When it comes to the World Series of Poker, there seems to be three titles that are generally considered to be the most prestigious: the Main Event World Championship, the $50,000 Poker Player’s Championship, and the WSOP Player-of-the-Year (POY) title. Last year, the heated POY race was between Frank Kassela and Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi ended up being the center of much debate. While Kassela won two bracelets and ultimately clinched the title, fans and players alike felt Mizrachi’s Main Event run, combined with his earlier victory in the Player’s Championship, should have earned him the title.
Past WSOP Player-of-the-Year Winners
While last year’s POY race and debate were certainly exciting, it also inspired WSOP officials to take a look at their point system and give it a bit of face lift. This year, 62 events will be considered in the POY race, including 55 open events at the WSOP and seven that will be held during the WSOP Europe in Cannes, France, marking the first year the WSOP-E will be included in the POY standings. Furthermore, each poker variation has its own set of points. For instance, hold’em and Omaha tournaments award their own set of points, while Stud and mixed tournaments have a different formula. Other events with unique point criteria include shootouts, short-handed, and heads-up tournaments.
In addition, all the events will award points based on three multiplying factors: buy-in, field size and finishing position. For example, any event with a $1,000-$2,499 buy-in will award points on a 1:1 basis; $2,500-$4,999 will multiply by 1.25; $5,000-$9,999 by 1.50; $10,000-$24,999 by 2.25; $25,000-$49,999 by 2.50; and $50,000+ by 3.00. Similar multipliers also apply based upon the size of the field (27-75 players by 1.0; 76-100 by 1.1 . . . 1,101-1,300 players by 2.0 . . . 5,001+ by 3.0, and everything in between).
Finally, the WSOP Main Event will have its own point system that will award the winner an automatic 500 POY points, the runner-up 350, and so on and so forth. Interestingly, the bottom 50 percent of players who cash in the Main Event will each earn 25 points toward the POY race, no doubt a little incentive to sneak into the money.
"It's been obvious that our Player of the Year system needed a little bypass surgery," said Ty Stewart, WSOP Vice President. "[The] new POY format has been lauded by players as the best and most complete in the industry, so they were natural partners to help us tweak our model. We look forward to watching the excitement play out across all 62 open bracelet events.”
Who Will Make a Run?
While the WSOP is less than a quarter of the way done, it is never too soon to predict who’ll make a run at the POY title. The man best positioned to do so through the first nine events is Amir Lehavot, who scored 315 points after clearing 249 players in the $10,000 Pot-Limit Hold’em Championship. Lehavot may be sitting atop the leaderboard, but he doesn’t seem intent on adding the POY title to his accomplishments. When asked if he’ll be making a push for POY, Lehavot simply replied: “Not really. I think it’s pretty early on, so I don’t have any aspirations.”
Another player who echoes Lehavot’s sentiments is Bernard Lee, who already has two cashes and one final table (fourth in Event #9 $1,500 2-7 Draw Lowball & 42nd in Event #4 $5,000 No-Limit Hold’em):
“As much as I’d love to go for POY, a couple of factors [won’t allow me to]. One, I have a family and I don’t think I could stay away from them for seven weeks. [Right now] I’m in Boston, and am going to be here for about a week and a half. In addition to that, unfortunately, the final table I made, I didn’t win. So that would have obviously helped with a lot of points. Fourth and first is a major difference."
“The new point structure that they have right now, you really have to do well because the Main Event winner gets so many points. Because of family reasons I’m going to stay home for awhile, but I will say that if the second part of my trip, I usually make three trips a year at a week and a half to two weeks at a time, I will say that if the second trip starts out as well as [the first], I may stay straight through to the Main Event to make a run at it.”
While Lehavot and Lee are not quick to throw their hats into the POY race, one man seems intent on taking advantage of his early head start and at least see how things go. Yevgeniy Timoshenko, who took second in the $25,000 Heads-Up Championship for 210 points (currently fifth on the POY Leaderboard), told PokerNews:
“Coming into the summer I was going to play 10 to 15 events, now I’m kind of in a conundrum because I do want to go after the Player-of-the-Year Race, but I don’t want to waste my summer inside of a casino grinding. So I think I’m just gonna try to play a little more events than I originally planned to play in the next week, week and a half, and if I can string together some scores, then I may go after it. If not, I’ll probably stick to the plan and play the bigger events that I was originally planning on playing.”
It’s certainly too soon to tell who will emerge as the Player of the Year, but we're confident in saying it’s going to be one hell of a race to finish line!
Current 2011 WSOP Player-of-the-Year Leaderboard
*Standings through Event #9