The WSOP Player of the Year Race Drama

Well, the ink was barely dry on the news that Daniel Negreanu had won this year’s World Series of Poker Player of The Year battle (and our own thoughts on the importance of the title) when sure enough, there was more news. Only a day after Negreanu returned home to a party thrown by his wife Amanda complete with PoY balloons and theme, he was informed that there had been a scoring calculation error which would change the results.

What Happened?

As we have explained in the past, the WSOP PoY points are accumulated during all the WSOP bracelet events during the calendar year. In recent years, this has expanded from the live events in Las Vegas to include events from the WSOP Europe, which recently concluded, and from several online events held on during the summer event in Las Vegas. Apparently, one of these events was recorded incorrectly, giving Negreanu an allotment of points he didn’t actually earn. It was Seth Polansky of the WSOP who gave Daniel a call to let him know of the mistake, which then awarded Robert Campbell, a pro player from Australia the title.

The WSOP’s Executive Director, Ty Stewart, made the following statement:

“We’d like to offer our sincere and public apology to those players who chased the award. It is an amazing thing when poker players pursue history and a sense of sporting honor, and thus it’s a terrible embarrassment for us to stain a great race for the title.”

Immediate Fallout

As you can imagine, the poker community had an instant reaction to the mistake. Poker pros are not shy about their opinions, especially behind the blue light of a phone or laptop. Twitter was alighted with messages from pros, many of whom questioned whether or not Negreanu actually knew he had been awarded points in error, causing his combatants to play differently. Many players then came to Daniel’s defense, suggesting there is no way he would have cheated to win this prize, especially given how vocal he has been about other poker scandals in the past.

To Negreanu’s credit, even if he was miffed by the turn of events, he did not express anything in public. Instead, after congratulating Campbell on his victory, he used the issue as a teaching moment, justifying why he feels there should be major changes to the Player of the Year qualifying points.

Part of his statement on the issue posted to Full Contact Poker reads “I truly believe that had this happened to me when I was a cocky 25 year old kid, I’m sure I wouldn’t have taken the news the same as I do today. I can honestly say, not a single emotion of loss or upset. My life is awesome. I love the grind, I love the journey, and I don’t live in regret.”

In light of this error, it sure seems he is ready to capitalize and while the WSOP hadn’t been incredibly open to his suggestions, it appears they are ready to have Negreanu’s concepts be part of a larger discussion on the challenge.

Deeb and Campbell weigh in

Robert Campbell, who will find his picture up in the rafters of the Amazon Room at the Rio come next May, apparently was on a plane back to Australia when the news broke, and when he landed he seemed both overwhelmed by the number of messages and also by the fact that he was now the 2019 champion. “I just want to say thank you to everyone for their overwhelming support!” Campbell said via his Twitter account @SonicJaxx2019. He continued “I for one completely refute the idea @RealKidPoker (Negreanu) knew. I know he has his detractors, but he loves poker too much to do something like this.”

Now, this is easy to say when you are the person who has been named the winner of this prestigious award. Shaun Deeb, on the other hand, has not taken the news very well. Bear in mind that Deeb was 3rd in chips with 11 players left in the final qualifying event, the $500 Colossus. Thinking he needed a 5th place or better finish to win the award, he made a play to move up the leaderboard and failed, busting in 11th place. With the error in point scoring, he would have only had to finish 9th. Who knows if that would have changed the way he played, but the way he describes it, he believes it would have had an impact.

“I just landed in the states I’m in shock and really frustrated time to check all my cashes and see if they missed any” Deeb said in a mini-rant on Twitter (@shaundeeb). He then went on a bit about Negreanu: “Two things it’s amazing Daniel wouldn’t bet on me with Poy cuz he was afraid I would cheat when he’s the one caught trying to cheat. Second the only acceptable move from the @WSOP is co-poy with me and @SonicJaxx2019”

Ok, so it clear that the PoY title meant a lot to Deeb. This isn’t entirely surprising – he won the title in 2018 and going back-to-back is a real accomplishment. However, if he was in fact so concerned about winning, why would he be relying on Negreanu’s vlog posts as a point of reference? Yes, the WSOP site was calculating the points incorrectly as well, but if he was that concerned, he could have asked for a confirmation of the points before the final tournament.

What’s Next?

It appears that the WSOP has no intention of announcing that there are co-recipients of the award, so you know this leads to some controversy going into the 2020 WSOP. Negreanu has already been speaking about the events, specifically on a podcast that he co-hosts. Deeb says he will have more to say after he clears up some strep throat, and Campbell seems content to stay a quiet champion.

It’s safe to say that with a few months before the start of the next WSOP, there will be some banter between Deeb and Negreanu, and we can only imagine there will be some side action on one of the two topping the 2020 leaderboard. Get your popcorn ready, everyone…this should be good!

Jacqueline Packett
Jacqueline Packett