In past years the competition for the WSOP Player of the Year award would already have been complete by now and we wouldn’t be talking about it again until next summer. But with WSOP Europe and the WSOP Main Event both counting in the standings, this year’s race will likely remained undecided through early November. The number of scenarios is still too large to narrow down into a prediction, but we’re far enough along that we can see the general shape of what’s to come.
With 66 events already in the books between WSOP Asia-Pacific and the WSOP in Las Vegas, and the WSOP Main Event still to play out in November, here’s how the top 10 currently shakes out in the POY race:
Player POY Points
1. Matthew Ashton 649.75
2. Daniel Negreanu 598.34
3. Loni Harwood 487.20
4. David “Bakes” Baker 475.35
5. Donald Nguyen 466.13
6. Marco Johnson 439.38
7. Tom Schneider 438.51
8. Chris Klodnicki 400.80
9. Jared Hamby 395.73
10. Anthony Gregg 390.00
Those standings are going to change after we learn the results of eight more tournaments: the WSOP Main Event and the seven bracelet events on the schedule at WSOP Europe. Each of the November Nine will earn at least 100 points in the POY standings, with the winner earning 500 points. The number of points up for grabs in the WSOP Europe events will vary depending on the size of the fields they draw and the buy-ins, but a win in most of them should end up being worth somewhere around 250 to 300 points.
Mathematically, the number of players who could still win the WSOP Player of the Year award is still relatively large. (After all, I could suddenly come into a lot of money and go win three bracelets in Paris, throwing off the entire curve. You could too!) But in practice there are just a few dozen players who are in a position to go down in history as the 10th WSOP POY. They break down into a couple of distinct groups:
The Leaders: Matthew Ashton and Daniel Negreanu
Matthew Ashton’s performance in Las Vegas this summer included only four cashes, but they were big ones: a win in the $50,000 Poker Players Championship (360 points), second place in the $5,000 Stud Hi/Lo event (147 points), third in the $2,500 Omaha Hi/Lo and Stud Hi/Lo event (94 points), and seventh in the $2,500 Stud event (49 points). That gives him lead in the POY race heading to WSOP Europe, just ahead of former WSOP POY winner Daniel Negreanu. Kid Poker won the WSOP APAC Main Event back in April (360 points), took second in the $2,500 Triple Draw event (122.5 points), and added five other cashes between 12th and 49th place for another 109.84 points while the Vegas series was still running.
A bracelet win by either Ashton or Negreanu would be a major blow to all the other POY hopefuls, as it would likely move the lucky winner up to around 900 points. That level would require not just a WSOP Europe bracelet win for anyone else to get close, but probably also a deep run at another final table as well. If either man can even manage to go deep just once in Paris, it would make life considerably more difficult for the other POY contenders. And if Ashton doesn’t perform well, even just a few cashes without making a final table could help Negreanu move into the lead, depending on which tournaments they come in.
Players with at least 400 points (six players)
This group includes Tom Schneider, the former POY winner and, to date, the year’s only winner of two bracelets. Both Loni Harwood and Marco Johnson won bracelets in addition to coming close on multiple other occasions. Then there’s Donald Nguyen, whose points came from taking second place in two high-dollar tournaments, the $50,000 Poker Players Championship and the $10,000 Heads-Up No Limit Hold’em event. David “Bakes” Baker also didn’t win a bracelet in Vegas, but four of his eight cashes were final table appearances, including second in the $10,000 2-7 Single Draw event. And Chris Klodnicki managed three final tables, including second in the $111,111 One Drop High Roller event.
In the absence of any standout WSOP Europe performances by Ashton or Negreanu, a bracelet win there by any of the players in this group would be enough to move into the POY lead. And just like with the leaders, a win by any of the players with more than 400 points coupled with another strong performance during WSOP Europe would likely be enough to become a favorite to win the POY award.
Players with at least 300 points (26 players)
Most of the players in this group – which includes names like Daniel Alaei, Erick Lindgren, Steve Sung, David Chiu, and Greg Mueller – won a bracelet over the summer and added a few other cashes. Others were runners-up in one event who added several more deep runs. Dan Kelly piled up his 344.7 points via eight cashes (two at final tables) in the first two weeks of play in Vegas. And Anthony Gregg’s 390 points all came from his lone WSOP cash this summer, a win in the One Drop High Roller.
For all of these players, it likely would take either a bracelet win or multiple deep runs at WSOP Europe just to become serious contenders for the POY title. Then the players ahead of them would have to stall out as well. Going runner-runner for the win is tough enough in a single hand of poker; doing so in multiple tournaments is a far more difficult task, making all the players in this group long-shots.
The nine players who survived the summer portion of the WSOP Main Event are all guaranteed at least 100 points in the WSOP POY standings, with the winner earning 500 points and the runner-up earning 350. In addition, four of this year’s November Niners have already earned POY points: J.C. Tran (104.88 points), Amir Lehavot (57.26), Ryan Riess (46.5), and David Benefield (10.63).
If any of those four were able to cash a few times at WSOP Europe and then win the Main Event, they’d become very strong contenders for the POY. A bracelet win in Paris paired with a Main Event win would be something pretty close to a lock on the title. But beyond that the role these nine men can play in the race is pretty limited. If any of the players ahead of them do particularly well in Paris, the POY winner could already be determined before the November Nine ever meet to conclude their delayed tournament.
The old saw that anything can happen in poker has a lot of truth to it. In this case it means that a player sitting completely off the radar technically could still win the 2013 WSOP POY award. It’s far from unheard of for a player either to win two bracelets in the span of two weeks (Tom Schneider already did it once this summer) or to make a cluster of final tables in the same stretch (as Loni Harwood and David Baker both did in June). And since there’s no way to predict when those feats might be accomplished, we have to leave open the possibility of someone going on a tear in Paris and elbowing their way into the race.
For every bracelet that’s won in October, the chances for the field at large to catch up will become smaller and smaller. And for every bracelet that’s won by a player who belongs to one of the groups listed above, the odds of anybody outside those groups becoming Player of the Year shrink dramatically. But right now, everything is still wide open – and that means we can all still dream of a win, however unlikely.