Despite his not having won a bracelet, Jacobo Fernandez's six cashes have given him 227 points. That's good enough to hold on to a seven-point lead over both Omaha Hi-Lo World Champion David Benyamine and double-bracelet winner John Phan, both of whom currently have 220 points.
Before this week that would have basically been the focus of the race, as the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. didn't count toward the POY standings.
Just before the H.O.R.S.E. event began, the WSOP reversed its position and made the biggest tournament on the schedule eligible for POY points. That created all kinds of possibilities, as several pros who entered the high-buy-in event were hanging around the standings behind Fernandez, Benyamine and Phan.
Barry Greenstein entered the $50,000 tournament in fourth place with 190 POY points. If he finishes in seventh place or higher, he can overtake the current leader with just a handful of preliminaries remaining on the schedule.
Then there's Kid Poker, Daniel Negreanu, who currently has 170 points. It would take a better finish for him to jump ahead of the pack, but finishing in third place or higher would be enough.
As of this writing - at the dinner break of Day 4 of the tournament - all three of these men are still alive with 13 players still in the running. With only four more prelims on the schedule, several interesting scenarios could end up developing.
If Negreanu falls short in the H.O.R.S.E. (which he might, given his drop to just $300,000 in chips right before the dinner break), and Greenstein or Lindgren only overtake the lead by the minimum necessary finish, each would be aiming to cash in as many of the four remaining events as possible so as to stay ahead of the competition - including cashing machine Fernandez, who won't give up the fight lightly.
If Negreanu were to come back from the crushing blow dealt to him before the dinner break tonight and win heads-up against Greenstein, his lead wouldn't be safe at all. He would only stay ahead of his fellow Team PokerStars pro by a margin of 270 points to 265, meaning a single cash by Greenstein in one of the remaining events would put him into a tie for the lead.
Similarly, a win heads-up against Lindgren would give Kid Poker a 10-point lead - certainly better than five points, but by no means a safe lead.
If Lindgren were to beat Greenstein heads-up, he would be ahead by a margin of 285-265, meaning Greenstein would need to finish in 10th place in another event to tie or in ninth place to win.
If Greenstein were to win the H.O.R.S.E. tournament he would be a solid favorite for the POY honor, even against one of his closest competitors. With Greenstein at 290 points and a second-place finish for Lindgren, E-dog would still trail by 30 points, necessitating a ninth-place finish to tie or eighth place to take the lead.
The only scenario that provides for a clear-cut favorite in this race is if Greenstein were to win the H.O.R.S.E. and his rivals were to finish either off the final table or on the bottom end of it. That would almost require either Benyamine, Phan, Negreanu or Lindgren to win another bracelet - or Fernandez to win his first - to have a chance at winning the POY honor.
Whatever happens, it's certain that the WSOP higher-ups' decision to allow the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. to count toward the POY award is one that will have an immediate impact.