2011 PCA Main Event: Final table player profiles

PCA-2010-thumbnail.jpgAlthough the Main Event final table has already started, we won't be seeing it until 5pm. In case you still did not know, this event is being televised by ESPN with cards UP, with an hour delay. It will be on ESPN3 at 5, then later this evening on ESPN2.

Here's how they line up at the final table:

Seat 1: Mike "Sowerss" Sowers, 24, Thomasville, North Carolina - PokerStars player - 3,685,000
It's been about seven years since Mike Sowers' interest in poker was sparked by the movie 'Rounders'. Sowers spent the next two years studying psychology and business at the University of North Carolina Charlotte, but he eventually abandoned that venture to focus solely on poker. It would be hard to question that decision now. Sowers has already racked up more than $2.5 million dollars in online winnings, and has spent the last four years steadily building a reputation as one of the most successful and feared tournament players in the online realm. Sowers' biggest score came in September 2009 when he took down the PokerStars' WCOOP $10,000 High Roller event for $448,500. Sowers has also cashed more than $1.5 million in live tournaments - including five WSOP cashes and two WSOP final tables in the last three years. In January 2008, he won the Borgata Winter Open for $399,000. About a year later, he finished third at the LA Poker Classic for $654,797. So far he's made more money online than live but he is already guaranteed $200,000 so far, and a third place or better finish will push his live earnings ahead of his online earnings to date.

Seat 2: Max "$Kill Game" Weinberg, 20, Chicago, Illinois - 3,350,000
Weinberg was studying psychology at Arizona State university when he dropped out after one semester to start playing full time. Online he favors heads-up Sit and Goes in the $500 to $5,000 range and reckons he is up some $300,000 to date. He came to the PCA with his friend Gabe Paul who qualified online on PokerStars in a SuperNovas' freeroll. He said: "I've always looked forward to playing the World Series and I turn 21 in April so this is kind of a warm-up. I've had some luck to make it this far.. in the first few hours of Day 1, I had pocket 7s and was all in with a 789 flop against Aces. I hit a 5 on the river for a straight."

Seat 3: Chris "ImDaNuts" Oliver, 21, Holiday, Florida, USA - 19,670,000
Chris, who goes into the PCA final with 42% of the chips in play, is one of the highest-ranked online players in the world with $500,000 profit to his name last year. He plays online tournaments from $5 buy-ins up, but now wants to concentrate more on live events. His biggest live cash to date was a round $5,000 at a WSOP event. He's already guaranteed $202,000 here, and with a huge chip lead going in to the final table he expects to make much more than that. If he takes the $2.3million top prize he intends to buy a house. Chris dropped out of high school to play poker, a decision that his parents were not too happy about. But now they are pleased with his decision and have been following his progress in this event on the PokerStars Blog.

Seat 4: Bolivar "Ramux" Palacios, 27, Santiago de Veraguas, Panama - PokerStars player - 2,445,000
The name Bolivar Palacios may sound familiar if you've been following the Latin American Poker Tour. Palacios has made three LAPT final tables to date - his best finish being LAPT Rosario in Argentina, where he came in second for $188,280. He is now guaranteed to beat this figure at the PCA. Palacios, known as 'Ramux' online, was an industrial engineer for five months until he received a check for $300 and deposited it online. Since that deposit, he has cashed for $350,000 in lifetime winnings online. Palacios will be the only Latin American at the table and is a member of the "Rat Pack of Panama" - a group which includes Jose Severino, Victor Lemos and Jose Miguel de la Guardia. Palacios' reported ambition is "to become a millionaire" - a goal he will definitely achieve with a fourth-or-better finish here at the PCA.

Seat 5: Sam Stein, 23, Henderson, Nevada - PokerStars qualifier - 5,855,000
Sam is a professional poker player who came up through the online ranks and began trying his luck in the brick and mortar world as soon as he turned 21. Since then, he's managed to collect more than $1.1 million in career tournament earnings. His biggest cash was when he was runner-up to Tom Marchese at the first NAPT event at the Venetian last February for $522,306. This followed another big cash at last year's PCA where he was runner-up in a $5,000 buy-in NLHE side event for $168,390. At last summer's WSOP, he bubbled the final table in the $ 10,000 Pot Limit Hold'em Championship, coming tenth for $44,000. Stein grew up in Los Angeles, but currently resides in Henderson, Nevada - just outside Las Vegas. He won his seat to the PCA on Boxing Day in a $2,100 qualifier.

Seat 6: Anton Ionel, 43, Bucharest, Romania - PokerStars qualifier - 3,530,000
Ionel is a businessman from Bucharest. The 43-year-old has been playing poker for ten years, having started to play live in casinos in Romania. Ionel has played several European Poker Tour events before, playing the Grand Final in Monte Carlo, as well as cashing at EPT Budapest in 2008. This, however, is his first PCA which not surprisingly he has described as an "amazing experience". It will also be his biggest career win, topping his previous best result in Timisoara, Romania. His progress in the Main Event is being watched by his 16-year-old-daughter who is following the action online from back home.

Seat 7: Philippe Plouffe, 31, Lachenaie Quebec, Canada - PokerStars qualifier - 1,555,000
Plouffe, who runs a café in Lachenaie, Quebec, has been playing poker for ten years now - and at a serious level for the last seven years. He started playing with friends and now plays around 60 hours a week. He's engaged to be married and has a three-year-old son. Philippe prefers to play live rather than online and, although he plays cash games regularly, he prefers tournaments and intends to play more if he thrives at the final table. His favourite players are Phil Ivey and Patrik Antonius.

Seat 8: Galen 'GasparLeMarc' Hall, 24 San Francisco - 6,435,000
Hall has been a professional poker player for over a year but he started playing poker in high school about ten years ago. Initially he played Limit Hold'Em but switched to Heads-Up Sit&Gos early on. Nowadays he is an all-round player and also plays PLO/PLO8 and - of course - NLHE. Hall is ranked in the top 50 on the Pocket Fives-ranking and last year he cashed for about $1 million (around $200,000 profit). Even so, the PCA payout is huge for Hall and this is by far his best result. He said he hadn't even looked at the payouts yet because "the most important thing is to just win it." If he wins the PCA Main Event, he plans to put the money towards going to Stanford University in 2012. In his spare time, Hall is involved in the start-up venture Identify.com and his ultimate goal is to start a business of his own.

Here's a video ahead of the final table...