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Europe no longer has exclusive rights on poker awards banquets (the British Poker Awards and the European Poker Awards) as the inaugural American Poker Awards is scheduled to take place on February 27th in Los Angeles, California.

The American Poker Awards are the brainchild of Zokay Entertainment CEO Alex Dreyfus, whose activities were selected as one of PokerUpdate’s top news stories of 2014.

Dreyfus, who owns such poker brands as The Hendon Mob, the Global Poker Index, and the APA’s sister award show the European Poker Awards, launched a “Sportify Poker” marketing campaign in 2014, aimed at bringing the poker world together and creating a positive buzz around the industry. The APA’s, along with initiatives like the Global Poker Masters, are part of this campaign.

Nomination Panel

A nomination panel of over 60 people from across the poker industry (full disclosure, I’m on the nomination panel) were asked to pick two nominees in each category. The top four vote-getters in each category were then selected as the finalists in nine APA categories – several other APA awards will be awarded based on GPI rankings and/or Jury/Popular votes.

Here is a look at the finalists in each of the nine categories voted on by the nomination panel, and my thoughts on who the winner will be:

Breakout Player of the Year

· Daniel Colman

· Mukul Pahuja

· Jake Schindler

· Brandon Shack-Harris

This seems like a slam dunk, but Colman’s personality and the controversies he created in 2014 may work against him, allowing one of the other finalists to walk away with the award.

Still, I think it would be hard to not give Colman the nod here.

Media Person of the Year

· Nolan Dalla

· Chris Grove

· Kevin Mathers

· Rich Ryan

I’m a big fan of all four people on this list, but I think this is a two-horse race between Chris Grove and Kevin Mathers, and since both men cover completely different parts of the poker industry, it’s a tossup in my mind.

Mathers (KevMath) certainly has the name recognition and the respect of the poker community at large, but Grove is one of the most highly-respected industry analysts, and his website OnlinePokerReport.com has helped change the perception of what poker media can accomplish.

I’m going to pick Chris Grove in one of the closest votes of the night.

Event of the Year, buy-in up to $2,000

· HPT Cal State Championship (The Commerce Casino, Los Angeles)

· WPT500 at Aria (ARIA Resort & Casino, Las Vegas)

· WSOP Millionaire Maker (Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas)

· WSOP Monster Stack (Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas)

My brain is telling me the Millionaire Maker is the logical choice, but the WPT500 at Aria certainly deserves some consideration. The WPT500 competed head-to-head with the WSOP and held its own, a pretty impressive feat for a first-time event.

My choice is WPT500 at Aria, but I expect the Millionaire Maker to get the nod.

Event of the Year, buy-in more than $2,000

· Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open Main Event (Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Hollywood)

· WSOP Main Event (Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas)

· WPT Montreal (Playground Poker Club, Montreal)

· WPT World Championship (Borgata, Atlantic City)

I can’t imagine the WSOP Main Event not winning this category. Every year Caesars, the Rio, and its staff somehow manage to host the biggest tournament in poker without a hiccup.

Tournament Performance of the Year

· Mohsin Charania, WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic winner

· Daniel Colman, Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open Main Event winner

· Darren Elias, WPT Borgata Poker Open winner

· Mark Newhouse, WSOP Main Event, 9th

Newhouse’s historic back-to-back ninth place finishes seem like the logical choice here.

Media Content of the Year

· All In Magazine: Mark Newhouse

· Brad Willis, “WSOP 2014: Stages / Never stop fighting” for PokerStars blog

· Pokernews Live Reporting at the WSOP

· Jason Somerville for Run It UP!

This is a tough one, but I think I would give the nod to Jason Somerville’s Run It UP! which took podcasts to a new level in 2014.

Industry Person of the Year

· Jack Effel, WSOP Tournament Director

· Adam Pliska, WPT President

· Matt Savage, WPT Executive Tour Director & TDA Founder

· Ty Stewart, WSOP Executive Director

Another tough choice. Since I think the WSOP is going to take home the two Event of the Year awards I’m going to go with the WPT’s Matt Savage in this category. That being said, any of these four men could win the award without raising an eyebrow.

Poker Initiative or Innovation of the Year

· Twitch opens its doors to live streaming poker

· Poker Night in America

· WPT’s successful partnerships with DeepStacks, Hublot, DraftKings and Monster

· The WSOP Monster Stack

This is another category where seemingly any of the finalists have a chance to win, but my choice would be Poker Night in America. Not only is this the first new televised poker show since Black Friday, but they also managed to pull in 888 NJ as a sponsor, giving us the first national legal online poker ad campaign in the U.S.

Charitable Initiative of the Year

· “All In” for Kids Poker Tournament Presented by CHOP & WPT Foundation

· Charity Series of Poker

· REG (Raising for Effective Giving) Charity

· The WSOP One Drop Partnership

I think this one comes down to One Drop and REG, and if I was voting I would go with REG, the initiative created by poker players, whereas One Drop is a charity with a loose affiliation to specific poker tournaments.

Other categories

· GPI Player of the Year

· GPI Female Player Of The Year

· Poker’s Best Ambassador – Awarded by People’s Choice

· Jury Award for Lifetime Achievement in Poker

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PokerUpdate Team

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