The poker industry had its opportunity to shine this past Friday night at the American Poker Awards in Beverly Hills, CA. The APA was organized by Alex Dreyfus, Global Poker Index CEO. He is currently on a mission to sportify the game of poker and the addition of this event now gives North America a chance to shine.
The majority of categories for these awards were determined by a 60-member panel consisting of select poker media members. They were solicited for nominees in nine categories that included Breakout Performance of the Year, Industry Person of the Year, Media Person of the Year and more. In addition, awards were presented for GPI Player of the Year, GPI Female Player of the Year, Lifetime Achievement and Best Poker Ambassador.
Pokers Best and Brightest Recognized
The event kicked off Friday night at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills, CA. The awards recognized the best poker players, industry leaders and media professionals in North America. As expected, the game’s elite turned out for this event in hopes of either winning an award or simply supporting our beloved game.
The World Poker Tour and World Series of Poker both took multiple awards. The WSOP Main Event took the award for Event of the Year for buy-ins over $2,000 and the WSOP Monster Stack took Event of the Year for events under $2,000. WPT President Adam Pliska took the award for Industry Person of the year while WPT founder Steve Lipscomb was awarded the first ever APA Lifetime Achievement award.
A couple awards were locks well before the event. Dan Colman won GPI Player of the Year on the strength of winning $22million in 2014. Vanessa Selbst won GPI Female Player of the Year, her third straight title. Daniel Negreanu was voted Poker’s Best Ambassador, a title that seemed a lock as soon as he was nominated.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was Brad Willis’ win for Media Content of the Year. He won for his “WSOP 2014: Stages / Never stop fighting” series for the PokerStars Blog. Willis’ win was surprising not for the quality of content but rather with regard to the gauntlet of nominees he defeated. Other nominees included PokerNews’ coverage of the 2014 World Series of Poker, ALL IN Magazine’s coverage of Mark Newhouse’s run to the 2014 November Nine and Jason Somerville’s acclaimed Web series Run it UP!
The moment of the night came after Online Poker Report’s Chris Grove was awarded Media Person of the Year (which was, incidentally, sponsored by us, here at PokerUpdate.com). He dedicated his award to the late DiamondFlush, a well-respected member of the poker media community. While she chose to keep her identity a secret from the general public, Grove noted that she inspired many in the poker media community. Nolan Dalla said that Grove’s speech was “short and powerful, as good as anything you’d see and hear at the Academy Awards.”
Thirteen awards were presented on Friday and a full list of winners can be found at AmericanPokerAwards.com.
You Can’t Please Everyone
While the APA ceremony was met with overwhelmingly positive response, there were still a few selections that had people scratching their heads. Norman Chad clearly communicated his displeasure with the APA’s first ever Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, WPT Founder Steve Lipscomb. He stated the following via Twitter:
American Poker Awards gave its first lifetime achievement honor to a lawyer. That’s like a Grammy Award going to a forensic pathologist.— Norman Chad (@NormanChad) March 1, 2015
His next tweet made it clear whom he thought should have won:
If Doyle Brunson can put up a few more years of good results, he should be considered for American Poker Awards’ lifetime achievement honor.— Norman Chad (@NormanChad) March 1, 2015
The award for poker’s best ambassador is another category that sparked a bit of debate. While many understand Negreanu receiving the award due to his popularity and performance in the game, some felt that Jason Somerville of “Run it Up” should have taken the award.
Nolan Dalla was perhaps the most vocal supporter of Somerville after the ceremony and took to his blog explaining why he would have chosen him as poker’s best ambassador. As Dalla explained, “Main reason – Somerville put his career on the shelf for nearly a year and cost himself money, to do what he does now. That’s making sacrifice. That’s taking a gamble, which is paying off now.”
Still Room to Improve: Missed Opportunity for Promotion
While the APA was +EV for poker as a whole, there is still room for improvement and perhaps the one area where it was lacking was in broadcast production. This event would have been the perfect event for either television or streaming coverage but both were noticeably absent from the inaugural event.
An awards show that recognized the importance of broadcast promotion of poker (Twitch won an award for Innovation of the Year) could have been even better with some type of TV or streaming coverage. Even if the event was taped and broadcast at a later date, it would have had solid promotional value for the game.
Start the event with a red carpet gala where poker pros, industry members and select celebrities are interviewed and then transition into a pre-game show similar to what they do in most major sports. Maybe go a step further and air a predictions show up to a month ahead of the events to whet viewer’s appetites for the show.
After the pre-game show, transition into the full awards show, followed by a post-game show with interviews from winners, losers, and other select individuals. If we’re looking to sportify the game, this would be a great promotional tool for poker as an industry. Odds are we will see some type of major coverage of the event starting next year, but it would have been nice to have such from year one.