PCA 2014: Pillai and Hortin, the men out top

What does 173,900 tournament chips buy you at the start of Day 2 of the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure? In the real world, it's worth nothing. And in poker too, it may never translate into anything tangible. But Shankar Pillai's chip-leading stack at this stage of the tournament at least bought him the luxury of a late arrival to the Imperial Ballroom this morning. There was no need to worry about a couple of missed hands--at least in theory.

As the tournament clock wound down towards the start of play today, Pillai was nowhere to be seen. The tournament director Mike Ward went through his long monologue about the plans for the day -- five 90-minute levels, a 30-minute break after level three -- and most of the remaining 630 players took their seats. But seat two of table 56 remained unoccupied even as seals were broken on bags and chips spilled on to the felt.

And then a slim man in a blue bobble hat suddenly appeared at the back of the room. He talked to a member of the tournament staff clutching a print-out of the seat draw, and then sprinted to the side of the ballroom in the general direction of his table.

"Where am I sitting?" said a hurried Pillai (for it was he). He was ushered towards the empty seat and it turned out he hadn't missed a hand. He had maybe sacrificed some of the insouciance of a chip-leader casually strolling in late (it was a messy sprint), but he did indeed make it in time to play.


Shankar Pillai: Chip leader

Pillai holds a very rare distinction of having won the first World Series tournament that he ever played. In 2007, when he was 23, Pillai picked up more than half a million dollars, and a bracelet, for winning a $3,000 no limit hold'em event, emerging from a final table that also featured Phil Hellmuth.

Since then, his career has been all about small cashes across the United States, but after a Day 1 on which he admitted to picking up strong hands, flopping sets and getting people bluffing into him when he had the goods, Pillai has the best chance of anyone at this stage to made a deep run.

Dylan Hortin, who led at the end of Day 1A, was second overall coming into today -- and was in the Imperial Ballroom in plenty of time. Hortin is playing his fourth PCA Main Event, on his fifth trip to the festival as a whole, but said that he has never before made a Day 2.

However he is recently finding a more professional approach to tournament play is beginning to pay dividends.

"I guess staying composed comes with experience," Hortin said. "There were a couple of times today where I noticed myself getting shaken or a little bit nervous or doing something a little weird. I still get nervous in 10Ks, but I think I've come a long way in the past few years. I've had a lot of experience in 10Ks, none of them good. I think I've just learned from my mistakes and I'm trying to be more professional going forward."


Dylan Hortin: A thoroughly modern professional

Hortin, 23, booked his trip to the Bahamas quite a while ago, winning a 25,000 FPP satellite on PokerStars. Essentially that's a freeroll, but for the high volume grinders, including "Pokerl)evil", the name Hortin adopts online, it's about $400 of tournament points.

The PCA offers a chance for players like Hortin to meet up with many of their friends from online battles, to swap stories -- and pieces in the Main Event.

"I have a ton of friends here," he said. "I've been around in online poker for about five or six years. The support has been great...I'm just going to take it one step at a time, I'm not going to get too excited, even though today [Day 1A] was a great start. Hopefully I can do something with it."

Our coverage of the 2014 PCA is comprehensive on PokerStars Blog, and it is simple to follow. The PCA 2014 Main Event page has a box at the top in which you'll find hand-by-hand coverage and chip counts after the action commences at noon. Below that are feature pieces, interviews and analysis updated throughout the day. You can also follow the action on PCA Live.

Sarah Grant and Rick Dacey got together this morning to set up Day 2 in their own inimitable style: