How should the Player of the Year race be scored?

Is it right that a player with two bracelets is 20th, the biggest money winner is 67th and a player with lots of min cashes is 3rd?

Doug Polk 2017 WSOP

Maybe the biggest talking point of the 2017 World Series of Poker so far has been the changes to the Player of the Year system. At the time of writing David Bach has won two bracelets yet sits in 20th place with 301.79 points. Doug Polk is in 67th place with 231.70 despite winning the biggest event so far of the year for $3,686,865. Aditya Agarwal is in 3rd place with 387.99 despite only mustering 6 min cashes and one final table 9th place finish. Pablo Mariz leads with 459.41 because he won the Millionaire Maker, came 2nd in a Tag Team event and has two min cashes.

Visit the WSOP Player of the Year page to play around with the points calculator and you will discover that what is really valued in the algorithm is ROI. Although Polk’s win was for the most money against perhaps the toughest field, it was also a very small field for the WSOP and thus a lower ROI. Likewise David Bach may have just won two highly coveted Mixed Game events but the fields were 150 and 364. Mariz, however, had two big results in fields of 843 and 7,761.

First things first, it is hard to argue against a system that doesn’t overweight the importance of buy-in size for the Super High Roller events. As good as a player like Fedor Holz is, winning a bunch of Super High Rollers is still essentially taking down a number of small field tournaments. It is the prizes and standard of the field we are in awe of, not the vastness of the field.

The POY opens up

Pablo Mariz 2017 WSOP

What these new changes mean is that it, for the first time, opens up the Player of the Year race to regular players who cannot afford every event and/or are not Mixed Games specialists. This year a complete unknown may well win it, which whatever you think of the way the points are calculated, embraces that inclusive aspect of poker that makes it so compelling.

The prizes on offer for the winner (A €10,000 WSOPE seat and a $10,000 2018 Main Event seat) will be much more meaningful to the up and coming player anyway, compared to the Hellmuths and Negreanus who usually are vying for it purely for pride. 

It does seem silly, however, that David Bach can win two prestigious Mixed Games Championships and be 17 places behind a player whose best result is a 9th place finish. The contentious part of the way the points are calculated is around the debate over what is tougher to achieve – a win in a huge field or in an elite field? Most would probably agree that a Daniel Negreanu or a Phil Ivey is more likely to win two non-Hold’em events than take down a single 3,000 field $1,500 No Limit event, because there are so many more landmines to avoid with a big field, even if the average table is significantly softer.

Is it fairer?

David Bach 2017 WSOP

It is certainly ‘fairer’ if you consider how little a game like Razz or 2-7 Single Draw is played outside of the series and how ubiquitous No Limit is. When 99% of poker is No Limit, it perhaps isn't right somebody can become player of the year based on games that are dying out, relatively.

However, the WSOP has always been a celebration of all poker, including the history of poker, and there is a lot of gravitas to being versatile, hence the Players Championship being so coveted. I must admit, even though my entire career I’ve championed the little guy over the elite pro, I too think there is something special and ‘pure’ about winning a non-Hold’em bracelet.

The biggest concern is that this formula seems to put much more emphasis on the handful of events where the field is in the multiples of thousands. The eventual winners of the Main Event, Colossus and Millionaire Maker are going to be in pole position, and any one result shouldn’t determine the ‘player of the year’. That should always go to consistency rather than a single result, it would seem ludicrous to make Jamie Gold the 2006 Player of the Year, for example.

However, I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t support the new POY formula because I have always argued for poker to be as inclusive as possible, and now that the Player of the Year race is a more achievable dream for more players, it is just that. Maybe there needs to be some sort of extra weighting factor for 1st place, multiple wins or perhaps a 2nd race for $10,000+ events.

I support the changes, but something doesn't quite feel right that David Bach is so low down in the standings already. 

Should the Player of the Year race be based on ROI, size of buy-in, versatility or toughness of field? Let us know in the comments:

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Comments (2)

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  • nsavov


    I think chip EV should be considered in the formula..
  • Tumlex


    @nsavov :'D