Early Favorites Emerge for WSOP Player of the Year

Jeffrey Lisandro
Who will follow 2009 Player of the Year Jeff Lisandro into the record books?

It's early in the WSOP 2010 schedule, but the"Player of The Year" title is already shaping up to be a red-hot contest.

It's no small feat to win the title as players must play enough events to accumulate the points necessary to win and play well enough to cash multiple times against thousands of the best tournament poker players in the world.

The early favorite to win the 2010 crown is Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi, who has already collected the Player's Championship bracelet as well as final tabling the $10k Championship Stud Event, two of the three WSOP events that he's played so far.

Not many people picked Mizrachi as a favorite to win the crown prior to the start of the WSOP.

"We held a 96-man fantasy draft at Howard Lederer's house prior to the start of the tournament where 12 people each picked a team of eight players with a $25,000 buy in," said New York-based poker pro Amnon Filippi.

"Not one person took Mizrachi."

"I kind of came out of nowhere this year," said Mizrachi. "I haven't really been on the circuit and not many people knew if I was going to be playing all of the events or not."

Hindsight is 20-20 as Mizrachi is now the clear favorite to win the 2010 title. Past champ Erick Lindgren likes his chances.

"I guess Grinder should win if he goes deep in the Stud," Lindgren told PL.com. "He'd have to air ball the rest of the events not to."

Not everyone is ready to hand the trophy to Mizrachi, however.

"There are still a lot of $10k events and we're still going to see someone win two bracelets like we do every year," said Barry Greenstein. "Plus, I still plan on catching him."

Ever the mathematician, former POY Allen Cunningham took a more pragmatic, by-the-numbers approach to making a prediction.

"Who is leading the points? Mizrachi? That's who I've got," he said.

Russian player Vladimir Schemelev is currently giving The Grinder a run for his money, having made both of the same final tables. Daniel Negreanu, Eli Elezra and Victor Ramdin all said they think Schmelev is the favorite.

"There are a couple Russian players who are playing so damn well. It wouldn't surprise me to see [Schemelev] win it," said Ramdin.

But who does the defending champion think will win?

"I still think Phil Ivey can do it," 2009 Player of the Year Jeffrey Lisandro said.

"Even though he's got no points, he's got the style."

The race could hinge on the outcome of tonight's 7-card stud final table where both Mizrachi and Schmelev are still playing.

If Mizrachi wins tonight, then it will take a major upset to overtake him for the title. Needless to say, things are going pretty well for Mizrachi nowadays, but that doesn't mean he's entirely stress free.

"It's going to be hard to play in enough events if I keep making all these final tables," he said with a grin.

You can follow the progress of Mizrachi and Schmelev in the $10k Stud by clicking through to PokerListings live updates.

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