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Card Player POY Race About to Shift into High Gear

The 44 Tourneys of the WSOP Give Players Plenty of Scoring Chances

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On Sunday, the 2006 World Series of Poker officially begins, and if there was a New Years Day specifically made for poker players, this is it. The WSOP is so big and attracts so many people from the start, that the entire year is more or less defined by what happens at the Rio's poker tables.

One thing that will certainly change are the names that now sit on Card Player Magazine's Player of the Year leader board. WSOP bracelet winners will not only receive a bundle of cash, but they'll also be awarded a bundle of POY points thanks to the large field of players that are expected to play in all 44 events.

Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi has led all tournament players in points since February, when he won most of his points in a three-week span in which he took a first and two seconds at World Poker Tour events. With the year half over, Mizrachi has 4,737 points, made seven final tables, and already won more than $2 million on the tournament trail. He already has more points than last year's POY winner Men Nguyen finished with.

But just because players get hot at the WSOP doesn't mean they're a lock to win the POY race. Nguyen is a good example of that. He did it the hard way last year, accumulating most of his points late in the year by playing in a ton of low-to-medium-buy-in events, with a few large-buy-in events scattered in there (Nguyen made 16 final tables in 2005, winning $973,620). The POY race came down to the last tournament he and runner-up John Phan played in. Nguyen inched Phan out by 176 points, proving that it is indeed a race.

If Mizrachi stays hot (he just got first at the Mandalay Bay $2,000 buy-in event), he will be able to make it extremely hard for any of the other players to catch up. But if another player gets hot, say someone like Kenna James, Joe Bartholdi, Joe Tehan, or any of the other players who are heading into the WSOP in Card Player's POY top 10, then as the last hand of the final table is dealt, the POY race will have just begun.

One thing's sure. On Aug. 11, the day after the WSOP main event winner is crowned, players and fans everywhere will have to step back and take another look at Card Player's POY leader board to see who stayed on top, and who failed to improve. With only a few days before the WSOP begins, here are the top 10 point leaders. Only time and a whole lot of poker will tell if Mizrachi can maintain his lead.

The Top 10

Mizrachi is dominating the POY race with 4,737 points. James, who has had himself a great year going back to 2005, sits in the second spot with 2,692 points. He not only trails Mizrachi in points, but is also more than $1 million behind him in tournament winnings so far for the year.

James got all his points by making the final table in three tournaments this year. He finished first in the $2,500 no-limit event at the L.A. Poker Classic, finished second in the PartyPoker.com Millions event, and took ninth in the Aussie's Millions $10,000 buy-in event.

Behind James in third place is Bartholdi, the winner of the $25,000 WPT Championship event at the Five-Star World Poker Classic held at the Bellagio in April. He won $3,760,165 and took the maximum 1,920 POY points. He got the rest of his 2,500 points by making finishing second in the Gold Strike World Poker Open's $1,000 buy-in event.

Tehan is right behind Bartholdi with 2,390 points. Most of his points came from winning the $10,000 event at the Mandalay Bay Poker Championship, earning $1,033,440 and 1,680 points. He also has two final table appearances in events with buy-ins $1,000 and under, and he won the $300 event at the L.A. Poker Classic that attracted 862 players (the win was good for $244,179 and 480 points).

Nam Le sits at fifth on the POY leader board, 1 point behind Tehan, with 2,389 points. He won the Bay 101 Shooting Star championship event in March and took second in the Mandalay Bay Poker Championship's $1,500 buy-in event. He's won $1,274,735 on the tournament trail in 2006.

Stanley Weiss sits in sixth place, mainly because he won the Mirage Poker Showdown's championship event in May, which was good for $1,320,255 and 1,824 points. A first-place finish in the Mirage's $500 event gave him another 480 points and $75,549.

Alan Goehring sits right behind Weiss in seventh place and he finds himself in the top 10 thanks to his huge win at the L.A. Poker Classic, where he took first in the $10,000 event that attracted 692 people, generating a first-place prize of $2,391,550. He also finished eighth at the Mirage Poker Showdown. He has 2,224 points.

Annand "Victor" Ramdin currently sits in eighth place, thanks to his $1,331,889 victory at the Foxwoods Poker Classic back in April. He has 2,176 points.

Erick Lindgren is in ninth place with 2,086 points. He earned most of his points by winning the $3,000 buy-in event at the Five-Star World Poker Classic. He also finished second to Mizrachi in the Borgata Winter Poker Open.

And rounding out the top 10 is David Daneshgar with 2,046 points. He won the $1,000 event at the Borgata Winter Open and the $2,500 event at the Winnin' O' the Green series held at Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles. He's won $355,818 this year so far.

Click here to read how the Card Player POY points are compiled. Click here to view the current race board, and click here to visit the board from 2005.