With the tournament poker world motoring through the first quarter of the calendar year, it is a “split decision” as to who is the leader in the major Player of the Year races. In fact, in one race the name is a familiar one but, in the other, the “top dog” might surprise many.
On the CardPlayer Magazine Player of the Year board, the leader of the pack is a player who has been on fire through the first two months of the year. The United Kingdom’s Toby Lewis has been scintillating through February, taking down the 2018 Aussie Millions Main Event championship for a $1.1 million-plus payday. That wasn’t enough for the Brit, however, as he left the land “Down Under” and came to the L. A. Poker Classic with his groove still working. Lewis would finish second in the World Poker Tour Main Event of the LAPC to start March, earning another $600,000-plus in cash and earning (between the two events) 3780 points, ahead in the POY by a wide margin over the field.
Just how far ahead is Lewis at this point? Second place Justin Bonomo has a half million dollars more in earnings over Lewis to this point of 2018 (thanks to some decent High Roller finishes), but he has “only” earned 2156 points on the CardPlayer board. And Bonomo BARELY eked out the second-place slot on the CardPlayer POY. 2018 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event champion Maria Lampropulos’ victory was enough to give her 2100 points and the final podium spot entering March. Koray Aldemir (1940 points) and Aussie Millions runner-up Stefan Huber (1900) round out the Top Five in fourth and fifth places, respectively.
The fifth-place spot marks the return of one of the legends of online poker. After not cashing in a live tournament event since 2014, Viktor “Isildur1” Blom has made a splash back into the game. The partypoker MILLIONS Germany was where Blom made his green, taking down the €5000 Main Event for a nearly million-Euro cash. Although Blom had cashed in a preliminary tournament earlier on the MILLIONS schedule, the Main Event win was the first time that Blom cashed in a tournament since the 2014 European Poker Tour Season X finale at the Grand Final in Monte Carlo. The 1824 points for the victory also put Blom in sixth place on the POY rankings.
L. A. Poker Classic champion Dennis Blieden slides in behind Blom on the board, the 1800 points for his WPT championship officially landing him in seventh. That clipped Adrian Mateos, who has not won yet in 2018 but has three final tables and 1795 points for eighth place. Rounding out the Top Ten for the CardPlayer Player of the Year race are Stephen Chidwick (1770 points) and Tim Rutherford (1760) in ninth and tenth places, respectively.
To say that there is a different poker reality on the Global Poker Index Player of the Year race would be a huge understatement. Of the ten players that come up on the CardPlayer rankings, only THREE of them make an appearance on the GPI ladder. In fact, the player who has seized the GPI Player of the Year lead at this point is a player that only the most hard-core poker fans might have heard of.
Although he has a runner-up finish in a 2016 World Series of Poker preliminary event, Georgios Zisimopoulos hasn’t exactly set the poker world on fire in his career. Mostly content to stay in Europe and play in the multitude of events there, Zisimopoulos has come out of the gate in 2018 with a vengeance. Between three tournament schedules, Zisimopoulos has been able to cash in a slew of tournaments, good enough to be able to put him atop the GPI standings.
Zisimopoulos has only one win among the eleven cashes he has earned (in a $500 Bounty event at the Merit Poker Western Tournament in January), but those 11 cashes have generated 1631.11 points, good enough for the top slot on the GPI POY leaderboard. To compare the two ranking systems, while Zisimopoulos is leading the way on the GPI countdown, he isn’t found on the CardPlayer system until 93rd place.
Another player who has been a serial casher is Nick Pupillo. Stunningly, Pupillo has cashed 13 times since January 1, with a top cash coming for his sixth-place finish at the Heartland Poker Tour’s Main Event at the Golden Gates Casino & Poker Parlour in Black Hawk, CO ($31,855). In those 13 cashes, Pupillo has accumulated 1618.23 points and takes hold of the second-place slot on the GPI standings.
Former World Champion Joe McKeehen seems to have come out in 2018 with a mission. He’s been playing several major tournaments on the WPT, with a best finish of third at the WPT Thunder Valley last week, and those larger field events have given him enough points to capture the third-place slot on the GPI rankings with 1478.17 points. Hot on his heels are Joao Pires Simao (1452.97 points) and Chidwick (1430.66), who round out the Top Five on the GPI.
The second half of the Top Ten brings more surprises. Ari Engel is in sixth at this point in the season, his 1426.10 points barely behind Chidwick, while Timothy Miles is a bit further back at 1411.31 points in seventh. Although he is in first on the CardPlayer rankings, Lewis can only get to eighth on the GPI board with his 1383.74 points. Bonomo (1371.99 points) and Daniel Negreanu (1345.64) round out the GPI Player of the Year race in ninth and tenth places, respectively.
These standings will probably be completely turned over by the time Tax Day (April 15) arrives. There are two Main Tour events in the next month on the WPT and several WSOP Circuit events, but the biggest question mark for a tournament could be the rebirth of the European Poker Tour. The EPT Sochi begins on March 20 and many in the poker world will be watching to see if the players come back.
Changes by The Stars Group – including the cosmetic step of bringing back the old EPT moniker – have been made but, since there has only been the also-reborn PokerStars Caribbean Adventure to judge so far, it is unknown if the players are giving the reborn EPT a chance. It will have an impact on the Player of the Year races, however, so expect the top players in Europe to flock to the Russian coastal city.