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The World Series of Poker is most known for its bracelets since many poker players, both novices and pros, aspire to earn one of these golden baubles. However, the general public isn’t too aware of another annual battle at the WSOP for the best professionals.
Of course, I’m referring to the competition for Player of the Year.
As the POY race is regularly highlighted during tournament broadcasts and players themselves routinely mention it in their tweets, blog posts, and vlogs, if you’ve been a World Series fan, you presumably already know about it. The winner of the Player of the Year competition will be crowned the best or most successful player of the full season. Players can accumulate points for the POY leaderboard in every tournament on the WSOP schedule, which is a portion of the competition.
The player who finishes with the most points also receives the financial reward, which for the 2021 series was $15,000, as well as the coveted title. Josh Arieh won the award, but it was a very tight race all the way to the finish. The POY method has been the subject of extensive debate over the years, with certain well-known poker players constantly pointing out both the positives and disadvantages of the existing system.
I’ll cover all the essential information concerning the current WSOP Player of the Year points system in this post, as well as some of the criticism it has seen in the past.
Simply put, the winner of the WSOP Player of the Year award should be the most talented and successful player from that year’s tournaments.
The organizers have implemented a specific scoring system to do this. It has its shortcomings, but since there are so many moving pieces, it’s challenging to find a flawless answer.
In reality, WSOP changed things up for the 2018 series in response to some harsh criticism from prior seasons. The old scoring system was significantly altered, and it was replaced with a rather effective one that has been in use for the WSOP Circuit for some time. The greatest adjustment was a considerable reduction in the number of points provided for minimum cashes but an increase in points for bracelet winners. The general consensus was that there wasn’t a significant enough difference between earning money and winning an event, despite the WSOP’s continued desire to reward consistency. Of course, new regulations brought forth more issues and fresh criticism, but we’ll get to that later.
Let’s first examine the ranking system itself to understand how it functions. This justification ought to be useful if you were following the 2021 series and confused about the POY leaderboard’s movements and the reasons behind why players received particular amounts of points.
The fact that the WSOP doesn’t really have a spreadsheet for players to consult is one curious aspect of the entire Player of the Year contest. Nevertheless, each competition offers a calculator that may estimate the points that will be awarded for various finishing positions. The algorithm, according to the organizers, is scaled adequately to account for considerably larger fields in the World Series tournaments and is roughly based on the WSOP Circuit POY system.
The following are the points granted for WSOPC events:
Runner-up: 37.5 points; winner: 50 points
30 points, third place, etc.
Everybody who wins money receives at least 2.5 points, and that total rises as they go through a tournament and other competitors are eliminated.
These figures are oversized compared to the World Series of Poker, but the organizer has made an effort to maintain a similar ratio, giving players at least a rough sense of the number of points they may anticipate from any given tournament. With a few noteworthy exceptions, practically all bracelet events contribute towards the Player of the Year competition.
All closed events, or those that aren’t easily accessible to the whole field of play, are excluded:
There have never been any significant concerns regarding this issue because counting them would offer an unfair edge to those players who can participate. The only method to estimate how many points one may anticipate from an event is by looking at the past results or using the POY calculator offered on the site because there is no spreadsheet or rulebook that participants can use. The calculator allows you to select an event and add the amount of entrants, which is crucial for figuring out how many points will be awarded in total. The buy-in number is another crucial consideration because tournaments with higher buy-ins typically have larger point pools, which obviously favors players with large bankrolls. For instance, winning the $500 Reunion event with 20,000 participants would earn the winner fewer points than winning the Super High Roller event with just 80 players. The distinction between first and second place is also quite significant.
The number of points awarded to the tournament winner is double that of the runner-up. This implies that for the overall rankings, real bracelets are quite important. The variances between every subsequent ranks as you move down the leaderboard are substantially less. Obviously, the winner will receive more points than the ninth-place finisher, but from the POY perspective, the difference between placing second and third is almost negligible. Therefore, the existing structure significantly favors the victors and gives players who take part in high-roller and super-high-roller tournaments a significant edge. Although difficult, these competitions often have relatively small fields, therefore competitors who are interested in taking home the POY trophy must enter.
Recall how I said the World Series of Poker shook things up and implemented a new system that paid victors greater rewards? It turns out that this system isn’t perfect either because it doesn’t sufficiently reward consistency. At the 2021 World Series of Poker, famous poker player Phil Hellmuth displayed what may have been his best performance in all the years we’ve watched him compete in the tournament.
The “Poker Brat” was well-prepared and produced a number of impressive results in non-Hold’em competitions. Hellmuth recorded a victory, two runner-up spots, a 4th and a 5th place finish, along with a number of other strong runs.
This was genuinely spectacular to see, whether you’re a fan of “Poker Brat” or not, and it appeared like he was going to win Player of the Year, one of the few awards that was still missing from his poker résumé.
Josh Arieh, who had a tremendous series and is a superb player in his own right, ultimately stopped him.
The largest difference, though, came from Arieh’s ability to ship two bracelets in 2021 as opposed to Hellmuth’s single triumph. It probably would have been a different situation if Hellmuth had been able to turn any of his two runner-up performances into a victory. To his credit, he handled it with class and didn’t try to argue his case for why he ought to have won. No matter way you look at it, Arieh is a deserved winner under the current set of rules.
This raises the question, though, of whether the existing POY system needs to be modified.
WSOP has attempted multiple times to modify and change things throughout the years. They aren’t very interested in awarding the POY title to any single player, after all. In fact, since it’s essentially free promotion, they’d probably be better off if it went to someone as well-known as Hellmuth. The organizers would therefore ideally have the ideal system in place, where the greatest and most worthy of all players receives the honor. The issue is that, as the 2021 series demonstrates, there is no such system. There can only be one victor despite the tremendous performances and skill of both Hellmuth and Arieh.
Finding the ideal balance is difficult, and consistency over solitary results has been brought up as the major problem. On the one hand, rewarding someone who consistently produces outstanding performance across all tournaments seems sensible. On the other hand, even if someone’s previous performances aren’t fantastic, if they win two or three tournaments, those wins deserve to be properly recognized. Since the winner always receives the majority of the prize money in poker tournaments, why should this be any different in the Player of the Year competition?
Therefore, even if there is opportunity for improvement in this area, I believe the existing system to be well balanced, if not flawless. The question of buy-ins is another, maybe more important one. Is it really fair that big buy-in events with tiny fields award so many points? Even when competing against some of the greatest, your chances of winning in a field of 50 to 100 players are substantially higher than they are in a field of more than 5,000.
As you won’t see the ordinary Joe or even a good mid-stakes grinder pony out $100K to participate in one of them, you may see this as partiality towards large players. I suppose there are different points of view on this specific subject, but I don’t really see a big issue. The WSOP Player of the Year award shouldn’t be given to just anyone. Given the type of results you have to publish to win, the prize money is quite little, therefore winning is really about status. Although there is no justification for poker to be exclusive, I believe we may make an exception in this case.
It’s okay if players like Negreanu, Hellmuth, and others in that group are perennial favorites to win. In any case, these are the names that come to mind when someone discusses the Player of the Year.
I hope this post has helped you understand how the WSOP Player of the Year points system functions. It’s one of those subjects that isn’t very simple to describe, largely since the people who invented the system never gave any clear explanations. But at least now you are aware of how things operate and what matters, specifically:
I should note before I end this essay that the Player of the Year competition isn’t usually decided in Las Vegas.