Josh Arieh Comes Out of Nowhere to Lead WSOP POY Race, Shaun Deeb Selling Action to Win

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Josh Arieh is on course to win this year’s WSOP Player of the Year title, and Shaun Deeb is doing everything he can to stop him.

josh arieh wsop
Josh Arieh has come out of nowhere to take the lead in this year’s WSOP Player of the Year race. (Image: WSOP)

Arieh, a New York native, was a standout pro in the nineties and the noughties, winning two bracelets and finishing third in the 2004 Main Event. After a wave of internet players and innovations made poker “really tough,” he stepped away from the game in 2012.

He didn’t step away completely though and remained a firm fixture at subsequent WSOPs. That was a good move because he’s currently leading the 2021 POY race with 3,110 points after winning two bracelets and cashing in four more events.

Arieh is rolling back the years

Topping the WSOP’s POY leaderboard is an achievement in and of itself, but the fact Arieh is less active than his peers makes his return to the limelight even more impressive. In fact, it’s not just impressive, it’s surprising.

Arieh wasn’t even in the top seven performers when we covered the WSOP POY race last week. But, after winning the Pot-Limit Omaha 8 or Better Championship last week, and finishing fourth in the High Roller, he’s now leading the way.

One player who isn’t too happy about Arieh’s unexpected run is his friend and fellow pro, Shaun Deeb who has 14 WSOP cashes of his own so far this year, including a win in the $25K Pot-Limit Omaha High Roller. Deeb has scored 2,519 points from those results and currently sits in eighth place on the POY leaderboard.

However, in an effort to topple Arieh and take home the POY title, he’s doing something he rarely does and selling action in the $100K high roller.

Based on the 2019 WSOP high roller, a win for Deeb would be worth just over 1,250 POY points, which would be enough to put him ahead of Arieh, assuming Arieh doesn’t earn any more points of his own.

Deeb has a point to prove

Winning the POY race would also allow Deeb to make a statement. He recently went back and forth with Phil Hellmuth over the way POY points are awarded, and he wants to prove his position is correct. Deeb has 14 cashes this year, a bracelet, and $1,345,126 in prize money. Hellmuth, who is one place ahead of Deeb in the POY race, has six cashes, a bracelet, and $473,826 in prize money.

Because the WSOP’s POY calculations take into account the size of the field and the status of a tournament in which a player competed, Hellmuth has more points than Deeb. Arieh also has fewer cashes and less prize money than Deeb. He’s on top of the leaderboard thanks to seven cashes, two bracelets, and $957,013 in prize money.

2021 WSOP Player of the Year standings

Listed below are the top-10 players in the WSOP Player of the Year race, as of the start of Day 4 of the WSOP Main Event on Nov. 12, 2021.

2021 WSOP POY Points Leaders
Rank Player Points
1 Josh Arieh 3,110.91
2 Jake Schwartz 2,757.37
3 Anthony Zinno 2,731.32
4 Ryan Leng 2,684.04
5 Kevin Gerhart 2,643.23
6 Tommy Le 2,618.21
7 Phil Hellmuth 2,598.59
8 Shaun Deeb 2,519.45
9 Dylan Linde 2,518.97
10 Ben Yu 2,444.67

Another potential wrench in Deeb’s plan is the fact Arieh is still alive in the Main Event. The money bubble burst late Thursday night, so he’s already guaranteed another 83.76 POY points. If Arieh can somehow win the tournament, he’ll collect 1,675.17 points.

The race is getting more interesting as we approach the final stages of the WSOP. Arieh could seal the deal with a strong finish in the Main Event while Deeb could make a late surge by finishing strong in the high roller. Or, someone else could come out of nowhere to score highly in all the tournaments after the Main Event.

The pros are putting a lot on the line for an honor that only pays $15,000 to the winner. However, this is about more than money. Being named the WSOP Player of the Year is a status symbol and, as the Deeb vs. Arieh battle shows, a title that comes with bragging rights.

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