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Player of the Year

by Ryan Lucchesi |  Published: Jan 08, 2010


Baldwin at it Again
Eric Baldwin
Only one player in the top 10 of the Card Player 2009 Player of the Year (POY) race scored points in early December, and it came as no surprise that it was the man on top, Eric Baldwin. He made his 16th final-table appearance of the year and booked his 21st cash when he finished in fourth place in a $500 no-limit hold’em event at the Five-Diamond World Poker Classic at Bellagio. He added 144 points and $7,978 to his 2009 totals with the finish. He now has 6,202 points for the year and has won $1,237,834 in tournaments in 2009. Cornel Cimpan is Baldwin’s closest competition, but he is now 532 points behind the POY leader.

EPT Prague and the APPT Sydney Grand Final Award Thousands of Points
Two of the biggest tournaments at the end of 2009 each awarded thousands of POY points recently. The PokerStars European Poker Tour Prague €5,000 no-limit hold’em main event attracted 586 players and generated a prize pool of €2,842,100. The first-place prize was €684,000. This was the third year of growth for this popular winter tournament. During its first year in 2007, it attracted 555 players, and in 2008, it grew to 570 players.

The top prize was claimed by Jan Skampa, who also received 1,920 POY points. Skampa recently made his first EPT final table in the Vilamoura main event in November. He finished fourth there and took home 768 points. He also tallied an eighth-place finish in the World Poker Tour Slovakia no-limit hold’em main event in September, for 80 points. He now has 2,768 points and sits in 26th place in the standings. He should be able to ride this momentum into the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure to kick off 2010, Jan. 4-14.

The other two 1,000-point winners in Prague were runner-up Eyal Avitan, who was awarded 1,600 points, and third-place finisher Stefan Mattsson. This Swedish professional took home 1,280 points and now has 1,880 for the year, thanks to a final-table cash at the World Series of Poker this summer (fourth place in the $10,000 pot-limit Omaha world championship).

The Asia Pacific Poker Tour Sydney Grand Final also took place at the start of December, in Australia. The $5,636 no-limit hold’em main event attracted 396 players. Australian Aaron Benton took home the top prize and 1,920 POY points. Ernst Hermans finished runner-up in the event and garnered 1,600 points. Hermans just missed a final table at the 2009 WSOP when he finished in 10th place in a $1,500 no-limit hold’em event in June. The third-place finisher in Sydney was Leo Boxell. He was awarded 1,280 points for his first POY cash of the year. Spade Suit

Look Out: Brian Lemke
By Julio Rodriguez
After overcoming a murderer’s row of young poker superstars at the final table of event No. 15 at this year’s World Series of Poker, Brian Lemke easily could have faded away and basked in the glow of his first bracelet and $692,658. Instead, the 32-year-old dedicated himself to the game with a vow to improve and ultimately demonstrate that his victory was no fluke.

After picking up a cash in the $10,000 WSOP heads-up championship, he took a break for a bit before resurfacing in November at the United States Poker Championship at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, New Jersey. There, he earned his second live-tournament win of the year in event No. 9, $500 no-limit hold’em, which was good for $38,080.
Brian Lemke
Now playing with confidence, the Norristown, Pennsylvania, resident put up the $5,000 buy-in for the main event, and navigated his way through a field of 154 grinders. After finding himself at the final table, he fought hard with a short stack to claw his way to a fifth-place finish, earning $46,200. These two scores gave him an additional 588 Player of the Year points, bringing his total to 2,508 and vaulting him into 40th place in the standings. He now has more than $800,000 in career tournament winnings, with most of it coming in 2009.

Lemke attributes his success to his time spent with younger pros, and he has no problem being the elder statesman of the group. “I’ve been hanging around a lot of online poker pros,” he said. “It’s great, because I can just listen to them talk strategy. I’ve picked up so much information. They’re all younger guys, and I’m 32. It’s good to hang out with them, as they’re smart kids. They know what they’re doing and know what they’re talking about.”

There isn’t enough time for him to make a run at this year’s POY title, but his newfound momentum will undoubtedly make him a force to be reckoned with at the tables in the coming new year.

In addition to his time spent on the tournament circuit, Lemke has taken on a project that’s very close to him — starting a scholarship foundation at Temple University in honor of his late cousin, poker reporter Justin Shronk. Spade Suit