As several top international tournaments – and major High Roller events – have been concluded over the first six weeks of 2014, Mike ‘Timex’ McDonald has emerged as the early leader in the top Player of the Year races in poker.
The early part of 2014 has seen major tournaments such as the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, the Aussie Millions and other events play to their champions, but what has dominated the POY races for the most part are the High Roller tournaments that have taken place at events such as this. Several of the players that are at the top of the rankings may not have had the greatest run in a regular tournament, but they have been able to parlay their success in those high dollar tournaments on the side (buy-ins of $25,000 or more) to capture spots on the rankings that they might not have otherwise been a part of.
On the Bluff Magazine POY race, McDonald has been able to accrue 640.00 points by virtue of some outstanding finishes, especially in those High Roller events. McDonald got the month of January off to a good start with an eighth place finish in the PCA Super High Roller and then followed it up with a second place finish in the Main Event. McDonald was just using the PCA as a warm-up, however, as he then took the Aussie Millions by storm with a second place finish in the $100,000 Challenge and a third place showing in the $250,000 LK Boutique Challenge. At this early point in the year, McDonald has already earned over $4 million in tournament cashes.
The champion of the PCA, Dominik Panka, earned enough points with his victory to take the second place slot behind McDonald with 620.00 points. Those two men are the only ones in that rarefied air on the Bluff POY; PCA Super High Roller winner Fabian Quoss, through his three finishes, only has compiled 359.10 points. The Top Five of the Bluff POY is filled out by Aussie Millions champion Ami Barer (310.10) and Vanessa Selbst (306.00).
The second five on the Bluff POY list are only separated by 27 points, something that is expected at this early point in the year. Jacob Schindler (299.6 points), Mustapha Kanit (299.08), Anthony Merulla (280.00), Oliver Price (279.00) and Sotirios Koutoupas (272.00) round out the Top Ten, but these five spots will be quite fluid until about the mid-point of the year.
The CardPlayer Magazine POY has some of these same names on its compilation, but there are a couple of disparities. While McDonald (3200 points) and Panka (3000) are 1-2, Kanit has taken the third position with 2394 points. Sorel Mizzi provides one of the differences on the CardPlayer list, coming in fourth with 2170 for his runner-up finish at the Aussie Millions Main Event as the man who beat him, Barer, holds down the fifth slot (2100).
There are some other new faces in looking at the second five on the CardPlayer rankings. Although Koutoupas holds sixth from his championship at the European Poker Tour Deauville stop (and his 1680 points), the third place finisher from the PCA, Isaac Baron, shows up on the CardPlayer list in seventh place (1600). The champion of the World Poker Tour Borgata Winter Poker Open, Merulla, sits in eighth (1440) while Schindler (1428) takes ninth and Eugene Katchalov and Jake Balsiger (1400) share tenth place.
The Global Poker Index is slowly beginning to gain traction with its POY rankings due to the depth of the points calculations and weighting of tournament results (for example, high dollar High Roller tournaments, while they earn some respect, will not dominate on the GPI POY because their calculations cap point multipliers on them). Although McDonald (496.14 points) and Panka (397.13)continue their 1-2 fight here, the remainder of their Top Ten present some other names. One of those is Dan Smith (385.81), who had four cashes over the first six weeks of the tournament poker season and takes the third slot. Selbst is in fourth (383.14) and another different name, Jason Mercier, takes the fifth slot (343.20).
In sixth, Alexander Denisov takes his only POY ranking among the top three listings with 337.94 points earned from five cashes in the Bahamas and Deauville. Seventh brings a bit of history as, for the first time, more than one woman is listed in the Top Ten of any POY rundown. Liv Boeree joins Selbst on the list with her 326.19 points that were earned in the PCA, the Aussie Millions and the U. K & Ireland Poker Tour stop in Edinburgh. Quoss (305.7 points), Barer (304.33) and Kanit (286.13) round out the GPI POY.
It is early in the season to be able to tout any of these players as the “one to watch” by the time we hit December. Last year’s early leader, Paul Volpe, wasn’t in the Top Ten on any list by the end of the calendar year (not to say that Volpe didn’t have a great year overall without a POY win). In the next two months alone, the WPT, EPT and World Series of Poker Circuit will have had several events, with the WPT and the EPT concluding their season schedules both in April, and even the Heartland Poker Tour and other “independent” tournaments will make their presence known. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, as we work towards the 2014 Poker Player of the Year.