With only five point-earning events left undecided in this year's WSOP, the Player of the Year race is coming to a close.
The players' advisory board and the WSOP came up with an interesting format this year, minimizing the importance of field size and instead rewarding the same amount of points (100) for a win regardless of event type, size, or buy-in. The idea was to crown the best overall poker player rather than rewarding a player who could take down a couple of deep finishes in the big no-limit hold'em events but could not play the other variants of poker well.
The new scoring system does seem to be doing a good job, as the players in the top of this year's leader board have indisputably had terrific years.
Leading the pack is Tom "Donkey Bomber" Schneider, who is the only double-bracelet winner this year. Schneider has made an impressive three final tables, with two coming in mixed games and one in stud. His performance is reminiscent of last year's winner, Jeff Madsen, who final-tabled four events and won two bracelets in 2006, all in different types of events.
In second place is Jeffrey Lisandro, who has also had a wonderful series with five cashes so far. Lisandro won a bracelet in the $2,000 seven-stud event and finished second in the pot-limit hold'em event in one of the longest heads-up matches in the tournament, where he was eventually knocked out by Allen Cunningham on a bad beat. Lisandro will have to finish seventh or better in the no-limit 2-7 lowball with rebuys or the limit hold'em shootout event to overtake Schneider for the lead in the POY race.
Rounding out third, fourth, and fifth places are Scott Clements, Phil Hellmuth, and Chris Bjorin. Clements and Hellmuth have both won bracelets, made two final tables, and cashed five times, while Bjorin has third, fourth, and sixth-place finishes along with another cash this year. All three players need to win an event to claim the lead in the POY race. Among them, Hellmuth has the best shot, since he is still alive on Day Two of the $1,000 no-limit hold'em with re-buys event which he won last year. This is Hellmuth's second straight year in the top five of the race - he finished runner-up to Jeff Madsen last year. [Ed. note: Hellmuth cashed in the event, but was eliminated before accumulating significant POY points.]
Also worth noting in the standings are Allen Cunningham and Steve Billirakis, who are tied for 15th place. While neither has a realistic shot at catching Schneider, both have had noteworthy years. Cunningham, amazingly, won the POY award in 2005, finished in the top ten in 2006, and is again near the top of the standings in 2007. Billirakis cannot take down the award, but could potentially finish in second if he wins the $1,000 no-limit hold'em with re-buys; Billirakis was in the top ten following the first day's action.
The top 20 rounds out as follows:
Name / WSOP POY Points / Bracelets / Cashes / 2007 WSOP $
Tom Schneider 255 pts 2 3 $416,829
Jeffrey Lisandro 220 pts 1 5 $457,309
Scott Clements 167 pts 1 5 $327,904
Phil Hellmuth 165 pts 1 5 $738,724
Chris Bjorin 165 pts 0 4 $305,415
Scotty Nguyen 160 pts 0 4 $170,581
William Durkee 155 pts 1 2 $619,201
Fred Goldberg 150 pts 1 5 $230,860
Alexander Kravchenko 150 pts 1 4 $264,663
Eric 'Rizen' Lynch 145 pts 0 5 $191,626
Nesbitt 'Nez' Coburn 140 pts 0 3 $126,500
Jared Davis 138 pts 0 3 $202,528
Greg 'FBT' Mueller 135 pts 0 5 $417,402
Humberto Brenes 135 pts 0 3 $337,105
Allen Cunningham 130 pts 1 4 $525,837
Steve Billirakis 130 pts 1 4 $577,612
Jason Newburger 130 pts 0 3 $206,851
Phil Ivey 130 pts 0 2 $209,244
Thor Hansen 125 pts 0 5 $321,979
Burt Boutin 125 pts 1 4 $901,456
Alex Bolotin 125 pts 0 4 $573,699
Data source: worldseriesofpoker.com