After another tumultuous month in the tournament poker world, Michael 'The Grinder' Mizrachi has not only maintained but has also expanded his advantage in the Poker Player of the Year race. It hasn't been without new contenders moving into the mix, however.
Mizrachi added another final table to his 2006 resume when he finished second in the $2,500 No-Limit Tournament during the L. A. Poker Classic. His early season success has led him to a huge lead in the POY race and an addition to his bankroll of almost $2 million. While the Hollywood, FL, native wasn't able to capture a repeat championship in the World Poker Tour $10,000 event, his 2006 is already very successful and he has over three quarters of the year to make it his most profitable season as a professional.
While 'The Grinder' continues to be the class of the 2006 tournament poker world, there are new challengers that are emerging. Alan Goehring not only captured the second largest WPT payday in the Tour's history ($2.3 million and change) when he won the L. A. Poker Classic, the valuable POY points catapulted him into the Top Ten for the first time this year. Even with that sizeable chunk of points, however, he joins the growing throng looking up at Mizrachi and is over 2,000 points back in a tie for second place.
Joining Goehring in that tie is another WPT champion that has made his move in the early season going as well. Veteran poker pro Nam Le withstood the flying bullets during the Bay 101 Shooting Stars tournament in San Jose, CA, to capture that title. The Huntington Beach, CA, resident is one of the deceptive professionals that populate the tournament poker world. He quietly had an excellent 2005 season, winning four tournaments on his way to pocketing over $300,000 in purses and finishing the year in the Top 50. With a championship under his belt this early in 2006, count on Le to continue to be a force throughout the season.
WPT World Poker Open Champion Scotty Nguyen has slipped back into the pack and finds himself in fourth place. His drop from second last month is very much due to the multitude of high dollar tournaments that have occurred so far this year. Although he has been able to add to his bankroll with a few cashes, he has been unable to hold off the rush behind him to reach the Top Ten. He holds a slim 46 point lead over An "The Boss" Tran, who maintains his fifth place standing from last month.
The next three players in the Top Ten have all done very well in the early WPT tournaments and, while not taking the titles, have made a very nice early run in their own rights and have earned bankrolls that should make them players to watch throughout the year. Michael Woo is in sixth place after finishing third at the L. A. Poker Classic and both Daniel Quach (second in the Classic) and newcomer Ravi Udayakumar (second at the Bay 101) are tied for seventh. Woo sneaks by these two because of another final table he earned during the run of the L. A. Poker Classic, which places him a mere four points up on the seventh place twosome. Rounding out the Top Ten are Las Vegas professional William Edler, who leads everyone in the Top Ten by making four final tables in the infancy of this season, and WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open runner-up John D'Agostino.
The Top Ten is dominated by players that have been a part of the WPT tour and lacks the players that have captured WSOP Circuit championships. You have to look down the list quite some ways to find WSOPC Tunica champion Daniel Negreanu in 25th place. The reasoning for this is very simple; while the Circuit events have been highly competitive affairs, they have definitely lacked the field size to push their respective champions to the top of the POY list. Those tournaments are still valuable for the players, not only because of their prestige but because of their sizeable increase to a player's bankroll and a nice chunk of POY points as well.
Another month is already in full swing, and there is no rest on the horizon for the tournament professionals or those "amateurs" and unknown players taking their shots . There are six major events during the month of March, with several other smaller events in California and elsewhere that should draw numerous players and feature great action (including the annual Winnin' 'O The Green tournaments at the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles and the Sport of Kings event at Hollywood Park Casino). By the time we enter April and the finale of Season Four of the WPT at the Bellagio's WPT Championship , we should have a great deal of knowledge who is primed for this summer's World Series of Poker from the action thus far in the 2006 Poker Player of the Year race.
Ed Note: Still plenty of time to catch Grinder. Start working on it today at Pokerroom.com