2010 Player of the Year Update
There's a bit of a lull in the live tournament action in the weeks that follow the WSOP which makes for a good time to examine Card Player Magazine's 2010 Player of the Year race. Currently, Thomas Marchese sits in first place with 4,442 points. Nearly half of these points came from winning the $5,000 buy-in inaugural North American Poker Tour event at Venetian in February. Marchese has made four other major final tables this year to account for his lead.
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It is unlikely that Marchese's 4,442 points will be sufficient to win the POY race. Last year's champion, Eric Baldwin, tallied 6,994 points on the year. Baldwin's points total was the most by a champion since Daniel Negreanu racked up 8,764 points in 2004. It makes some degree of sense that the number of points accumulated by the POY will decrease year-over-year; after all, fields are only getting tougher which makes putting up strong results harder to do as time goes on.
At the moment, Marchese's closest competition is Sorel Mizzi with 3,862 points. Mizzi has had a much more impressive year on paper. He started off 2010 with a bang by finishing 3rd in the Aussie Millions Main Event. Since then, he has been a one man wrecking ball posting 15 cashes in live tournaments, 4 of them for wins. Although he entered the WSOP with a head of steam, Mizzi posted just one result that yielded him POY points, a 6th place finish in the $1,500 Stud event, which allowed Marchese to retain the lead into August.
The biggest threat to Marchese outside of Mizzi is probably not Jeffrey Papola who sits in third place. Nor is it Dwyte Pilgram whose four wins on the year have him 4th in the standings. Rather, the man who might pose the biggest threat to Marchese's chase for the POY title is currently in 139th place, Michael "the Grinder" Mizrachi. Although Mizrachi's 1,334 points seem harmless at the moment, he has the advantage of having a seat at the 2010 November Nine. The winner of that event will receive 3,600 POY points. When added to Mizrachi's current point total, that would be enough to push him into the lead based on current standings.
For a few reasons, it's hard to handicap the Card Player Magazine Player of the Year race. First, the extreme variance associated with multi-table tournaments makes it impossible to guess accurately who will do well throughout the remainder of the year. Additionally, one cannot know with certainty how much top contenders plan to play in an effort to win. Towards the end of last year, Eric Baldwin pretty much ate and slept at live tournament tables which proved crucial to securing victory. Finally, this is a race with a lot of horses. At the moment, there are 12 players within 1,500 points of first place. Any one of them could become the leader with just one strong finish.
One thing is for sure, the eventual champion will have almost certainly have posted some really strong results between now and the end of the year. With that being the case, I like Sorel Mizzi as the favorite in this race. Mizzi benefits from an intense schedule that Marchese should be unlikely to keep up with. But don't count out the Grinder either. He has a good chance to seize 3,600 points at the Main Event final table and win his second career POY title.