By Sean Chaffin
Many players will be looking to kick off a big summer of poker when the WPT ARIA Summer Championship kicks off on May 27. For a few players, the event means even more with a shot at the Hublot WPT Player of the Year title on the line.
ARIA makes for a great place to play poker and this year marks the second year of ARIA closing the WPT season with a $10,000 buy-in event – a great way to wrap up Season XVII. The winner not only adds his or her name to the Champions Cup, but also wins a $15,000 entry in the WPT Baccarat Crystal Tournament of Champions, set for June 1 and also at ARIA.
Last season, Darren Elias topped a field of 162 for his record fourth WPT title and $387,580 in the WPT Bobby Baldwin Classic. It was an amazingly stacked final table that included: Kitty Kuo (runner-up); Joe McKeehen; Dietrich Fast; Sam Panzica; and Jonathan Little, the latter three all WPT Champions Club members.
McKeehen needed to win the event to pass Art Papazyan for the lead in the last event of the season and ended up finishing in third place, allowing Papazyan to win the Season XVI WPT Player of the Year honors.
Several players still have a shot at Hublot Player of the Year honors. Along with plenty of prestige, the winner earns a custom Hublot timepiece, $15,000 in WPT tournament buy-in credits, and complimentary accommodations at all WPT Main Tour events in Season XVIII. Runner-up and third place receive $7,500 and $2,500 in WPT tournament buy-in credits.
Erkut Yilmaz (pictured) currently sits at the top with an eye on the prize. With 2,300 points, Yilmaz is the only player on the season to win twice after taking down the WPT Borgata Poker Open in September and then also winning at Thunder Valley in March for WPT Rolling Thunder. While he may be in the driver’s seat to win the title, strapping that shiny new Hublot watch around his wrist isn’t a certainty.
Just behind him with 2,150 points, WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic champion Dylan Linde has a legitimate shot at the title as well. He’s scored five cashes on the season and that included a fourth-place finish at Thunder Valley. A deep run at ARIA could allow Linde to surpass Yilmaz in the last tournament of the season.
A few other players remain close. Ping Liu sits in third with 2,000 points and a season-leading eight cashes. That includes two final tables and another deep run could vault him to the lead again.
Despite not cashing since December in the Five Diamond, Tony Ruberto could still win the title. He currently has 1,850 points thanks to his win at WPT Maryland and fourth-place finish at the WPT Choctaw event in August.
Currently, in fifth with 1,725 points, Jake Schwartz also has a shot with a big finish at ARIA. He has five cashes and two final table appearances on the season including a runner-up finish at the WPT bestbet Bounty Scramble and fourth place at the WPT Fallsview Poker Classic.
Several other players in the top-10 technically can win the title as well, but might need some of those near the top to stumble. Several might then need either win or finish deep at the final table, depending on field size.
Last year’s event awarded 1,000 POY points to the winner. A similar amount this year could benefit several players. A prize pool of at least $2 million will put 1,200 points for first place. Here’s a look at the points totals for some of those remaining in the hunt if some good things go their way at ARIA:
- 6th – Tony Tran, 1,550 points
- 7th – David “ODB” Baker, 1,450 points
- 8th – Vitalijs Zavorotnijs, 1,400 points
- 9th – Viny Lima, 1,400 points
- 10th – Steve Sung, 1,400 points
- 11th – Anthony Zinno, 1,400 points
Plenty of poker action remains in Las Vegas in late May and early June with the ARIA Summer Championship, Tournament of Champions, and three final tables at the HyperX Esports Arena. It should make for a great week of poker.
For a complete look at the Hublot Player of the Year standings, click here.
Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer in Crandall, Texas. His work appears in numerous websites and publications. Follow him on Twitter @PokerTraditions.