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Faces of the 2009 POY Race -- Part II

The Home-Run Hitters Have Won the Most Important Tournaments of the Year

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Cornel CimpanThe 2009 Card Player Player of the Year race is winding down, with the top contenders eyeing the World Poker Tour Doyle Brunson Classic $15,000 no-limit hold’em event at the end of the Five-Diamond World Poker Classic at Bellagio next week as their final chance to collect POY points.

The top 10 players have each taken different paths to accomplish a great year at the tables. Some of them have made a few major scores and won millions in the process. Others have been a model of consistency, scoring cashes and final-table appearances at an impressive rate. Both strategies are effective, as the results these players have posted can testify to below. This series examines both the tournament poker players who have used the small-ball strategy and those who were the home-run hitters in 2009.

Part II takes a look at the home-run hitters, the players who have won the most important tournaments of the year and claimed a huge amount of POY points in the process. They have also won a ton of money, of course. Just look at the average amount of money these players win when they score a POY cash. Four of these players are in the top 10 on the money-won list in 2009. World Series of Poker main-event champion Joe Cada leads the way with $8,546,435 for his big win.

There are just a handful of tournaments that award 2,400 or more points to the first-place finisher each year, and the players who win them always factor into the POY race at some point. Poorya Nazari led the race for the first half of 2009 thanks to the 3,000 points he won as champion of the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in January. One big win is never enough to win the POY race on its own merit though, and even Cada, with 3,600 points, sits outside the top five on the leader board. The serious challengers have used the momentum generated by their huge wins this year to pick up additional cashes and separate themselves from the field as major POY contenders.

Home-Run Hitters:

Cornel Cimpan

Current POY Place: 2
POY Points: 5,934
2009 POY Cashes: 6
POY Money Won: $2,807,781
Final Tables: 5
Tournament Wins: 3
Average Money Won Per POY Cash: $467,964

Cornel Cimpan (pictured above right) scored his biggest win of the year at the World Poker Tour L.A. Poker Classic at Commerce Casino in February. He was awarded $1,686,760 in prize money and the 2,400 POY points, which built him a solid foundation in the race. Cimpan became a serious contender in November, when he won his second WPT title at the World Poker Finals and added another 2,100 points to his total.

Cimpan wouldn’t be sitting in his current position as the main contender to overtake Eric Baldwin (268 points behind) if it weren’t for the extra points he gained by playing strong all year long. His wins and final-table appearances in preliminary events, combined with deep finishes in other marquee events, have earned him 1,434 points.

Those cashes include his third tournament win of the year, a recent victory at a preliminary pot-limit Omaha event at the European Poker Tour Prague stop. Cimpan ran deep in the EPT Barcelona main event in October, wherein he finished in 10th place. A final-table appearance at an LAPC preliminary that preceded his first big win in February was the first time that Cimpan picked up points in 2009. Cimpan also made his first WSOP final table in 2009 when he finished in fourth place in event No. 10 ($2,500 pot-limit hold’em/pot-limit Omaha).

Yevgeniy TimoshenkoYevgeniy Timoshenko

Current POY Place: 3
POY Points: 5,509
2009 POY Cashes: 5
POY Money Won: $3,948,098
Final Tables: 2
Tournament Wins: 2
Average Money Won Per POY Cash: $789,620

Yevgeniy Timoshenko (pictured left) has scored two of the biggest wins in poker in 2009. One of them came at a live event, while the other came online. Timoshenko scored the biggest win of his live career in April, when he won the $25,000 WPT Championship at Bellagio. Timoshenko took home $2,149,960 and 2,448 points for the victory. His second big victory came in September when he won the $5,000 main event of the World Championship of Online Poker on PokerStars. He topped a field of 2,144 players in the huge event and took home $1,715,200 and 2,880 points. (The WCOOP is usually the only online poker tournament to award POY points each year.)

That gave Timoshenko 5,328 points to work with, and there were many weeks when he led the POY race. He has scored a handful of smaller cashes at live events to take his total up to 5,509. He is 693 points behind Baldwin. It should also be noted that Timoshenko has booked a very impressive year online. He has cashed 30 times in Card Player Online Player of the Year events, and he sits in 18th place in that race with 6,668 points. If the POY award was a complete combination of live and online performances in 2009, then Timoshenko would be the champion.

