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· Published 05.08.2022 · last updated 05.08.2022

Dan Zack has been a perennial World Series of Poker (WSOP), Player of the Year candidate, since 2017, and he eventually won the prestigious prize this year. The high stakes pro was the best performer this summer, adding two gold bracelets to his trophy cabinet. Furthermore, the New Jersey native who rose to prominence in the poker world by smashing Live at the Bike games earned 14 additional bracelet cashes, including two more final table appearances. Read on for more details. 

Dan Zack Reaction

On a break from the Tournament of Champions, the final WSOP tournament available solely to the bracelet and Circuit ring winners, Zack chatted with reporters about the significance of earning Player of the Year. Here is what Dan Zack had to say regarding his award: 

“It means a lot, I set a goal three years ago that I really wanted to try to win it before I left poker, and this is the third series I’ve tried,” 

When asked what he meant by “before I quit poker,” he said that he doesn’t see himself grinding the WSOP for many more years. The three-time bracelet winner stated that he plans to marry next year and have children in the near future, which means he will no longer be able to play full-time.

Zack won his first bracelet in a $2,500 limit mixed triple draw event in 2019 for $160,447 and cashed in 14 events, finishing sixth in the POY race. The WSOP Europe results were counted into the POY race that year, but Zack chose to forgo the trip to Rozvadov, Czech Republic, therefore giving up his opportunity at the title.

“I thought I was probably about 20% to win and it was a month-long commitment with only 11 events in a pretty remote location away from my family,” Zack said of his decision to skip 2019 WSOP Europe.”

Zack won the 2022 WSOP POY with 4,530 points, just under 500 points more than Daniel Weinman, who also had a fantastic season. For the final three weeks, the champion led the POY race.

Here are the final POY race results:

Position Player Points
1 Dan Zack 4,530
2 Daniel Weinman 4,040
3 Koray Aldemir 3,275
4 Shaun Deeb 3,197
5 David Peters 2,982
6 Yueqi Zhu 2,766
7 Joao Viera 2,752
8 Joao Simao Peres 2,735
9 Alex Foxen 2,548
10 Brian Rast 2,520

Zack is one of three players, along with Main Event champion Espen Jorstad and Lawrence Brandt, to win two bracelets in 2022. He won Event #15: $10,000 Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better Championship for $440,757 before moving on to Event #40: $10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo 8 or Better Championship for $324,174.

Josh Arieh, last year’s Player of the Year, had another excellent series with two third-place finishes, but finished the WSOP in 41st position with 2,041 points. Some of the frequent POY contenders were never in contention this summer, particularly Daniel Negreanu, who lost over a million dollars and did not make many deep runs. Phil Hellmuth, who finished second last year, was also absent from the race this year. Shaun Deeb, the 2017 winner, finished fourth with 3,197 points, but he wasn’t much of a danger to Zack late in the series.

Competing for WSOP Player of the Year is a difficult task that needs players to join hundreds of events in order to have a chance at winning. Each series, Deeb, Negreanu, and a few others join 40 or more bracelet tournaments. Zack told the reporters that while chasing POY reduces anticipated value, the dignity of obtaining it is well worth it.

“One-hundred percent, you lose some EV chasing it. You’re tossing away a few hundred dollars here and there just to give yourself the best chance to compete because you know that guys like (Deeb) are doing the same thing and it’s the only way to keep pace with them.”

WSOP Vice President Jack Effel presented Zack with a trophy and recognized him for his remarkable achievements this summer during the Tournament of Champions on Monday afternoon.

Here is the list of WSOP Player of the Year Winners

Year Winner Runner-up
2004 Daniel Negreanu Ted Forrest
2005 Allen Cunningham Mark Seif
2006 Jeff Madsen Phil Hellmuth
2007 Tom Schneider Jeff Lisandro
2008 Erick Lindgren Barry Greenstein
2009 Jeff Lisandro Ville Wahlbeck
2010 Frank Kassela Michael Mizrachi
2011 Ben Lamb Phil Hellmuth
2012 Greg Merson Phil Hellmuth
2013 Daniel Negreanu Matthew Ashton
2014 George Danzer Brandon Shack-Harris
2015 Mike Gorodinsky Jonathan Duhamel
2016 Jason Mercier Paul Volpe
2017 Chris Ferguson John Racener
2018 Shaun Deeb Ben Yu
2019 Robert Campbell Shaun Deeb
2020 N/A (pandemic) N/A
2021 Josh Arieh Phil Hellmuth
2022 Dan Zack Daniel Weinman

How Does WSOP Player of the Year System Work?

