WSOP 2021: Final Day Infused With Unexpected Last-Minute Player of the Year Excitement

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Hours after thinking he'd won the 2021 Player of the Year, Josh Arieh was forced to sweat out one more competitor in Ben Yu.

For the better part of Monday night into Tuesday morning, the poker world celebrated the crowning of Josh Arieh as the 2021 WSOP Player of the Year. By all accounts, Arieh clinched it when Phil Hellmuth busted out of the final event of the series, the $5K 8-Handed, leaving Hellmuth as the POY runner-up.  Articles, like the one we published Tuesday morning, were written certain of Arieh’s victory.

But, like in 2019 when Daniel Negreanu was usurped by Robert Campbell due to a point miscalculation, everyone was wrong. Everyone, except Justin Bonomo:

Bonomo had it right. The results from WSOP Online Event #10 (which took place Sunday night) were not yet included in the Player of the Year calculations. So, understandably, when word got around that Arieh had won, well, it was reported he won. But in reality, with the missing point differential, Ben Yu, the chip leader headed into the final day of the $5K 8-Handed, actually had a chance to catch Arieh with an outright victory. And he looked poised to do it.

So the sweat for Arieh was back on.

The tournament started the day with just 30 left and with Yu in control. But Arieh had some help from the inside with his friend (and fellow POY competitor) Shaun Deeb still in the tournament. Deeb was looking for his second bracelet of the series and, maybe, an eye on not letting history repeat itself.

For the better part of three hours, the updates kept coming and Yu remained in the tournament. But with just two tables in play, Deeb and Yu battled in a hand where Deeb took some very important chips off of Yu and left the four-time bracelet winner short stacked.

Eventually, Deeb busted in 12th place. But the damage was done, Yu couldn’t recover. In the end, the popular Yu ended up finishing in 10th place for $30,286 just narrowly missing out on a last-minute capturing of the POY for himself. After an amazing series with 18 in-the-money finishes and a victory in the $10K Six-Handed Championship, Yu easily earned a 2021 WSOP resume worthy of Player of the Year.

But now, finally, the drama came to an end and Arieh can safely celebrate, being officially crowned the 2021 Player of the Year for the 2nd time in 24 hours.