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The ballroom is now empty. But on Thursday night, the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills was bustling with poker players, media, and industry executives as they settled into a glamorous setting for the 2nd Annual American Poker Awards.

The day had already been full of poker-related activities. The morning of February 25 began with the American Poker Conference, which consisted of four panels in total. The first was a discussion of eSports as it may be an example for poker to follow, and that was followed by talks about the role and involvement of women in poker, the future of poker media based on player self-marketing strategies, and the impact that player initiatives can have on the poker industry and its growth.

The rest of the afternoon was filled with the excitement of the Global Poker League’s inaugural draft day. For more than four hours, GPL team managers chose the first four of their team players, and fans were able to watch on Twitch as people like Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth discussed the players and the process.

Everyone in attendance then took their seats in the ballroom for an elegant dinner and an evening filled with awards and honors to highlight the best and brightest in the poker world. Kara Scott hosted the American Poker Awards evening.

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And the Winners Are…

An independent voting jury studied and researched the list of nominees prior to the event and privately voted for winners the day before the event. Without further ado, here are the categories, full list of nominees, and the winners at the top of the list in bold letters.

Tournament Performance of the Year

  • Anthony Zinno, WPT L.A. Poker Classic
  • Jonathan Duhamel, WSOP One Drop High Roller
  • Mike Gorodinsky, WSOP Poker Players Championship
  • Joseph McKeehen, WSOP Main Event

Moment of the Year:

  • Daniel Negreanu busts in 11th place at WSOP Main Event
  • Anthony Zinno wins back-to-back WPT titles at Fallsview & L.A. Poker Classic
  • More than 22,000 players enter WSOP Colossus tournament
  • Phil Hellmuth wins 14th bracelet in WSOP $10K Razz Championship event

Breakout Performance of the Year:

  • Joshua Beckley
  • Asher Conniff
  • Cate Hall
  • Kelly Minkin

Event of the Year (Buy-ins up to $2,000):

  • WSOP Colossus at Rio in Las Vegas
  • WPT500 at ARIA in Las Vegas
  • WSOP Millionaire Maker at Rio in Las Vegas
  • WPTDeepStacks Championship at Grey Eagle in Calgary

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Event of the Year (Buy-ins over $2,000)

  • WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown at Hard Rock in Hollywood, FL
  • Super High Roller Bowl at ARIA in Las Vegas
  • WSOP Main Event at Rio in Las Vegas
  • WSOP One Drop High Roller at Rio in Las Vegas

Industry Person of the Year:

  • Matt Savage, TDA Founder and WPT Executive Director
  • Jack Effel, WSOP Vice President and Tournament Director
  • William Mason, Seminole Hard Rock Director of Poker
  • John Pappas, Poker Players Alliance Executive Director

Charitable Initiative of the Year:

  • Charity Series of Poker (Matthew Stout)
  • Chad Brown Memorial Tournament (Maria Ho, Vanessa Rousso)
  • Tiger’s Poker Night (Tiger Woods, WPT Foundation)
  • WSOP One Drop High Roller and Little One for One Drop

Media Person of the Year:

  • Donnie Peters
  • Joey Ingram
  • Kevin Mathers
  • Jason Somerville

Poker Presenter of the Year:

  • Kara Scott
  • Sarah Herring
  • Joseph Stapleton
  • David Tuchman

Poker Innovation or Initiative of the Year:

  • WSOP adds online bracelet event with live final table
  • Poker Central launches 24/7 television network
  • SHRPO and PNIA livestream four final tables simultaneously
  • WSOP introduces Colossus tournament

Media Content of the Year:

  • Photo of Negreanu on floor after WSOP Main Event elimination (Joe Giron)
  • BUST, An Insider’s Account of Greenville’s Underground Poker Scene (Brad Willis)
  • CNN Money video: Faraz Jaka, Homeless Poker Millionaire (Jaka, Gayles, Carson)
  • Twitch broadcast by Jason Somerville during September 2015 WCOOP (Somerville)

As planned, two other players also received awards, which were based solely on their Global Poker Index world rankings in 2015. The player with the highest ranking for 2015 overall was Byron Kaverman, who was given a trophy for his 2015 Player of the Year status, and Kelly Minkin was honored as the GPI Female Player of the Year.

Then there were some surprises.

First, the jury decided to give an award to Kevin Mathers, best known to most people in poker as Kevmath. Whether on Twitter or in various roles over the years as moderators for forums, Mathers is widely known as the “information guy” who knows (or can find out) anything about live or online poker. He received a standing ovation from the crowd and a special trophy for all of his contributions to the poker community.

Then, a lifetime achievement award was given to Mike Sexton. Many know him as the host of the World Poker Tour since the WPT’s inception, but others know him also as a poker ambassador, someone who consistently promotes the game and exhibits nothing but passion for the industry. Sexton was taken aback by the recognition and the award.

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Jennifer Newell

Jennifer has been a freelance writer in the poker industry for a decade. She left a full-time job with the World Poker Tour to tell the stories of poker. She now lives in St. Louis, writes about poker while pursuing other varied interests, and speaks her mind on Twitter… a lot.