The World Poker Tour has traipsed the world over the past 12 months, traveling from Sochi, Russia, to Barcelona, to Montreal, to Atlantic City and, finally, to Las Vegas. The ARIA Summer Championship will begin on Monday with a $10,000 buy in tournament that is sure to draw a sizeable and strong professional contingent ready for action. It will also feature something that isn’t normal on the WPT: an all-out battle for the WPT Player of the Year award.

Wide Open Race for WPT Player of the Year

With the season-ending ARIA Summer Championship possibly offering as much as 1400 points to the victor (the WPT offers POY points on a graded scale, with tournaments with larger than a $4 million prize pool offering the most points), this brings quite a few players into the mix for the title. At this time it is a battle between Erkut Yilmaz, who took two trips to a WPT final table in Season XVII and won both times (WPT Borgata Poker Open and the WPT Rolling Thunder), and Dylan Linde, whose victory at the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic and five cashes have him in the fight. Between these two men is only 150 points (Yilmaz 2300, Linde 2150) which could be eliminated if Linde makes the final table at ARIA.

Neither of these two men can ignore some players down the ladder. While has hasn’t won this year on the WPT, Ping Liu has racked up eight cashes and two final tables to earn 2000 points, good for third place on the board. It is another 150 points back to Tony Ruberto, the champion of the WPT Maryland LIVE! event and who is the final player, along with Jake Schwartz, who would have a shot at the title if the WPT ARIA Summer Championship offers the minimum amount of POY points to the eventual champion (600 points).

The rest of the Top Ten is going to need some assistance to overtake those ahead of them but it isn’t out of the question, especially should they win the tournament. In fact, should none of those players in the first four slots earn any points AND the tournament offer the full 1400 points for winning, as many as 40 players could win the POY. These players include Season XVII champions Tony Tran (1550 points), David ‘ODB’ Baker (1450), Vitalijs Zavorotnijs, Viny Lima, Frank Stepuchin, Patrick Serda, Simon Lam, Ben Palmer, Pavel Plesuv, Brady Holiman, Demo Kiriopoulos and Denys Shafikov.

Here’s a look at the Top Ten prior to the start of the WPT ARIA Summer Championship:

1.Erkut Yilmaz, 2300 points
2. Dylan Linde, 2150
3. Ping Liu, 2000
4. Tony Ruberto, 1850
5. Jake Schwartz, 1725
6. Tony Tran, 1550
7. David ‘ODB’ Baker, 1450
(tie) Vitalijs Zavorotnijs
9. Viny Lima, 1400
(tie) Steve Sung
(tie) Anthony Zinno

Storied History of the WPT Player of the Year Award

The WPT Player of the Year Award has gone to some of the legends of the game. The inaugural award went to Howard Lederer, who held off Gus Hansen with more consistency that overwhelmed Hansen’s two tournament titles. Erick Lindgren captured the award in Season II and, in one of the many accolades he has received in his career, Daniel Negreanu earned the POY championship in Season III.

The late Gavin Smith was the Player of the Year in Season IV, befitting a player who won one event that season and made two other final tables during the season. J. C. Tran, Jonathan Little, Bertrand Grospellier and Faraz Jaka have also taken the title. Art Papazyan is the defending Player of the Year (and doesn’t have a chance at repeating), while Zinno – should the stars align and he win the tournament and the POY award – would become the first person to repeat as WPT Player of the Year.

So, who will emerge victorious? It is all dependent on the size of the field. If it fails to meet the requirements and offers less than 1400 points to the victor, then the number of competitors is reduced. Should there only be 1000 points given to the eventual champion, then it becomes only the Top Ten or so that have a chance (and need Yilmaz and the leaders to fail). If – and it is a possibility with the World Series of Poker starting this week – it is a small field and only 600 points is offered, then you’re down to just the Top Five players being in contention. While Yilmaz hasn’t closed the deal yet, he’s got the hammer to drive the nail in the coffin.

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