Dan Smith Facing Challenge From Greg Merson In Major POY Races

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With only six weeks left in the 2012 tournament poker calendar – and the reality that there is only about four weeks left, as players will take a break for the end of year holidays – Dan Smith is facing a severe challenge from 2012 World Series of Poker Championship Event winner Greg Merson as the major Player of the Year races head into the homestretch.

In September, Smith emerged as the leader on the top three POY races in the poker world, but Merson’s run to poker’s World Championship earlier this month has moved the needle to make him a contender. In two of the races, Smith holds on to his lead, but in one it is Merson who has moved into the pole position.

On the Bluff Magazine POY race, Merson has surpassed Marvin Rettenmaier with his 1157.55 points, good enough to move into second place behind Smith’s 1288.51 total. Back in September, Smith led Rettenmaier by 154 points; with Merson’s performance at the WSOP Championship Event, he sits only 130 points back, within striking distance should Merson make another run at a title over the next four weeks.

Another newcomer to the Bluff Magazine POY Top Ten is Joseph ‘subiime’ Cheong, who has used a stirring run over the past few months to get into the race. The fourth place finisher at the WSOP Europe in September, Cheong has added three more final table finishes since then to earn almost over $700,000. He currently sits in fourth place on Bluff’s POY with 961.42 points.

The top five is rounded out by none other than Phil Hellmuth, who used his WSOP Europe championship to move into the fifth place slot (his first appearance in the Bluff Top Ten) with 915.64 points. Phil Ivey, who has been quiet on the tournament poker scene of late, has dropped down to sixth place (904.17), with Michael Mizrachi, Ole Schemion, Jonathan Duhamel and Kyle Julius rounding out the Top Ten. Dropping off the list since September are Vanessa Selbst, Oliver Speidel, Tommy Vedes, Daniel Negreanu and John Dolan.

The CardPlayer Magazine Player of the Year race is where the change on the top has come. Merson, using his two WSOP bracelet wins, has surpassed Smith at the top of the ladder in holding 5100 points. Smith is within striking distance of the new World Champion, however, with the 4625 points that he has accrued to this point. Julius, who is in the #10 spot on the Bluff POY, dropped to third place (3752 points) with Merson’s rise to the top of the CardPlayer POY.

Cheong’s late calendar run has moved him into fourth place (3590) on the CardPlayer POY, with Rettenmaier dropping to fifth (down from third in September). Hellmuth also has moved into the battle on the CardPlayer rankings, landing in sixth place with 3210 points. Rounding out the Top Ten are Speidel, Anthony Gregg, Schemion (the final champion on the Partouche Poker Tour) and Mizrachi, with Vadzim Kursevich, John DiBella and Daniel Kelly falling off the Top Ten.

The Global Poker Index POY Top Ten is the only ranking which hasn’t been impacted by Merson’s WSOP run. On that ranking, you have to look all the way down to #47 to find the World Champion, but at the top it hasn’t changed. Smith leads this race also with 1098.80 points, leading Rettenmaier (966.63) by a 132 point margin.

Julius has moved up on the GPI POY, leaping from ninth to third since September with his 906.02 points, and Hellmuth slides into the GPI mix in fourth place with 846.83 points. Cheong enters the GPI Top Ten also, holding down fifth place with 829.48 points.

It is at the bottom of the GPI Top Ten where some new names enter the picture. Andrew Lichtenberger is currently in sixth place (819.75 points), while Justin Bonomo, David ‘ODB’ Baker, Negreanu and Jason Mercier round out the roster. Erik Cajelais, Jason Koon, Duhamel and Ivey have fallen out of the GPI Top Ten to accommodate the new entries (Hellmuth, Cheong, Bonomo and Mercier).

Over the next four weeks, the champions of the various Player of the Year races will be determined. With the World Poker Tour (two stops) the World Series of Poker Circuit (two stops) and the European Poker Tour (one stop) all with tournaments that will be concluded by the middle of December (among other major tournaments), the next month of play will be watched closely in regards to the different POY battles. Can Dan Smith close the deal? Will Greg Merson make another run in a big event? Or will one of those players “back in the pack” surpass them both?

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