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The American Poker Awards have quickly become a tradition that brings the poker community together to celebrate the best and brightest among them. And that time of year is quickly approaching for the Third Annual GPI American Poker Awards, which is set to take place on February 23 in Beverly Hills, California.

The festivities will be sponsored by PokerStars and hosted at the Sofitel. The evening will likely mimic that of last year, with an elegant dinner and ceremony attended by everyone from poker media to company executives.

As for the categories open for voting, the nomination process is now open, and some in the poker media have been invited to provide two entries for each category. This process will end on January 30, at which time the official list of nominees will be revealed. An elite panel will pick the winners from that list, and the honorees will be announced at the February 23 APA ceremony.

And the Categories Are…

There are some changes to the categories for this year.

Last year, the events were separated into two awards: “Event of the Year with buy-ins up to $2,000” and “Event of the Year with buy-ins over $2,000.” But those two are now combined into “Event of the Year.”

Several categories are no longer on the agenda, including the charitable initiatives, poker presenters, and poker innovations, which makes sense due to the unlikelihood that the nominees would change much from year to year. However, it should be noted that there will be a trophy given to a charitable initiative selected by the jury panel this year to keep focus on the generous nature of many in the poker industry. New categories added will honor the mid-major circuit/tour of the year, as well as the best podcast. The other six awards from the previous year will remain the same.

Awards will be handed out to several players who topped the Global Poker Index leaderboards in 2016, and those names are already known:

  • GPI Player of the Year: David Peters
  • GPI Female Player of the Year: Cate Hall
  • GPI WSOP Player of the Year: Jason Mercier

Last year, Kevin Mathers won the “Jury Award” and Mike Sexton the “Lifetime Achievement” honor. Those two awards will be presented again this year, though the winners likely won’t be announced until that evening. In addition, there will be a “Hendon Mob Award” this year for the player who accumulated the most results on the 2016 poker circuit, and a “PocketFives Legacy Award” will be given to someone with a solid online poker reputation who also made significant contributions to the live arena.

And My Nominations Are…

I nominated two people/events in each category per the rules for the nomination process.

“Event of the Year”

The World Series of Poker Main Event was not only the biggest payday of the year for tournament poker players (outside of high roller events), it was a very exciting final table all around. Big names like Cliff Josephy, Griffin Benger, and Kenny Hallaert made the November Nine, as did up-and-coming pros like Gordon Vayo, Michael Ruane, and Jerry Wong. Fernando Pons was the underdog and finished ninth but carried his home country with him from a cheap online satellite to becoming a millionaire. And Qui Nguyen was not only a gracious and fun winner, he also immediately began doing charitable work with his first-place prize money.

The World Poker Tour stop in Montreal is always a great event, but this year was extra special because poker ambassador Mike Sexton not only made the final table but soldiered through an excruciating heads-up match to mount a comeback and win. After serving as a commentator for the WPT for more than a dozen seasons and always maintaining a deep passion for the game, Sexton’s victory was thrilling to watch.

“Mid-Major Circuit of the Year”

The Mid-States Poker Tour has become increasingly popular with poker players of all stripes throughout America. Participation in the events has increased year over year, and a fuller schedule gives players from all regions of the country the chance to participate for reasonable buy-ins combined with a personal tour touch.

WPTDeepStacks has grown immensely since its beginnings, but the number of events and registration figures have consistently climbed even higher since DeepStacks partnered with the WPT in 2012. Last year was so successful that the WPT just announced it acquired the tour altogether, making it an official part of the World Poker Tour family.

“Tournament Performance of the Year”

Mike Sexton winning the WPT Montreal Main Event was one of the most exciting poker tournaments of the year to watch, especially as he came back from a significant chip deficit during heads-up play. His win was celebrated by players around the world, especially those who have watched him on the WPT and followed his career for well over a decade.

Jesse Sylvia winning the WPT Borgata Open was rewarding, especially for a player who has worked so hard on his game for many years. His fame for finishing second in poker tournaments was highlighted by his loss to Greg Merson at the 2012 WSOP Main Event final table, but years later, he took down a WPT title to the joy of his many friends and fans in the industry.

“Moment of the Year”

Mike Sexton won his first WPT title in Montreal. See two above categories for reasons.

Bill Perkins took to his Twitch channel to give players the chance to attend one of the industry’s favorite series of the year. He awarded prize packages to players for the 2017 PokerStars Championship Bahamas, complete with airfare, hotel accommodations, $1,500 in tournament buy-ins, and free poker coaching. The generosity was unprecedented and fun.


“Breakout Performance of the Year”

  • Ankush Mandavia
  • Sam Panzica

“Industry Person of the Year”

  • Matt Savage (last year’s winner), TDA Founder and WPT Executive Director
  • Tony Burns, Seminole Hard Rock Tournament Director

“Podcast of the Year”

  • Poker Life with Joe Ingram
  • Poker Advocacy with Rich Muny

“Media Person of the Year”

  • Steve Ruddock, journalist
  • Joe Giron, photographer

“Media Content of the Year”

  • Stu Ungar’s Last Chance Gone Wrong, a short documentary by Matt Showell of PokerListings
  • “The Long, Strange Life of the Dead Man’s Hand,” an article by Martin Harris for PokerNews

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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.