Apr 26, 2010
By BJ Nemeth
When Faraz Jaka finished third at the WPT Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic back in December, he probably gave little thought to the WPT Player of the Year race. It was the second time in five months that Jaka had reached the final three of a WPT, but he failed to win both times.
Even though he failed to capture his first title, Jaka was able to open up a thin lead in the POY race. His lead would survive challenges from dozens of players over the next six events, making it one of the most contested Player of the Year race in WPT history — a race that wouldn’t be decided until there were two players left in the final event of the season.
Shawn Buchanan was the last surviving challenger in the WPT World Championship, making it all the way to the TV final table. He would need a victory to pass Jaka in the POY race, and with three players remaining, victory seemed to be within Buchanan’s grasp. Buchanan was jockeying with David Williams for the chip lead when they got it all in preflop — Buchanan’s [QcQs] against Williams’ [9d9s]. The winner would have a massive chip lead, and the loser would be eliminated or nearly so.
The [9h] that fell on the flop changed the fates of three people — Buchanan was eliminated from both the WPT World Championship and the WPT Player of the Year race, Williams went on to win the WPT World Championship, and Faraz Jaka officially became the WPT Player of the Year.
Jaka had a fantastic year on the World Poker Tour, with 2 WPT final tables, 4 WPT cashes, and more than $1.42 million in WPT earnings. In addition to his third-place finish mentioned earlier, Jaka was also the runner-up in the first event of the season — the WPT Bellagio Cup V. Jaka becomes the first Player of the Year to win the award without a WPT victory.
While Jaka won the award based on his two final tables relatively early in the season, he never rested on his POY points lead. In the final event of the season (the WPT World Championship), there were more than 30 players within range of Jaka’s points lead, and six of them survived into the money. But Jaka wasn’t finished yet; not only was he still in the tournament — he was the chipleader with 18 players left.
When Jaka busted in 14th place (his flopped set of aces fell to David Williams’ turned straight), there were four contenders left — Olivier Busquet, Shawn Buchanan, Scotty Nguyen, and Phil Hellmuth. Busquet, who won the WPT Borgata back in September, needed to finish sixth or higher, but busted out in 11th. The final three contenders would need a victory to catch Jaka, but they all fell short — Nguyen in 8th, Hellmuth in 7th, and Buchanan in 3rd. That was the moment when Jaka officially won the award.
As the most recent WPT Player of the Year, Faraz Jaka’s name has been added to an illustrious list that includes some of the best players in the game:
Season I POY: Howard Lederer
Season II POY: Erick Lindgren
Season III POY: Daniel Negreanu
Season IV POY: Gavin Smith
Season V POY: J.C. Tran
Season VI POY: Jonathan Little
Season VII POY: Bertrand "Elky" Grospellier
Season VIII POY: Faraz Jaka
Early next year, Jaka will be part of another elite group, as his victory in the WPT Player of the Year race earns him a coveted invitation to the 2011 NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship.
While Jaka has won one of the highest honors on the World Poker Tour, he won’t be resting on his laurels. He’ll start Season IX with his eyes set on a different goal — winning his first WPT event.