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On Tuesday, Jennifer Newell gave her picks for the American Poker Awards. After seeing her picks, I decided that I would share mine. You can check out her article with more regarding the particulars of the upcoming event.

Before I release my selections, I want to say that all of the nominees were deserving and there were some categories that there seemed to be no “wrong choices.” With that said, a decision had to be made and the following are my nominees for finalists for the American Poker Awards.

Breakout Player of the Year – Maurice Hawkins and Sam Panzica

When looking at the nominees for Breakout Player of the Year, two individuals stood out above the rest. Maurice Hawkins was on an epic run in WSOP Circuit Main Events in 2016. He won back-to-back Main Event titles at the Council Bluffs and Cherokee stops and then won his a third title at the West Palm Beach stop. He also won a prelim ring event at Council Bluffs to bring his ring total for 2016 to four.

Jennifer and I agree on my second pick in Sam Panzica. He crushed 2016 for $1.19 million in earnings along with his first career World Poker Tour title. He started the year by winning the €10k High Roller at the EPT Dublin. Over the summer, he won the Main Event of the Florida State Poker Championships and wrapped up the year with a victory at the WPT bestbet Bounty Scramble in October.

Media Person of the Year – Joe Giron and Steve Ruddock

Jennifer and I agree on the Media Person the Year. My two selections were Joe Giron and Steve Ruddock. I interviewed Giron about his career last year and his work has impressed poker fans all over the world for years.

Steve is one of the foremost experts on iGaming regulation. A versatile writer, he has his finger on all things iGaming and is one of the primary sources fans frequent for the latest iGaming news.

Mid-Major Circuit of the Year – WSOP Circuit and Mid-States Poker Tour

It’s hard to imagine the “mid-major” circuit without the WSOP Circuit. Personally, it is how I started my live tournament career back in 2006 and many have honed their craft on the circuit.

Over the last couple of years, the Mid-States Poker Tour has been growing in popularity and prestige among players and has carved a nice niche for itself. Numbers don’t lie and the MSPT has become a viable circuit option for many.

Event of the Year – WSOP Main Event and Super High Roller Bowl

Regardless of the year, it is hard to imagine the WSOP Main Event NOT being one of the top poker events in the world. This year the event generated a bit more excitement thanks in part to the antics of William Kassouf. Once the November Nine was set, the poker world waited to see whether Cliff Josephy would go from elite back to World Champion.

No other event holds the prestige of the Main Event and it remains the crown jewel of anyone’s career.

Although just two years old, the Super High Roller Bowl has already established itself as one of the elite high roller events in the world. The 2016 edition sold out in two weeks and produced some amazing poker. In addition, the production value of the event exceeded that of every other poker program current on the air.

Best Tournament Performance – Maurice Hawkins (3 WSOP-C ME Titles) and Qui Nguyen Wins Main Event

My first choice for Best Tournament Performance was easy as Maurice Hawkins took down an impressive three WSOP Circuit Main Event titles. It is a feat that likely will not be accomplished again unless the quality of play in the circuit drops dramatically – and that’s not likely to happen.

This is the one category I chose to write in a nomination. Qui Nguyen may not be an established pro like many on the list of nominees but taking down the WSOP Main Event is not just a “great tournament run” but also the run of a lifetime.

One has to be incredibly talented and fortunate to get to the final table, so anyone that is able to win the event should at least be among the list of nominees.

Poker Media Content of the Year – Doug Polk and Jason Somerville

This is one of the tougher categories to judge because everyone nominated put up fantastic content. Ultimately, my decision came down to content that I felt was both relevant and well received by the poker community.

It is hard to argue that Jason Somerville’s broadcast of the 2016 Aussie Millions was anything other than well received. His broadcast set records, as it was the most-watched live poker event on Twitch. Considering that the goal of creating content is consumption, it’s hard to argue against Somerville.

Doug Polk posted a YouTube video in December entitled How Much Money Do Poker Players Really Have and it presently is just shy of 250,000 views. His breakdown of the high stakes poker world I felt was insightful and entertaining. It is exactly the type of content that the average poker fan or recreational likes to consume.

Poker Industry Person of the Year – Jack Effel and Sean McCormack

For Poker Industry Person of the Year, I went with two men that are running two of the hottest products in poker. Jack Effel is the Vice President of International Poker Operations for Caesars and the Director for the World Series of Poker. I’ve known Jack since 2006 and have enjoyed watching him run and help grow the World Series of Poker into the juggernaut it is today.

Sean McCormack is the Aria Director of Poker Operations and he has made the Aria the premier poker room in Las Vegas, especially for high rollers. Aria High Rollers are now a staple of the modern poker world. Presently, there are 28 pros that have won $1 million or more at Aria in live tournaments and it’s unknown how much money has changed hands in Ivey’s Room.

Podcast of the Year – Full Contact Poker with Daniel Negreanu and Poker Life Podcast with Joe Ingram

My choice for Podcast of the Year was pretty easy as the Full Contact Poker Podcast with Daniel Negreanu has been one of my favorite ones to follow over the last few months. It is one of the few podcasts that I don’t have to put on fast forward or skip long sections due to boredom.

For my other choice, I went with the Poker Life Podcast with Joe Ingram. Ingram’s podcast has consistently been one of the most popular and one reason is his willingness to tackle controversial issues head-on. If there is some type of drama in the industry, chances are that one party or another is going to get on his podcast. Poker fans love this type of content and it is hard not seeing him winning this category.

Poker Moment – Benger vs. Kassouf and Mercier Two bracelets and a 2nd

For this final category, I went with poker moments that had the poker community and sometimes the world talking. Jason Mercier went on a super sick heater during the WSOP and won some serious prop bet money. In the span of a week, he won two WSOP bracelets and finished runner-up in a third event.

With maybe the exception of Chris Ferguson’s return to the WSOP, no other story received more attention from the poker community during the first half of the 2016 WSOP.

My second choice made headlines all around the internet. Everyone remembers William Kassouf’s antics during the 2016 WSOP Main Event. They came to an abrupt end in a hand against Griffin Benger, a hand that saw Benger go off on Kassouf and made the phrase “check your privilege” as much a part of the poker lexicon as “9-high like a boss.”

Not only did this get poker fans into a tizzy but various internet outlets all around the world. Benger vs. Kassouf became the battle cry for anyone wanting to stand up to a bully or those that believe in karma.

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James Guill

James Guill began his poker career in 2006, spending two years traveling the US tournament circuit. Since 2008, he has covered the game extensively for some of the biggest names in the industry. When not writing about the latest poker news, he can be found hunting for antique treasures in Central Virginia.

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