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The race for Card Player’s coveted Player of Year award has come to an end, with John Phan at the top of the leaderboard. The contest, which tracks cashes in the world’s biggest tournaments throughout the year, has become one of the most prestigious awards on the professional scene since its inception 6 years ago. Phan’s final total of 6,704 points is the highest winning total since Daniel Negreanu won in 2004 with 8,764, and is a fitting end to what has been one of the finest year-round performances in the history of poker.

Ever since he won two bracelets in the space of a week at the World Series of Poker this year, Phan has looked like a contender for the trophy. Victory in the $3,000 No Limit Hold ’em event and the $2,500 deuce-to-seven triple draw event netted him his first WSOP titles and began a streak that has not let up. Two WPT final tables, in the Bay 101 Shooting Star and the Bellagio Cup IV, were surpassed when he captured his first WPT title at the WPT Legends of Poker in August. The $1,091,428 first prize contributed to over half of his yearly tournament earnings.

Before this year, Phan was known as a perennial nearly-man, having made a number of WSOP and WPT final tables in previous years without being able to close the deal. In fact, the Card Player POY title had marginally escaped his grasp in years gone by. Going into the final few months of 2005 he was at the head of the pack, only to see a late surge from Men “The Master” Nguyen deprive him of victory at the last post. He would have been delighted, then, to see that his only potential challenger, Michael Berlinger, dropped out in 67th in the WPT Doyle Brunson Poker Classic Championship yesterday. To have had any chance of stealing away the title, Berlinger would have to have won the event, which is still ongoing.

Although he did not emerge victorious, Berlinger’s effort was enough to land him his 10th major cash of the year and leave him 6th in the overall POY rankings. The highest number of final tables, among the top 25, however belonged to David Pham (2nd) and Men Nguyen (15th) with 11. Although Phan has looked odds on for the title for some time, a late challenge from David “The Dragon” Pham came close to upsetting the balance. Pham finished with over 6,000 points for the second consecutive year – a total which would have been high enough to win in previous years. The highest total winnings were, predictably, gathered by the WSOP main event champion Peter Eastgate. His $9,181,022 yearly haul dwarfing almost all his rivals.

The top ten finishers in this year’s Card Player Player of the Year Award were:

1      John Phan

2      David Pham

3      Bertrand Grospellier

4      Ivan Demidov

5      Erik Seidel

6      Michael Binger

7      David Benyamine

8      Peter Eastgate

9      Vinny Pahuja

10    Jack Schanbacher