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Champion of the Year: Chip Jett is the Man

by Phil Hellmuth's Play Panel |  Published: Jan 16, 2004

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What an ending we witnessed in 2003! Going into the last qualifying event of the year – Bellagio's Five-Diamond Poker Classic $10,000 buy-in no-limit hold'em championship (a World Poker Tour event) – a total of 13 players could have won the "Champion of the Year" award (COTY). I controlled my own destiny with the lead at 1,070 points, and believe me, I don't have any problem with winning my own award! (However, I didn't make it past day one.)

With 50 players left in the tournament (we started with 314), Erik Seidel controlled his own destiny with 1,005 points; plus, he had chips and momentum on his side. You see, Erik had managed to finish seventh and first respectively in the previous two events he played, $2,500 limit hold'em and $2,500 pot-limit Omaha. After day one of the four-day championship event, one of the chip leaders was, not surprisingly, Erik. I believed in him, and was going to bet on him to finish first or second, but he told me on day No. 3, "Don't bet on me … " Uh, OK.

Chip Jett was in third place on the COTY list going into day No. 3, and he needed an eighth-place or better finish to pass me, but he still had to worry about Seidel, Amir Vahedi (who needed first or second place), Daniel Negreanu (who needed first place), and Mel Judah (who needed first place).

So, there I sat at Bellagio on day No. 3, watching all of these great players have a go at passing me up. Negreanu went out early, and after Seidel was eliminated in 19th place, I announced to the large audience that Chip needed eighth or better to pass me. With Seidel gone, Chip now controlled his own destiny.

When Amir finished in 14th place, only three players had a chance to win the COTY: Chip, Mel, and I. As time passed, Chip and Mel made the final table. There was just one more place to go for Chip, and eight for Mel, but of course they were both focused on the $1.1 million first-place prize. When one more player was eliminated, Chip had done it! He had made the final eight – and finished eighth – to take the lead.

After Chip finished eighth, Mel had to win the tournament to win the COTY. At about that time Mel asked me, "Phil, do international events count?"

I replied, "Only WPT international events."

Mel said, "That's too bad, because I made three other big buy-in final tables this year." Nice job anyway, Mel, but they don't count for the COTY.

With six players left, the tournament broke for the day, and Mel was still alive and kicking. We would have to wait for the final day to determine who would win the COTY for 2003. It would be Chip or Mel, but Mel needed to win the tournament to pass Chip.

The next day, when Mel finished in sixth place, I was finally able to announce the winner, thusly: "Chip Jett wins Phil Hellmuth's 'Champion of the Year' award for 2003!" Let's give Chip Jett some praise; he made seven final tables in poker's toughest and most prestigious events in 2003.

Chip made final tables in the COTY events all year. In fact, he won the first qualifying event of the year, the $2,000 buy-in no-limit hold'em tournament in Tunica, for $129,000. He then finished second for $176,000 in the PartyPoker.com Million II tournament. He then finished seventh and ninth in World Series of Poker H.O.R.S.E. and Omaha eight-or-better events, respectively. He then won the California State Poker Championship for $215,000. His sixth COTY tournament finish was in the Bike's WPT $5,000 buy-in no-limit hold'em event, where he finished fourth and won $100,000. Finally, he finished eighth in the WPT Bellagio event just mentioned and took home $58,000.

Other players who had a good chance to win the COTY in 2003 were Phil Ivey (who led for most of the year), Men Nguyen, Toto Leonidas (who made a late charge), Chris Ferguson (who had a terrific WSOP), Howard Lederer, and T.J. Cloutier. "One-word names" Negreanu, Flack, Gus, Chan, and Devilfish are a few of the other top-20 finishers. The 21st- through 30th-place finishers include four world champions (Huck Seed, Carlos Mortensen, Scotty Nguyen, and Dan Harrington), John Juanda, and Allen Cunningham. By the way, Juanda won the COTY in 2002. For a list of the top 100 finishers in the 2003 COTY, go to philhellmuth.com.

Look at the number of great players who made the top 30 this year. To me, it shows the amount of skill required in the biggest events in poker. With the number of entrants way up in all of the COTY events, all of these great players were at the top of the list. The players have fought hard for structures that give us time to "work" our chips in these COTY events.

For 2004, the same qualifying criteria will be in place: All tournaments in the United States with buy-ins of $2,000 and more and at least 65 players will count. In addition, all World Series of Poker events and all WPT events will count. From first place to ninth, 200, 180, 160, 140, 120, 100, 80, 60, and 40 points, respectively, will be awarded. The WSOP main event stands in a class of its own, and will have a multiplier of 3; the WPT 25K event will have a 2.5 multiplier; all other 10K events will have a multiplier of 2; and events from $5,000 up to $9,999 will have a 1.5 multiplier.

If you want to win the "Champion of the Year" award in 2004, you will have to play against the best poker players in the world, in the biggest and most prestigious events, and finish at several final tables. Special thanks to Kenneth Popkin for managing the COTY award and keeping it up to date with a spreadsheet; he did it all for three autographed copies of my book Play Poker Like the Pros. Congratulations to Chip Jett, the 2003 "Champion of the Year." What a wonderful year you had, Chip!diamonds