Josh Arieh a Surprising 2021 WSOP Player of the Year Winner

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Senior Editor U.S.
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Josh Arieh wasn't among the pre-series favorites for 2021 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Player of the Year. In the end, however, he came out on top, and he certainly deserved the title.

Arieh won the traditional POY leaderboard, the same award handed out to one outstanding performer each year since 2004. This year, the WSOP also added a separate POY leaderboard, Velo No Limits, which only tracks finishes in no-limit hold'em bracelet events. Scott Ball, who won two bracelets in NLH tournaments, is in the driver's seat in that race.

Arieh's 11 cashes in live events during the series are as follows:

Event #TournamentPlacePrize
20$1,000 GGPoker Flip & Go46th$4,355
23$1,500 Eight Game Mix 6-Handed64th$2,415
27$1,500 H.O.R.S.E.53rd$3,215
39$1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha (8-Handed)1st$204,766
60$50,000 Poker Players Championship6th$161,422
66$10,000 Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo Championship1st$484,791
67$10,000 Main Event411th$30,000
72$1,500 Mixed NLH/PLO40th$5,057
73$10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo Championship9th$30,290
84$50,000 High Roller Pot-Limit Omaha7th$165,462
86$1,000 Super Turbo No-Limit Hold'em10th$10,604

"It’s just really cool, it’s weird," Arieh told PokerNews about his run to WSOP Player of the Year. "My whole life and my career, whatever I do, I build momentum, so when I’m going good, I’m really good. When I’m going bad, I go really bad. It means a lot because my daughters will be really proud."

Hellmuth Comes Up Short

Phil Hellmuth

With Phil Hellmuth's elimination from Event #88: $5,000 8-Handed No-Limit Hold'em short of the money, Arieh wrapped up the Player of the Year award.

Arieh is a deserving winner because he won at high stakes and low stakes, and cashed in multiple poker variants. He performed at a high level from start to finish, and didn't just crush no-limit hold'em or mixed games. Even he was surprised with his own performance.

After busting on Day 1 of the 88th and final event of the 2021 WSOP, Arieh finished with 4,194.59 Player of the Year points. Hellmuth, who was also unable to add some points in the last tournament, ended his incredible run at 3,664.09. Daniel Negreanu, who was also still mathematically alive in the POY race heading into the final table, couldn't spin up a stack and joined Arieh and Hellmuth on the rail. The GGPoker ambassador will likely finish in third place with 3,531.03.

Shaun Deeb, who won the award in 2018, has a chance to surpass Hellmuth for second place, but is mathematically eliminated from contention. He bagged a big stack on Day 1 of the final event, which is set to conclude on Tuesday. But he can only increase his score by as much as 1,118 points if he were to go on and win the bracelet. He needed at least 1,163 to catch up to Arieh.

Hellmuth and Arieh were clearly the top two performers throughout the series. The "Poker Brat" reached a WSOP single series record seven final tables, won his 16th bracelet, and finished second twice. Arieh won two bracelets and cashed in 11 live events plus two online events.

If the Player of the Year was to be awarded based on a vote, you could probably flip a coin between those two. They both performed at a high level in the low and high buy-in tournaments, and crushed multiple poker variants. In most years, Hellmuth would have won POY, but he was up against the legendary performance of Josh Arieh in 2021.

Follow the 2021 WSOP here!

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