The New WSOP Player Of The Year Rankings Are Sprained Not Broken

July 6, 2017
The New WSOP Player Of The Year Rankings Are Sprained Not Broken


The World Series of Poker Player of the Year leaderboard has always been somewhat controversial and a source of debate. But then again, what isn’t in poker? That said, 2017 seems to have taken the amount of debate and criticism to a new level.

A lack of continuity

Plenty of companies have made an effort to rank players at the WSOP over the years, and this merry-go-round of POY formulas is problematic in and of itself, as each outlet used a proprietary formula that emphasized different achievements.

For the first seven years, the WSOP handled the POY formula internally.

In 2011 the duty fell to Bluff, which was easily the least controversial method.

In 2015 the WSOP switched to the Global Poker Index’s formula, which it scrapped after just two years.

This year Kings Casino took over the WSOP Player of the Year rankings.

With each switch to a new formula, there have been significant course corrections, generally resulting in the scales tipping too far in another direction.

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POY Complaints have run the gamut

Over the years, complaints have ranged from an overemphasis on the Main Event, potentially propelling someone who had a mediocre series to the top of the POY list, to the inclusion of WSOP Europe events, which many people felt favored big name pros capable of footing the expenses of international trips, allowing them to pad their stats.

The latest debate centers around the number of points bestowed on specialist events with high-buy-ins compared to large field no-limit hold’em tournaments with smaller buy-ins.

Are the WSOP Player of the Year complaints deserved?

The most vocal critic of the new system, but certainly not the only one, is Daniel Negreanu.

Negreanu, the only person to win the WSOP POY award multiple times, feels the new system doesn’t just favor big field no-limit hold’em tournaments, but it disproportionately rewards players for simply making the money, and doesn’t adequately reward players for winning events.

A look at the Top 10 in the WSOP POY race on July 5 presents a strong case that the POY rankings are working, and at the same time has some serious flaws.

  1. John Racener – 729.92
  2. Chris Ferguson – 693.42
  3. Raymond Henson – 666.72
  4. Ryan Hughes – 633.16
  5. Barry Greenstein – 596.06
  6. John Monnette – 583.92
  7. James Obst – 555.58
  8. Aditya Agarwal – 544.99
  9. Mike Leah – 542.99
  10. Daniel Negreanu – 541.24

At the top is John Racener. Racener has won a bracelet in a $10k event and has 14 cashes during the 2017 series.

It’s hard to argue against Racener, Ray Henson, or many of the other players in the Top 10. You could argue their position in the rankings – something you could do every year – but at the end of the day, their status as contenders is warranted.

The min-casher of the year award

On the other hand, there are two examples in the list that clearly demonstrate the system is flawed.

Chris Ferguson is in second place on the back of 13 min-cashes and one final table. Eleven of Ferguson’s cashes are for less than $5,000.

Ditto for Mike Leah, who has 12 cashes and one final table. Six of Leah’s cashes are for less than $2,500, and his largest cash was $31,903.

The emphasis on cashing is something the WSOP and King’s Casino (assuming they return next year) will have to adjust.

As Negreanu pointed out on Twitter:

WSOP Bracelets should count more

On the opposite of the coin is David Bach. Bach’s ranking is a good demonstration of the system’s second shortcoming. He has won two bracelets and cashed a total of four times this year. Those results would typically put him in contention for the POY award, but he currently sits in 38th place with just over 400 points.

Bach won the $1,500 Dealer’s Choice tournament and the $10k HORSE event. He also finished 11th in the Six-handed Limit Hold’em event. But as PocketFives Editor in Chief Lance Bradley pointed out, even if Bach does something legendary – winning three WSOP bracelets in a single series including the $50k PPC – he’s barely in the running for the POY.

Final WSOP POY thoughts

The new system is clearly flawed, but it’s not an unsalvageable mess that will always crown an undeserving champion.

Most of the players near the top of the leader board deserve to be there, and there’s a good chance the Player of the Year will not be the “Min-Casher of the Year.”

With a few tweaks – reducing points for min-cashes and increasing points for wins – the system would be adequate.

Ready to see your own name atop the WSOP Player of the Year rankings next year? Get your start online by signing up for WSOP NV or WSOP NJ today!

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