Vitaly LunkinVitaly Lunkin

Current POY Place: 4
POY Points: 4,473
2009 POY Cashes: 6
POY Money Won: $3,151,602
Final Tables: 5
Tournament Wins: 2
Average Money Won Per POY Cash: $525,269

Vitaly Lunkin (pictured right) scored his first cash in the 2009 POY race when he won the $7,000 no-limit hold’em main event at the Russian Poker Tour stop in his hometown of Moscow at the beginning of the May, which awarded 1,008 points. By the end of the month, he captured the biggest win of his career and his second WSOP gold bracelet. He won the prestigious $40,000 no-limit hold’em event to take home $1,891,012 and 1,440 points.

That was just the beginning of a strong WSOP for Lunkin. He cashed an additional three times during the summer and made two more final tables in marquee events. He was the runner-up in the $10,000 pot-limit Omaha world championship and was awarded 1,500 points. He also took fourth place in the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. world championship and added 360 points to his total.

Since the World Series has concluded, Lunkin made his sixth final table of the year at a preliminary pot-limit Omaha event at the Master Classics of Poker. He would need to win the Five-Diamond World Poker Classic WPT championship event to overtake Baldwin at this point, but Lunkin can be proud of the year he has had. It was the strongest of any international player in the race.

Brock ParkerBrock Parker

Current POY Place: 7
POY Points: 3,772
2009 POY Cashes: 3
POY Money Won: $843,243
Final Tables: 3
Tournament Wins: 2
Average Money Won Per POY Cash: $281,081

Brock Parker (pictured left) made headlines at the 2009 WSOP when he became the first player to win two bracelets during the summer. Parker was awarded 1,332 points for his first bracelet win in event No. 14 ($2,500 short-handed limit hold’em) and he took home an additional 1,800 points just three days later when he won event No. 19 ($2,500 short-handed no-limit hold’em).

Parker was soon joined by Phil Ivey and Greg Mueller in the 2009 double-bracelet club, and Jeffrey Lisandro topped them all, winning three bracelets during the course of a memorable summer. Parker has managed to stay ahead of the other three players mentioned here in the POY standings thanks to another final-table appearance he made in October at the UltimateBet Aruba Poker Classic $5,000 no-limit hold’em event. He finished in sixth place in Aruba and was awarded 640 points, which took his total up to 3,772.

Joe CadaJoe Cada

Current POY Place: 8
POY Points: 3,600
2009 POY Cashes: 1
POY Money Won: $8,546,435
Final Tables: 1
Tournament Wins: 1
Average Money Won Per POY Cash: $8,546,435

It’s hard to make an argument against the WSOP main-event champion as the player who had the best year on the felt in 2009, but POY is judged on an entire body of work, not just one victory. The 3,600 points that Joe Cada (pictured right) was awarded as the main-event champion, however, were enough to catapult him up to eighth place in the race. Cada will finish 2009 as the leading money-winner thanks to the prize money he took home in Las Vegas.

Don’t rule out Cada for the 2010 POY race either. The 2008 main-event champion, Peter Eastgate, had a very strong year in 2009, and he is currently in 19th place with 2,896 points.

Angel GuillenAngel Guillen

Current POY Place: 10
POY Points: 3,492
2009 POY Cashes: 3
POY Money Won: $943,268
Final Tables: 3
Tournament Wins: 1
Average Money Won Per POY Cash: $314,422

Angel Guillen (pictured left) is the only other international player, along with Lunkin, who currently resides in the top 10 in the POY race. Guillen is from Mexico, and his first final table in 2009 came at the Latin American Poker Tour $3,500 main event in Punta del Esta, Uruguay. Guillen took third and scored 792 points.

He was another player that caught fire during a short amount of time at the WSOP. He made his first WSOP final table in event No. 13 ($2,500 no-limit hold’em) on June 7 and finished in second place to take home 1,500 points. Ten days later, Guillen made another final table in event No. 32 ($2,000 no-limit hold’em), and this time he won a gold bracelet and 1,200 additional points.