To put it simply, the WSOP Player of the Year contest should produce the greatest and most successful player from that year’s series. To do this, the organizers established a points system. It has problems, but with so many moving pieces, it’s difficult to find a flawless answer. In fact, following some harsh criticism in past years, the WSOP decided to shake things up for the 2018 season. They made significant adjustments to the old scoring system and replaced it with a reasonably effective one that has been used for several years on the WSOP Circuit. The most important modification saw a considerable rise in the number of points paid to bracelet winners while decreasing the number of points provided to min cashes.

While the WSOP continued to seek to reward consistency, the general consensus was that the difference between making money and winning an event wasn’t large enough. Of course, new rules brought additional challenges and criticism, but more on that later.

First, let’s look at the ranking system itself to understand how it works. This explanation might assist if you were following the 2022 series and weren’t clear where the moves on the POY leaderboard were coming from or why players were granted a specific number of points.

One fascinating aspect of the Player of the Year contest is that the WSOP does not have a spreadsheet for players to use. Having said that, each event includes its own calculator that can give you the estimated number of points you may anticipate for certain finishing positions. The algorithm, according to the organizers, is roughly based on the WSOP Circuit POY system and has been adjusted sufficiently to handle considerably larger fields in World Series tournaments.

For WSOPC events, points are awarded as follows:

  • Winner: 50 pts
  • Runner up: 37.5 pts
  • 3rd place: 30 pts, etc.

All non-open events – i.e. events that aren’t readily available to the entire playing field – are excluded:

  • Casino Employees event
  • Seniors & Super Seniors events
  • Ladies events

This makes sense because including them would offer an unfair advantage to those who can participate, therefore there have never been any specific concerns regarding this element.

Because there is no spreadsheet or rulebook to which participants may refer, the only method to estimate how many points can be expected from an event is to look at previous results or use the POY calculator offered on the site. The calculator allows you to select an event and add the number of entries, which is crucial in figuring the overall amount of points to be allocated. Another crucial influence is the buy-in number, as higher buy-in tournaments offer considerably larger point pools, plainly favoring players with large bankrolls.

A win in a Super High Roller event with only 80 participants, for example, would pay the winner more points than a win in the $500 Reunion tournament with 20,000 entries. The disparity between first and second place is quite large. The tournament winner earns twice as many points as the runner-up. This implies that genuine bracelets are quite important in terms of ultimate rankings. As one moves down the scoreboard, the disparities between all subsequent spots become significantly less. Of course, the runner-up receives more points than the ninth-place finisher, but the gap between second and third place is essentially inconsequential in terms of POY.

A Problem with the Player of the Year System

WSOP has attempted multiple times over the years to change and adjust things. After all, they have no vested stake in awarding the POY trophy to any single athlete. In fact, they’d be better served if it went to someone as well-known as Hellmuth since it’s virtually free advertisement. So, for their part, the organizers would most likely want to have the perfect system in place where the greatest, most deserving of all players out there receives the award. 

The issue is that there is no such system, as evidenced by the 2021 series. Both Hellmuth and Arieh provide tremendous performances and are exceptional players, but there can only be one winner.

The most frequently debated problem is that of consistency over individual results, and achieving the correct balance is just difficult. On the one hand, it appears logical to reward someone who has a streak of excellent performances throughout all events. On the other hand, if someone wins two or three tournaments, even if their overall performance isn’t stellar, those victories must be suitably recognized. After all, the victor of a tournament poker event usually takes home the lion’s share of the prize pool, so why should the Player of the Year race be any different? So, while there is space to improve the system in this area, We can say that the existing one is very fair, if not flawless.

Another, maybe more serious issue is buy-in. Is it really fair to have such large buy-in tournaments with such large fields? Even if you’re up against the greatest, you’re much more likely to win a 50- or 100-player tournament than a 5,000-plus field. In some ways, this may be seen as partiality towards large players, as an ordinary Joe or even a competent mid-stakes grinder is unlikely to pay up $100K to play in one of them. Perspectives on this subject differ, but there are no major issues with it.

The WSOP Player of the Year award should not be given to just anyone. The money is rather small, especially given the type of results required to win, thus it’s largely about status. While there is no need for poker to be exclusive, an exception can be made for this case. If Negreanu, Hellmuth, and others in that group are perennial favorites to win, so be it. They’re the kinds of names that come to mind when the Player of the Year is mentioned.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this post has provided you with some important information on the WSOP Player of the Year points system. It’s one of those issues that’s difficult to describe, owing to the lack of clear explanations from people who devised the system in the first place. But, at the very least, you now understand how things function and what aspects are vital, namely:

  • Size of the field
  • The buy-in amount
  • The finishing position, with the winner getting the lion’s share of the points pool

To finish this post, it is important to mention that the Player of the Year competition is not always decided in Las Vegas. Previously, players could earn points from WSOP Europe tournaments, which were then added to their final count.

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