Dan Smith took the GPI Player of the Year lead back in mid-August and has not wavered since, adding to his score three times in the past sixteen weeks. That has put him in an extremely strong position heading into the last few weeks of competition. He is currently 132 points ahead of second in the standingsMarvin Rettenmaier and 193 points ahead of third in the standings Kyle Julius. Despite his substantial lead there is still a slight chance one of the top contenders could catch Smith. The EPT Prague Main Event is underway and the first of the WPT events at the Bellagio in Las Vegas are already in the books. Both Rettenmaier and Julius are in Vegas for the WPT Five Diamond and there are enough points to be gained at that festival and elsewhere to snatch the title. However, it would take a strong December run to do so. Each player is allowed eleven cashes to be included in their Player of the Year score, but only five of those can be in the second half of the year. Both Rettenmaier and Julius already have eleven scores, meaning any new score they earn must be better than one of their current scores in order to be included.
Joseph Cheong, who is currently sitting in fourth place, demonstrated this just two weeks ago. At the beginning of November Cheong still had an open slot for a new score. He filled that slot by making the final table in the Asia Championship of Poker HK$23,000 NLHE ACOP Warm-up. He earned 81 points for his 3rd place finish and moved from 11th in the standings to 5th. The following week Cheong finished 4th in the ACOP $HK240,000 NLHE High Roller. Because he now had all five scores allowed in the second half of the year his score for that event replaced his score for cashing in the Legends of Poker $3,500 NLHE Main Event. His Legends of Poker cash had been worth 67 points. Cheong’s ACOP High Roller is worth 87 points. The replacement netted him a 20 point gain which was enough to move past Phil Hellmuth and into 4th in the standings.
Unfortunately for Cheong, the addition of those two November scores still leave him 250 points behind Smith, a lot to make up in a short amount of time. Julius and Rettenmaier’s chances are better but it will still be difficult. There have only been four scores posted this year over 200 points, the PCA Main Event winner, the EPT Monte Carlo Main Event winner, and the two top finishes in the WSOP Main Event. So they would need a top finish in a big event or multiple new cashes to overcome Smith. Sounds difficult but ‘Mad Marvin’ did win back-to-back WPT titles earlier in the year proving anything is possible. Of course, they will also need Smith not to cash, or win, another event himself which is far from a given. One thing is for certain, if the GPI Player of the Year is not Dan Smith, it will be a very exciting finish to the GPI Player of the Year race.