The 2014 World Series of Poker Player of the Year race could produce some high drama at the WSOP Asia-Pacific, as the top two players, Brandon Shack-Harris and George Danzer, have gone back and forth in their efforts to secure their place at the top of the standings.
Both Shack-Harris and Danzer have held the lead at various points during WSOP APAC, and it seems almost certain now that one of the two will emerge as the player of the series by the time the APAC Main Event concludes.
Right now, Shack-Harris has the advantage with 806.70 points, ahead of Danzer, who sits in second with 762.20. But there is an ocean between them and the rest of the field, as John Hennigan, Daniel Negreanu and Daniel Colman are all more than 200 points behind Danzer and seemingly out of contention, barring a miraculous series of results.
Already, the two have swapped the pole position twice in Melbourne, where the WSOP APAC is being held. When the two arrived in Australia, Shack-Harris had a narrow lead, with both men choosing to play in the first event: an Accumulator tournament in which players could combine their starting stacks from any of the three starting days.
Danzer showed up in time to play all three flights, earning him enough chips to eventually take him to 22nd place. Shack-Harris also scored a minimum cash, but Danzer secured enough points to earn a 1.7 point lead in the Player of the Year race.
But Shack-Harris struck back quickly. In the fourth event of the tournament, he reached the final table of the No-Limit Hold’em Terminator, earning 46.2 points and giving him a significant advantage heading into the last few WSOP APAC tournaments. But one large result by either player could change the math yet again.
“Who doesn’t love a good sweat?” said Ty Stewart, WSOP’s executive director. “It’s been very gratifying to see the WSOP Player of the Year increase its profile over the past few years. More satisfying that it’s been organic to players who prioritize it and not a marketing push by us as organizers.”
The nature of the Las Vegas portion of the WSOP schedule makes it hard to keep track of the race, Stewart said, but APAC’s less frantic pace makes it the perfect way to finish off the battle for the award.
“During the series, with overlapping events and storylines changing hourly, it’s hard for the Player of the Year to be front and center,” Stewart said. “But at APAC, it has a chance to be the dominant storyline. I think that’s fun for players, and we saw over the past few years it’s definitely fun for fans.”
While the most likely result is that Shack-Harris or Danzer walks away with the title, there are still a few other names to watch. Among the closest competitors behind the top two, only Negreanu is in Australia, and could overtake them with a great result: in particular, a win in the APAC Main Event might well do it.
For other players, like Phil Hellmuth (who currently finds himself in 21st place in the Player of the Year rankings), it might take two wins or a similarly unlikely result to get back into the race.
The eventual winner of the WSOP Player of the Year award will be awarded a free buy-in to the 2015 WSOP Main Event.