WSOP 2021: How the No Limits Velo Leaderboard helps resolve POY debate

Haley Hintze
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Posted on 10/07/2021

For the first time in WSOP history, there are two series-long leaderboard races in which players race for top honors. The traditional WSOP Player of the Year (POY) leaderboard, as we reported as the series began, has been joined by the No Limits Velo Leaderboard.

Perennial WSOP Player of the Year contenders Daniel Negreanu and Shaun Deeb occupy adjacent seats on Day 2 of Event #9, the Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better Championship. (Image: Haley Hintze)

Both leaderboards offer $25,000 in prize money, put up by Velo, a new WSOP sponsor this year. The $25,000 is split 50/30/20 — $12,500 for first, $7,500 for second, and $5,000 for third. And, though the WSOP press release about the twin leaderboards didn’t speak to it, the twin boards address one of the WSOP’s ongoing POY debates.

Exactly how should POY leaderboard points be calculated? It’s an old argument. On one side are the veteran, multiple-format purists, who’ve long argued that the POY award should reflect overall skill across many formats and variants. For a long time, that argument has held sway.

On the flip side, no-limit enthusiasts have argued that it takes immense skill to run deeply in multiple no-limit events that typically draw many thousands of entries. A few specialty high-buy-in WSOP events, by contrast, may draw under 100 players, yet they award bracelets and POY awards just the same.

Velo’s sponsorship addresses that debate indirectly. For the first time, both sides in this argument have their own race and money to chase. It’s a far better situation than 2018 and 2019, when the WSOP found no corporate sponsor for the POY award, which resulted in winners’ banners at the Rio… but no bonus payday.

Differences in races already apparent

Just one week into the 2021 WSOP, the differences between the WSOP POY and No Limits Velo boards are clear. Here’s how each appeared on Thursday, October 8, with the first handful of events complete. (The two boards are available at https://www.wsop.com/2021/poy/.)

The top two spots at this early juncture illustrate the contrast. Long Ma won the 12,973-entry $500 “Reunion,” earning 1,236.05 points, while Tyler Cornell topped “just” 135 players in winning the $25,000 High Roller No-Limit Hold’em 8-Handed. That’s a steep contrast.

The WSOP’s formula takes into account three factors:

  • Position of finish
  • Number of entries
  • Buy-in amount

The relationship between the buy-in and the total entries has been tweaked several times over the years, but both are factored in on a logarithmic curve. Had the Reunion drawn another 10,000 entries, Ma would have earned only another one or two hundred points.

Many events exempted from No Limits Velo standings

Cornell’s win in a high-roller NLH tourney has him near the top of both boards, along with Ma. From there, though, the differences between the boards jump out. Newcomer Jesse Klein’s giant-taming win in the $25,000 H.O.R.S.E. championship was a great tale, but H.O.R.S.E. isn’t no-limit, so his points only count on the WSOP’s POY board. Several other players also appear only on the POY side of the tallies. Most of those players won or finished second in non-no-limit events. But some NLH events are excluded from the Velo board for other reasons. That’s what knocks Ausmus off the Velo list. His win in the Covid-19 relief is among several specialty events excluded from the Velo chase.

Sharp-eyed readers might notice that in the above image, there are several players who appear on the Velo board, but not on the WSOP POY side. That’s despite having earned enough POY points to be in the race.

There’s an entirely different reason for this. The No Limits Velo board is updated in something near to real time, as players bust out and finishing spots are recorded. On the WSOP POY side, those finishes are recorded as well, but the POY ranking board is updated only once per day. It happens in the overnight hours. Event winners Zhi WU and Michael Perrone will appear on the WSOP POY leaderboard. But not until Friday.

Featured image source: PokerGO/Antonio Abrego