This week marks the final World Poker Tour event of the season, and Mukul Pahuja has a stranglehold on the Season XII Player of the Year title. After finishing in second place at the recent WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown that attracted 1,795 entries, Pahuja now has 3,450 points in the POY race — an all-time best for anyone on the WPT.
There's still one event to go, too, and that's the biggest and baddest WPT of them all — the $15,400 WPT World Championship with a $5 million guarantee.
Pahuja's amazing season is no doubt one of the best the WPT has ever seen, but is it the best? To try and put things into perspective, we'll map out all the winners of WPT POY and the players who finished runner-up.
Let's take a look.
|Player||POY Points||Earnings||Cashes||Final Tables||Titles|
|Season I||Howard Lederer||2,200||$620,049||3||2||2|
|Season II||Erick Lindgren||2,400||$1,583,914||4||3||2|
|Season III||Daniel Negreanu||2,600||$3,320,426||4||3||2|
|Season IV||Gavin Smith||2,100||$1,653,940||3||3||1|
|Season V||JC Tran||1,700||$2,028,793||3||3||1|
|Season VI||Jonathan Little||1,900||$1,895,013||4||2||1|
|Season VII||Bertrand Grospellier||1,600||$2,225,345||3||2||1|
|Season VIII||Faraz Jaka||1,300||$1,421,290||4||2||0|
|Season IX||Andy Frankenberger||2,100||$944,985||3||2||1|
|Season X||Joe Serock||2,200||$674,227||3||2||0|
|Season XI||Matt Salsberg||2,575||$777,394||6||3||1|
|Season XII||Mukul Pahuja||3,450||$1,447,742||5||3||0|
As you can see, the most cashes earned by a WPT POY winner was six by Matt Salsberg in Season XI. This is also the current record for most cashes in a single WPT season, although a record that Salsberg shares with three others. In Season IV, Abraham Gray and Barry Greenstein each cashed six times, and then Lee Markholt cashed six times in Season V and Season VI. Pahuja has five cashes going into the final event of Season XII.
While cashing in an event is a nice result to put money back in a player's pockets, everyone knows the real money to be had is up top, and that means making the final table. In the case of the WPT, the official final table is six handed, and Pahuja has made that deep run three times in Season XII. This also ties the record for most WPT final tables in a single season. Seven others — Phil Ivey in Season I and Season III, Erick Lindgren in Season II, Daniel Negreanu and John Juanda in Season III, Gavin Smith in Season IV, JC Tran in Season V, and Salsberg in Season XI — all have the same record.
Still, Pahuja has one more WPT event to go this season in which he can tie the record for most cashes in a single season and set the record for most final tables.
Now, the stats listed in the table above are good and all, but it's important to look a little bit deeper into the numbers. First of all, the WPT has changed a lot over the years, specifically in four key areas: average buy-in amount, field size, numbers of events during a single season, and the introduction of reentries. All information isn't entirely available, but we can look further into just how well each player did in these seasons, mainly by looking at average finish and average field size in the events he or she cashed in.
|Player||Avg. Field Size||Avg. ITM Finish||Avg. Buy-in||Avg. Cash|
|Season I||Howard Lederer||117.3||3||$8,655||$206,683|
|Season II||Erick Lindgren||347.8||6.5||$8,201||$395,979|
|Season III||Daniel Negreanu||412.8||20||$10,950||$830,107|
|Season IV||Gavin Smith||354.7||2.67||$10,200||$551,313|
|Season V||JC Tran||520||3||$8,383||$676,264|
|Season VI||Jonathan Little||433.3||15.8||$11,425||$473,753|
|Season VII||Bertrand Grospellier||467.3||12||$16,967||$741,782|
|Season VIII||Faraz Jaka||281.3||9.3||$16,575||$355,323|
|Season IX||Andy Frankenberger||411.7||7.3||$8,533||$314,995|
|Season X||Joe Serock||268.7||5.3||$15,167||$224,742|
|Season XI||Matt Salsberg||450.8||7.2||4,867||$129,566|
|Season XII||Mukul Pahuja||864.8||9.2||$5,690||$289,548|
Looking at these numbers, Pahuja has the highest average field size by a good margin. His five cashes have come in events with an average field size of 864.8 entries, and the next closest is Will "The Thrill" Failla from Season X when he cashed four times in average field sizes of 700.8 entries. The other number that seems to stand out is the average finish for Pahuja when cashing, which is in the top 10. Given such massive fields he's been cashing in and the fact that he's cashed five times, having a sub-top 10 finish is outstanding.
Pahuja also cashes for nearly $300,000 on average, which again is a great feat when you remember that he's cashed fives time, not just two or three very deep runs like the majority of the others listed.
On the flip side, while Pahuja's Season XII might be amazing, he has yet to win a WPT. Lindgren's Season II, Negreanu's Season III, and Salberg's Season XI might stand apart from Pahuja and be ranked slightly ahead because each won at least one WPT in those seasons, but the field sizes were much, much smaller.
All told, where Pahuja ranks on the list of best WPT season ever will need to wait until the end of this week when the WPT Championship comes to a close. If Pahuja can make a deep run and land himself at the final table, there's going to be a lot on his side when arguing that he had the best WPT season ever. If he goes on to win the event, it's going to not even be a question that he had the best WPT season in history.
That said, it's all up to Pahuja now.
To follow live coverage of Pahuja and others in the WPT World Championship, click here.
All data courtesy of WorldPokerTour.com.