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The 2021 Online Player of the Year race stands to be one of the most contested in recent history as every major operator continues the trend of last year by offering a wealth of major events backed by massive guarantees. With nearly a quarter of the year already played out, an early look at the OPOY race has some of the biggest names in online poker putting in the work to be in contention for the title down the road. The current leader of the pack is Portugal’s Joao ‘Naza114’ Vieira who has leveraged a number of high-profile six-figure scores to build an early OPOY lead but also enter the top 10 in the most recent Online Poker Rankings. His first major score of the year came on January 6 when he outlasted the likes of ‘Lena900’ and current #1-ranked Bert ‘girafganger7’ Stevens at the star-studded final table of the PokerStars Blowout Series 36-H ($5,200 NLHE, 6-Max, High Roller) for $123,068 and 717.64 points. A deep run in the GGPoker Super MILLION$ Week $25,500 Super High Roller on March 2 brought Viera another $222,514 payday plus 642.75 points. Less than a week later, he hit another major score when he finished in third place in the March 8 GGPoker Sunday 500 for $142,724 and 569.01 points. Vieira is currently sitting with 12,705.24 OPOY points which is a good start. For reference, Conor ‘1_conor_b_1’ Beresford ran away with the award last year with 29,804 points. This means that in order to keep ahead of the pack, Vieira will need to continue to pile up points in larger events so his average score rises. Vieira’s countryman and Portugal’s current #1-ranked pro Rui 'RuiNF' Ferreira sits in second place, just 17.88 points behind. And just like Vieira, Ferreira has racked up points while earning some of the biggest scores of his career. Two of Ferreira’s top three scores of the year came on the same day at the same time. Ferreira finished as the runner-up in the Winamax W Series High Roller KO for $131,199 and 921.92 points while he was also grinding the PokerStars Blowout Series 54-H ($10,300 NLHE, 8-Max, High Roller) where he, again, finished in second place for another $202,090 and 719.71 points. His Blowout Series score remained his largest score of the year until early in March when he took down the GGPoker $10,300 High Roller for $268,974, a new career-high score. To go along with that was a 1,174.73 boost, an amount that will for sure calculate into his final score by year’s end. Ukraine’s Martynenko ‘Feero’ Vladislav is the only other player currently with more than 12,000 qualifying points, currently sitting in third place with 12,284.00. Unlike those above him, Vladislav has been piling up point through sheer consistency. Most players who rack up so many points have a few large scores that elevate them, but Vladislav’s largest earn is an 11th place in the GGPoker $10,300 Super MILLION$ in February for $37,264 and 355.05 points. What Vladislav does well is he finds a way to go deep and make the money just about every day he’s online. A look at his largest scores of the year is a picture of a grinder who seemingly always put himself in a position to win - which he’s done more than 25 times in 2021 so far. While Vladislav is in a good spot now, in order to be in the running in the second half of the year he’ll very likely need to pad those core results with a few larger scores, something he’s very capable of doing especially with as much time as there is left in the year. Current Online Player of the Year Race Leaderboard [table id=187 /]