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Busquet a Deep Threat
While it is Faraz Jaka holding the chip lead and a leg up in the WPT Player of the Year race in the final 18 at the 2010 World Poker Tour Championship, Olivier Busquet remains one of a handful of players with a shot at him.
After his remarkable comeback win at WPT Borgata earlier this season, the most attended WPT in the tour's history, if Jaka doesn't make the final table, Busquet can win Player of the Year with a sixth place finish or better.
But do such honors mean anything to a player who earned over $1 million playing heads-up sit and go's online under the handle livb112 before breaking through live with that $ 925,514 score in Atlantic City? Or does he just play for the money?
"If my only two options were title or money, I'd take the money," he said. "But at the same time, I do think in terms of accomplishments.
"Winning one tournament was - I don't want to be corny and say a big dream of mine - but I've been watching WPT tournaments since I started playing poker. I've always wanted to go deep and win a tournament. So when I did that it was really like a dream come true, kind of like a checklist thing.
"Winning two for me is very different. Especially this type of tournament, it would kind of solidify me. It would legitimize me."
The 28-year-old New Yorker currently sits eighth and his just over one million in chips is within striking distance of Jaka and the other leaders in Las Vegas.
There are several top pros remaining in the field, including five others with a shot at Player of the Year.
But Busquet is hoping the experience of making it all the way to the winner's circle at Borgata will help him here.
"I think in terms of strategy probably not as much, but in terms of psychology I think it will help a little bit," he said. "Just having gone deep, having been successful, having won a tournament, it helps me naturally feel a little bit more confident.
"That field with such a smaller buy-in and a much bigger field was such a different dynamic. This is a smaller group of elite players. But my confidence and my comfort level have improved. I just feel more comfortable."
The 28-year-old Cornell philosphy grad traded law school plans for a job at a hedge fund since his family had always been in finance. But a few years ago, online poker came calling and Busquet answered, exploding into profitability once he discovered heads-up sit and go's.
Now he has his eyes soley focused on a second WPT title this season and all the spoils it will bring.
"There are a lot of guys now over the years who have won one tournament, a WPT or a World Series of Poker bracelet," he said. "The number of players who have won two is much smaller.
"Plus, for me the fields are so different. One was the biggest WPT field ever with all these semi-serious and more casual players. Add that to this more elite group and having won both would be great."
And while the money is the true goal, Busquet believes the title is worth fighting for, if not just for glory, for the marketability and exposure it will provide to a player who comes from an online background.