griffin: We know he can play and run very well, but he hasn't had a live tournament cash since February 2010.
• Daniel Alaei: When it comes to success at the Bellagio, Alaei knows all about it. He'll bring in the third-shortest stack Wednesday, but he'll remember his success in the same room just over a year ago when he won the Five Diamond for $1.4 million. Alaei has two WPT cashes this season, but no matter where he finishes, this will be his biggest.
Play will begin at 3 p.m. ET.
Small blinds: ESPN is happy to welcome Kara Scott to the ESPN WSOP broadcast team. Scott will be part of the digital streaming shows on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN3.com as well as the weekly shows Tuesday night on ESPN. ... 2002 WSOP champion Robert Varkonyi is hosting a charity event to benefit NYC public high school students. ... The WSOP Circuit main event in New Orleans will conclude Wednesday. Todd Wood leads the final 10, which includes Matthew Waxman and Jacob Bazeley. Allie Prescott (18th), Dwyte Pilgrim (24th) and Mike Beasley (28th) made the money, but were eliminated during Day 2 action. ... The WPT $100,000 Super High Roller event begins today.