After leading the two races for Poker Player of the Year pretty much since the World Series of Poker concluded in July, it was assumed that German poker superstar Fedor Holz was a lock to take down those awards come the end of December. Well, you know what they say about “assume?” Instead of reveling in the dual victories, Holz had to watch helplessly as David Peters used a late surge literally in the final tournament of the year to pass him and win both major POY races.
Peters was a good distance back of Holz on the CardPlayer Magazine Player of the Year race in mid-November, in the second-place slot by almost 1300 points. Peters would then go on a rampage that saw him win an event and finish as the runner up in the November 18-19 Aria High Roller and Super High Roller tournaments to pull within roughly 500 points of Holz. With only December left on the calendar, Peters continued storming the felt in both the States and Europe.
By finishing at the final table in two events during the running of the Bellagio’s Five Diamond World Poker Classic, Peters knocked another 250 points off Holz’s lead, but he was still short. With the POY award within his reach, Peters went to the final-ever European Poker Tour event in Prague, Czech Republic, and finished in third place for the final EPT event in history. The 1280 points he picked up for that tournament allowed him to pass Holz by a healthy margin with his 8181 points.
So where did it go bad for Holz? From the end of October on to the end of the year, Holz failed to score a single point on the CardPlayer rankings. In a normal circumstance, Holz’s 7058 points would have been more than enough to earn him the POY championship. With the advent of major tournaments going to the end of the calendar year – and the high roller tournaments that normally come along with them – it wasn’t enough in 2016 for Holz to win the CardPlayer POY.
How far from the pack were Peters and Holz? The third-place finisher, Justin Bonomo, could only muster 6020 points to finish in third place, more than 2000 points behind Peters and more than 1000 behind Holz. Two other players, fourth place Ari Engel (5653 points) and fifth place Jake Schindler (5178 points) both used big December rushes to reach their positions. Engel made a final run at the title with his final table finish at the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Rock n’ Roll Poker Open, but was unable to cash for points from his six money finishes in Prague, while Schindler made a big move with his third-place finish at the World Poker Tour’s Main Event during the Bellagio tournament series.
Rounding out the Top Ten on the CardPlayer Magazine Player of the Year rankings are Sam Soverel (4989 points, sixth place), Chance Kornuth (4838, seventh), Dan Smith (4799, eighth), Connor Drinan (4637, ninth) and Ankush Mandavia (4460, tenth).
With the more complex scoring of the Global Poker Index rankings, it was going to be tougher for Peters to pass Holz, but he would do it. His final two cashes of 2016 – his third-place finish in the EPT Prague Main Event (worth 482.16 points) and the fifth-place finish at the Five Diamond High Roller (203.68 points) – replaced two of his other top 13 finishes to push him by Holz by the closest of margins. When the final totals were put together, Peters’ 3666.31 points had managed to eclipse Holz’s 3644.8 points (remember, no cashes in the last two months of the year) and give Peters the GPI POY award.
Bonomo was once again the odd-man out in the triumvirate of players at the top, finishing in third place with his very respectable 3479.7 points. On the GPI rankings, Kornuth’s finishes got more love than on the CardPlayer board, with Kornuth hitting the fourth-place spot with 3336.54 points. Even former WSOP Europe and EPT Grand Final champion Adrian Mateos, who didn’t even show up in the Top Ten for CardPlayer, got his name in at fifth place with 3316.07 points.
Engel dropped in the rankings in the comparison between the GPI and CardPlayer Magazine, with the winner of the 2016 Aussie Millions (we’re less than a month away from the 2017 version) settling for sixth place on the GPI poll with 3290.43 points. Rounding out the next four spots are Paul Volpe (3192.88 points, seventh place), Nick Petrangelo (3176.03, eighth), Mandavia (3138.97, ninth) and Samuel Panzica (3114.66, tenth); three of those four men weren’t even mentioned on the CardPlayer Top Ten.
Although it may be the end of 2016 and the beginning of the New Year, poker professionals and amateurs alike aren’t going to be given a very long break. On January 6, the very first PokerStars Championship Bahamas (formerly the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure) will kick off, featuring a plethora of poker for those in attendance at the Atlantis Hotel. The 2017 Aussie Millions will open for play on January 11, perhaps setting up for a clash between two popular international tournaments. The WPT also gets into the mix with the start of the L. A. Poker Classic schedule on January 13 and the Borgata Winter Poker Open in Atlantic City, NJ, on January 17. Add in the various smaller tours with stops on the schedule (the WSOP Circuit, the Heartland Poker Tour, and others) and the race for 2017 Player of the Year will be off and running!