Exactly How Many WPT Titles Do You Feel Like Winning This Year, Art Papazyan?
Last fall, baseball player Eric Thames signed with the Milwaukee Brewers and this spring, debuted with the team after spending three season playing ball in Korea. He took the league by storm, mashing tape measure dingers left and right during his first month back in Major League Baseball after his venture overseas. Thames had come from basically out of nowhere and for a short time, may have been the best player in baseball. And now for a terrible, awkward comparison and a worse segue: Art Papazyan has also come from out of nowhere to dominate the tournament poker world in the past month. Yesterday, Papazyan won the second World Poker Tour (WPT) title of his career, which is really sweet in and of itself, but even more than that, he stamped his place in poker history by becoming just the eighth player to win two WPT titles in the same season.
In August, Papazyan won the WPT Legends of Poker to earn $668,692, which was not just his first WPT win, but the first WPT Main Event cash he had ever had. His win in the WPT Maryland Live! Main Event* garnered him $389,405.
Beyond the obvious, what makes Papazyan’s accomplishment so damn impressive and equally as surprising is the fact that he is not a tournament specialist, generally sticking to high stakes cash games in southern California. Prior to the WPT Legends of Poker victory, Papazyan had just eight live tournament cashes, none for more than $16,000. Five were for less than $2,000.
As mentioned, Papazyan is only the eight poker player to win two WPT titles in a single season. The others, according to WPT.com (I appreciate not having to comb the results of every season) are:
Gus Hansen and Howard Lederer in Season I, Erick Lindgren in Season II, Tuan Le in Season III, Darren Elias and Anthony Zinno in Season XIII, and Sam Panzica in Season XV.
“I feel like this is not even real,” an elated Papazyan told WPT.com. “Who would have thought I play my first WPT and I win against Phil Hellmuth? Then I play my second WPT, I come to Maryland across the country, and I win again? I would never have thought in my wildest dreams that this would ever happen. I’m so happy it did.”
With the win, as one might guess, Art Papazyan is now the runaway leader in this season’s World Poker Tour Player of the Year race. He now has 2,400 points – 1,200 for each victory – double the totals of Guo Liang Chen and Jay Lee, who won the WPT Borgata Poker Open and WPT Choctaw, respectively. The rest of the top ten in the POY standings all have at least 1,000 points.
Being someone who has only played in a few live tournaments in my life (this is what happens when you don’t live near a casino), has only cashed in one, and that cash didn’t even make the database on TheHendonMob.com, I have never given much thought to Player of the Year races. But when I have, like when I find an opportunity to write about one, I usually assume that the players don’t particularly care about it. Most are playing for the money – for many this is their career – and for the big-name tournaments, there is also something to be said for the prestige of the title. But Player of the Year, that has always seemed like something to me that comes as a natural byproduct of accomplishing the main goals of winning.
But Art Papazyan debunked my theory on Day 1 of the WPT Maryland Live! Main Event, telling WPT.com that one of the main reasons he made the long trip to play in the tournament was because of the Player of the Year race. Going into the event, Papazyan was tied with Guo Liang Chen and Jay Lee at 1,200 points; each of them earned all of their points from a WPT title.
Up next on the World Poker Tour’s main tour is the WPT bestbet Bounty Scramble (another oddly lowercase name!) at bestbet Jacksonville in a couple weeks. It doesn’t sounds like Papazyan has plans to play in that, but he told WPT.com that he will be flying to Montreal to compete in WPT Montreal, which starts November 10th. He will also be playing in the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic at the Bellagio at the beginning of the December.
*Can I tell you how much I hate the exclamation point in Maryland Live!? See? It’s incredibly awkward. Microsoft Word hates it. And we both hate it almost as much as having to make the first letter of partypoker lowercase. Try typing that at the beginning of a sentence and battling Word when it wants to autocorrect the capitalization.
Cover photo credit: Joe Giron / PokerPhotoArchive.com