Going into the home stretch of the Player of the Year race, it is evident that it is still up for grabs. While John Phan continues to hold the lead and earned some points during the month of October, many players are making late season runs that could knock the California pro from the top of the heap. In the last month alone, several players are drawing closer as the number of tournaments become less.
World Poker Tour and World Series champion Michael Gracz has made the most significant move in the last thirty days. During the Festa al Lago tournament that was conducted at the Bellagio in Las Vegas in October, Gracz found his way to his third final table of the year where he was able to collect some all-valuable points in the race. He also had the chance to add more points to his total, but fell just short of the points position in the Doyle Brunson North American Poker Championship when he finished 28th. By earning about fifty more points in the month than Phan, Gracz closed the gap to 802 points but needs to make a more significant impact as the end of the year looms closer.
Ted Forrest is the man who drops to third on the POY leader board, and there is another new face who used the Doyle Brunson WPT tournament as a launching pad. Canadian professional Gavin Smith was an aggressive and powerful player at the tournament and his third place finish in it catapulted him into the Top Five for the first time this season. Smith, who captured the first event of Season Four of the WPT at the Mirage Poker Showdown, not only pushed himself into the lead in the WPT Player of the Year race but also finds himself heavily in contention for poker's overall POY championship as well. He is only 906 points behind Phan in fourth place and, as an active competitor in many events, could be the one who ends up the season on top.
Erick Lindgren and Freddy Deeb keep their names in the race in fifth and sixth slots respectively, with another new face coming onto the Top Ten. Max "The Italian Pirate" Pescatori has surged into the Top Ten from an unbelievable performance in the month of October. In that month alone, Pescatori was able to make five final tables between events at the Festa al Lago and, once it wrapped up, the 9th Annual National Championship of Poker at Hollywood Park Casino in Inglewood, CA. Max collected over $100,000 in prize money in that span and, perhaps just as important, earned 1,114 points to be the dominant player in October and land in seventh place.
Both Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi and Phil Ivey were quiet as the autumn winds blew and have seen their stock fall to eighth and ninth places. Mizrachi has come close on a couple of occasions to earning more points in the race, but Ivey hasn't earned any points since his stirring run at the final table at the Main Event of the World Series of Poker. Both are more than able to get on a run, though, so they cannot be counted out of the chase for the POY championship.
WSOP double bracelet winner Mark Seif holds down the tenth slot in the battle, and he has been making strides to get higher. By winning the Seven Card Stud championship at the U. S. Poker Championship in Atlantic City and finishing eleventh in the Main Event there, he has been able to draw closer to Phan but, with others earning more points than him in other tournaments, has fallen down on the list to the last of the Top Ten.
With only 1,357 points separating the Top Ten, all it would take is for one of these men (or such players as Men "The Master" Nguyen, Doyle Brunson NAPC Champion Minh Ly or Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, all bubbling under the leaders) to win one of the approximately TEN high profile events to go in the season to surge past John Phan. Of course, Phan could solidify his status as "King of the Mountain" with a victory just as well! With only eight weeks to go, the battle rages on for the Player of the Year championship!
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