As the 2014 World Series of Poker Asia-Pacific (APAC) puts one week of play in the books and moves towards the half-way point of the festival, the WSOP Player of the Year race between Brandon Shack-Harris and George Danzer has taken center stage. The two have swapped the lead twice already, and this is exactly the kind of excitement that was hoped for.
"Who doesn't love a good sweat?" said WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart when asked about the excitement level of the race. "For those seeking legacy, the modern WSOP has three paths to choose — the chase to win a gold bracelet and announce yourself to the world, the all-time pecking order, and the recognition that in a given year you were the best of the best."
"It's been very gratifying to see the WSOP Player of the Year increase its profile over the past few years," Stewart continued. "More satisfying that it's been organic to players who prioritize it and not a marketing push by us as organizers. During the series, with overlapping events and storylines changing hourly, it's hard for the Player of the Year to be front and center. But at APAC, it has a chance to be the dominant storyline. I think that's fun for players, and we saw over the past few years it's definitely fun for fans. It will likely go down to the very last bracelet event of the year, and that's exactly as it should be."
Seth Palansky, Vice President of Corporate Communications for Caesars Interactive Entertainment, Inc., echoed Stewart's sentiments.
"It's great," Palansky told PokerNews. "When you create a Player of the Year, we felt it was important to put an emphasis on the 'year' part of it. We appreciate those that have made the trip to Australia to compete and it looks like just as it has been the past couple years, the WSOP Player of the Year will go right down until the end."
As a result of some travel delays, Shack-Harris got a late start Down Under, missing the first starting flight of the first event. Danzer, however, played all three starting flights, and both players worked their way to the money. Shack-Harris finished with a min-cash and earned 8.5 points in the race to temporarily extend his lead. Danzer did a bit better and ran all the way until he was eliminated in 22nd place, and that earned him 17 points. It was those points that were good enough to give the German the lead with 762.2 points to Shack-Harris' 760.5.
Danzer's lead was short-lived, though, as just a couple days later Shack-Harris found himself at the final table of the fourth event of the festival — the AU$1,650 No-Limit Hold'em Terminator.
With a possible 140 points up top for Shack-Harris to earn, he entered the final table fourth in chips and guaranteed both AU$5,605 in prize money and 28 points. Danzer had busted from all other tournaments at the time and was left starting up Day 1 of the AU$1,650 8-Game Dealer's Choice while waiting to see where his counterpart finished.
As it turned out, Shack-Harris' run ended in sixth place for 46.2 Player of the Year points, vaulting up over the 800-point mark and back into the lead by a decent margin, although it's still anyone's game.
As it stands right now, Shack-Harris leads the way with 806.7 points, and Danzer sits second with 762.2. While these two are clearly the frontrunners in the race, we shouldn't forget about the long-shot possibility of Daniel Negreanu. He sits fourth with 519.08 points and is the only other player in the top five to make the trip to Australia. Coming into the Asia-Pacific series, Negreanu had a decent shot at pulling back into the race, but thanks to Shack-Harris' recent surge it's really going to be tough for "Kid Poker" to repeat as Player of the Year. Nonetheless, there are a couple of events that could see Negreanu make a late charge.
Negreanu did have a shot to make some noise in the AU$5,000 Pot-Limit Omaha event, but he busted short of the money in 13th place, earning zero points. That marked five events without a cash at the 2014 WSOP Asia-Pacific for Negreanu, but the AU$5,000 8-Game Mixed, AU$10,000 Main Event, and AU$25,000 High Roller all leave great shots for him to make a very late run at things. The High Roller alone will have at least 225 points up top, and we all know too well Negreanu's excellence in small-field, big buy-in events.
Current Top 5 WSOP Player of the Year Standings
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*Player is currently not in Australia for the WSOP Asia-Pacific.
To view the complete WSOP Player of the Year standings, please click here.
The WSOP Player of the Year will be awarded the prize of a buy-in to the 2015 WSOP Main Event in Las Vegas, and it is powered by BLUFF. Like Stewart and Palansky, Lance Bradley, BLUFF Editor-in-Chief, is equally as excited for how the race is playing out.
"The WSOP Player of the Year race has had this habit the past few years of coming down to the wire," said Bradley. "APAC has provided some real drama this year with Danzer and Shack-Harris already having swapped the POY lead twice in the first four events. It's exciting to watch."
As the race toward the 2014 WSOP Player of the Year title rolls on and reaches a conclusion, be sure to stay tuned to PokerNews for unmatched coverage of the festival. You can follow along with the progress of each event by visiting our PokerNews Live Reporting pages.