The poker industry’s two most prominent magazines – Bluff and Card Player – announced their Players of the Year (POY) this week. For both Ben Lamb and Eugene Katchalov, 2011 was obviously a fantastic year, but interestingly, the two took very different paths to their respective titles.
Katchalov, winner of the Bluff Player of the Year award, started the year off with a bang and continued his strong play through the summer’s World Series of Poker (WSOP). During just the first week of 2011, he won the $100,000 No-Limit Hold’em Super High Roller event at the European Poker Tour’s (EPT) PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, cashing in for $1,500,000. He followed that up with a runner-up finish in the $10,000 No-Limit Hold’em High Roller Six-Max event in the same tour stop ($131,920), with a 74th place finish in the $10,000 Main Event ($28,000) sandwiched in between. In April, Katchalov finished second once again, this time in the $10,000 No-Limit Hold’em High Roller Bounty Shootout at the North American Poker Tour (NAPT) Uncasville stop ($68,000) and then placed 27th at the EPT Grand Final ($51,948) in May.
At the World Series of Poker, Eugene Katchalov cashed three times, including his first ever WSOP bracelet in the $1,500 Seven Card Stud event ($122,909) and a fourth place finish in the $1,500 Limit Hold’em Shootout tournament ($50,993). Later in the summer, he finished 3rd in the EPT Barcelona $5,000 Main Event for $453,812.
It was an extremely close race for the Bluff POY award, as Katchalov just barely beat out Bertrand Grospelier, 1,089.28 points to 1,071.67 points. Bluff uses a proprietary formula to determine its POY standings, using a player’s finishing position, tournament buy-in, and number of entrants to award points for each open tournament in which a player participates (Katchalov also did well in the National Heads-Up Poker Championship and Epic Poker League this year, but these were not open events, so they were not counted). Adjustments are made for the type of tournament: freezeout, shootout, heads-up, short-handed, etc. Only a player’s top ten finishes during the year count towards Bluff’s POY standings.
Card Player Player of the Year, Ben Lamb, did not start 2011 nearly as quickly on the live tournament circuit as Eugene Katchalov. In fact, he didn’t have a single live cash until the World Series of Poker. But boy did he have a World Series of Poker. For his opening act, Lamb was the runner-up in the $3,000 Pot-Limit Omaha event, banking $259,918. A week later, he finished one spot better, winning his first WSOP bracelet in the $10,000 Pot-Limit Omaha Championship ($814,436). He then finished a measly 12th place in the $10,000 Six-Handed No-Limit Hold’em Championship ($56,140) before another final table – 8th place – in the $50,000 Poker Players Championship ($201,338). The topper and clincher of his WSOP POY run was his 3rd place finish in the $10,000 Main Event, where he won $4,021,138.
And that’s it. Five live tournament cashes for the year, all at the World Series of Poker. But because of how fantastic those cashes were, he was able to win the Card Player Player of the Year award. He was the only player in Card Player’s rankings to eclipse the 6,000 point mark. His 6,036 points bested Chris Moorman’s total by 161. Card Player also uses a player’s finish, tournament buy-in, and field size in its calculation, but only awards points to those who reach the final table (an exception is made for tournaments with fields greater than 2,500 players – the final three tables count for these). It does not differentiate amongst different tournament types, except for determining the size of the final table. Card Player also allows invitational tournaments to count if the prize pool is at least $500,000.
For comparison, Eugene Katchalov finished ninth in Card Player’s POY rankings, while Ben Lamb finished third in Bluff’s.