Here's a look at those I've been following.
Vanessa Selbst has been one of the best stories of the WSOP so far. My introduction to her was her performance at the 2006 WSOP $2,000 NLHE event, where she came into the final table third in chips and knocked out Carlos Mortensen before running a gigantic bluff right into an opponent's pocket aces. It's been said before that people judge those sorts of plays by whether or not they work; a lot of people (myself included) wondered what in the world she could have been thinking.
She won her first bracelet a few days ago in the $1,500 Pot Limit Omaha event, and then followed it up today by finishing in third place in the World Championship No Limit Hold'em for the second straight year. Combine that with her results last year and Selbst - who is still only 23 years old - has won over $600,000 at the Rio, making her one of the most successful WSOP players in the last three years.
If she can keep her current form, or even improve upon it, she has a legitimate shot at becoming the first woman to win the WSOP Player of the Year.
At this point in the WSOP, none other than Erick Lindgren sits atop the Player of the Year standings. E-Dog has been playing some of the best poker of his career since the beginning of the month, with his most significant accomplishment being the big win in the $5,000 Mixed Hold'em event. Before taking down that bracelet, Full Tilt pro Lindgren was widely considered one of the best players to never win a bracelet.
Lindgren also made the final table of the $5,000 No Limit Deuce-to-Seven Draw event against arguably the single toughest field of the entire WSOP, finishing in fourth place. He seems to have fire in his belly and unless something crazy happens between now and July he'll be in contention for Play of the Year the entire way.
The Mackey Factor
James "mig.com" Mackey won last year's $5,000 NLHE event and fell one spot shy of scoring a second bracelet in this year's $10,000 World Championship Mixed Event, proof enough that he is one of the greatest young players in the world today.
Then there are the two wins by Blair and Grant Hinkle, which can also be attributed, however indirectly, to Mackey's poker prowess. Blair Hinkle was Mackey's college roommate, and mig.com helped him to progress by talking poker with him. Blair then helped his brother Grant, who had been responsible for getting Blair into poker in the first place, to make the transition from cash games to tournaments.
Given the level of success the three have had already this year, it's hard to argue that Mackey isn't one of the game's great young minds.
Can Tran Do It?
Theo Tran has already cashed four times this WSOP, with two of them being final tables within the first seven events. His results this year have brought him to eight cashes and four final tables in his three years at the Rio.
Tran has a habit of building monster stacks but not quite being able to close the deal. However, he remains one of everyone's favorites whenever he's still alive at the end of a tournament. It's easy to understand why - without winning a bracelet yet this year, he sits sixth in the Player of the Year standings.
Still, the only real way to leave your mark at the WSOP is to win a bracelet, and Tran hasn't done that yet. Given his penchant for making final tables, it will be interesting to see whether he can get the monkey off his back and strap a little bling to his wrist.