Interview: Galen Hall
Hometown: Pasadena, California
Currently Resides: San Fransisco
Best Known for: Winning the 2011 PCA Main Event
On his flight home from the Bahamas after winning the PCA Main Event for $2.3 million, Galen Hall took the time to fire up his laptop and answer a few of our questions about his experience in becoming poker's newest millionaire.
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PokerTips.org: Galen, first off, congrats on winning the PCA! Did you travel to the event alone or with friends?
Hall: Thanks! The trip was awesome, as you can imagine, but was consumed almost entirely by playing in the main. I don't think that I actually got any sun the entire trip! I came with my backer Nick (noctus/inescapabled), my roommate Dylan (singlefiled/ts_redcloud) and also Nick's girlfriend and a couple of Dylan's friends.
PokerTips.org: How long have you been playing poker and what got you started?
Hall: I started playing poker in the back of math class against my friend Brad when I was in high school, and I started playing a lot online in college. I've been playing MTTs professionally for almost exactly one year.
PokerTips.org: In winning the PCA, you turned 30,000 starting chips into a pile of more than 46 million chips. Do you know how many times you had to survive being all-in and called?
Hall: I was all-in and at risk a total of five times before the final table. Once on day 1, three times on day 3 and once on day 4. I was all-in against Moneymaker on Day 5 too, but that was on the river when I had 100% equity.
PokerTips.org: You started heads-up play with a 5:1 chip deficit. Were there any thoughts of resignation or contentment with second place?
Hall: Not really. Having a big stack is a huge advantage when you are playing multi-handed poker, because of the pressure of ICM, but heads up it's irrelevant. The shorter stack's size is the effective size, and that's all that matters because there are no ICM effects at all. If he chips up or down, then the effective size changes and so do both players' strategies. Also, despite being out chipped by a large number, I wasn't actually short - I think I had around 13 million chips at 120k/240k when we started, which is more than 50bbs.
Obviously i knew I would have to chip away at him and then double at some point, but I was pretty confident that I would be able to play heads-up very well and find some good spots to get it in and then hopefully hold. I have a lot of confidence in my heads-up game, and knew I would have a decent shot to win it.
PokerTips.org: There's been a lot of chatter about a hand you played against Chris Oliver heads-up in which you held 8-4 and eventually laid down a straight. (The hand can be seen in this video at the 23:30 mark). Can you tell us about that hand and your thought process along the way?
Hall: He checks to me on the river and the pot is around 2m. A lot of people value bet like 1.1m here and have to call off a raise to 3-4m, but I chose to bet full pot for two reasons. First, it's a much better value bet, because I think his calling range is pretty inelastic. If he has an ace, he's calling no matter what, and he definitely has a lot of aces in his range. Also, knowing Chris, he's probably going to call all of his pairs for 2m just as quickly as 1.1m, so I might as well get max value.
The second reason that 2m is better is that it really polarizes his check raising range. If I bet 1.1m he might put me on an ace or a four a lot and choose to raise to 4m-5m with all of his fours, his 4-6 and boats, which is a range that crushes me but that I might be forced to call for frequent chops. Now, when he bombs on me after I bet 2m, I know his value range is basically boats (and I think that A2 makes a lot of sense) and sometimes 46.
At the time I thought I might be able to chop with some of his value, but after thinking about it for a couple of minutes, I basically knew I was dead to almost all of his value range. The next thing I thought about was that since I was so polarized here, it's just absolutely unnecessary to overbet jam 10m more into this pot to blow me off of bluffs or marginal value that I was turning into a bluff. If he had any equity he would just call, and if he had like 7 high but thought I was bluffing all he'd really have to do to blow me off of it is make it 4-6m, and jamming is just so unnecessary and risky because I still might call with a boat or something. Chris is aggressive, but at this point he actually hadn't "turned it on" yet and wasn't playing super out of line or crazy (that came later) so that pushed me even further towards a fold.
So, while the absolute value of my hand (straight against a hyper aggressive player HU) makes it pretty tough to fold, it basically boiled down to the fact that his jam had to be for value, and that my hand couldn't beat any of his value, so nh and I have to sigh and fold.
PokerTips.org: What was going through your mind on the last hand?
Hall: I saw the queens and knew it was game over. I know it sounds ridiculous, but as soon as we flipped up the hands, I knew that was gonna be it.
PokerTips.org: To what or whom do you give most of the credit for transforming from a beginning player to winning one of the toughest live events of the year?
Hall: I have learned a lot of tactics and strategy from my friends Dylan Wilkerson (singlefiled/ts_redcloud), Jason James (jadedjason) and Calvin Anderson (cal42688) as well as from the 2+2 forums, but without question the lion's share of the credit goes to my backer Nick Verkaik (noctus/inescapabled). I learned so much from him over the last year I don't even know where to begin. Not only how to play individual hands, but also how to control gameflow, how to react to different types of opponents, how to manage tilt, how to alter your game to play 15 or 16 tables at once, how to manage series' and Sundays and things like that. Even stuff like how to manage your daily MTT schedule with eating and working out and things, he literally taught me everything. (Not that he wasn't well rewarded for all of it :) )
PokerTips.org: $2.3 million is a lot of cheese for a guy about to turn 25. Any big plans for your newfound winnings?
Hall: I know this is a pretty boring answer, but not really. I'll probably save most of it for business school, and maybe use it as seed money for a start-up or something like that. I did very well online last year, so there isn't really any "stuff" I have been dying to buy.
PokerTips.org: Can we expect to see a lot more of you on the live tournament trail moving forward, or is poker not a main focus?
Hall: I haven't really thought about that yet. I currently split my time between playing MTTs on Sundays and Wednesdays with working at a startup called www.idnetified.com where I am learning a ton of about how startups work and doing some pretty cool strategic work with our datasets and I enjoy it. I need to keep preparing myself for business school next year, so I don't think that I will hit the circuit full time, but I imagine I will maybe play a few more events than I had originally thought. I'm considering LAPC, Shooting Stars, and probably at least one EPT.
PokerTips.org: Finally, aside from winning, of course, what will be your fondest memory from the 2011 PCA?
Hall: I knocked out Isildur1 with about 250 left a day or two after his identity was revealed, that was pretty cool.
I guess this is tied to winning, but I am just so lucky that my big "one time" happened to also be the first ever hole cards exposed live broadcast on ESPN2 which was just so insanely cool, because so many of my friends and family could also take part in the victory. I've just been inundated with messages over the last few days about my friends all over the world who had an awesome time sweating me until the wee hours of the morning. Apparently, one of my college buddies was so pumped up when I folded the straight vs. Chris that he threw a Christmas tree out of a fourth story window or something. Stories like that are pretty memorable :)