The 2007 Player of the Year race has become interesting as the World Series of Poker begins to warm up. After an early season breakaway by J.C. Tran, the race has tightened up considerably. Tran, who has led the POY since February, has cooled down quite a bit since his early-season success. He hasn't cashed since the Five Star tournaments back in April with the dry spell causing his lead to erode to about 800 points, but remains in front early during the WSOP.
Climbing the list is the only double winner from the Five Star tournaments in April, Jared Hamby. Hamby earned another victory during the Mirage Poker Showdown preliminary tournaments and finished as the runner-up in the recent $10K WPT Mandalay Bay Poker Championships. Those two finishes catapulted him from tenth place last month to second this time; if he can continues the hot streak, he could become the first 'rookie' to take down the year-long title.
This month's Top Ten newcomer is the WPT's Mirage Poker Showdown champ, Jonathan Little. Little made noise earlier in 2007 with a final-table appearance at the WPT PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, but had been quiet before the Mirage Poker Showdown; in addition to his title there, he finished at the final table in two other preliminary events. Little is another poker 'rookie' who has stormed the poker scene and he and Hamby will likely battle for the unofficial title of the year's best newcomer.
The Top Ten is filled with more than just new blood this month, as David 'The Dragon' Pham jumps from tenth to fourth. During May, 'The Dragon' used both the WPT events and the World Series Circuit events to make his move. Pham can always be counted on to play excellent poker, regardless of the stakes, and could well ride high on the POY list for the remainder of the year.
Both James Van Alstyne (fifth) and Ted Lawson (sixth) have dropped a bit from their early year performance, but it hasn't been for a lack of effort. Both players have made final tables within the last month, but the events haven't offered as many points (or as much cash) as the big showings by others. Both remain in the hunt, however.
Cory Carroll stormed into the Top Ten with a near-historic May. Not only was Cory victorious at the WSOP-C Championship Event at Caesars at the beginning of the month, he nearly became the first man to win both a WSOP-C event and a WPT tournament in the same year when he finished second (to Little) at the Mirage Poker Showdown. Carroll is definitely playing the finest poker of his life right now and is a player on the move on the POY list.
Randy Holland, who has an astounding twelve final tables already in 2007, holds down the eighth place slot, with Paul Lee ninth) and WPT Champion Juan Carlos Mortensen tenth. The list of players in the POY's second ten includes EPT Champion Gavin Griffin (eleventh), poker veteran Kirk Morrison (thirteenth), Internet star Darrell 'Gigabet Dicken (fifteenth), Bill Edler (seventeenth) and Ted Forrest (nineteenth).
With the huge prize pools and large amount of POY points available during the six-week run of the WSOP, it's possible that one player could establish control of the POY race by the end of July. Add in the other tournaments going on in Las Vegas during the run of the WSOP --- the Bellagio Cup III, the Venetian Deep Stack event and the inaugural Binion's Poker Classic run simultaneously with the WSOP --- and the POY race clearly remains wide open.