In just a bit more than two weeks, the Fourth Annual American Poker Awards will take place at Andaz in West Hollywood, CA. The yearly celebration of the best in North American poker – and a day of discussion about the state of the game – is presented by PokerStars and has become one of the more highly respected honors that can be received in the game of poker. To be able to honor the best, you must have nominations…and that’s where the process currently is.
Last week ballots were sent out to members of the nomination panel, one of which was this writer, to determine who would be officially nominated for on of the 13 awards up for grabs (Kristen Bicknell will be awarded 2017 Female Poker Player of the Year and Bryn Kenney will be awarded the 2017 American Poker Player of the Year award). I’ve never taken these nominations lightly, but I do look to offer my vote to those who might be on the fringe of making it into one of the nomination slots. As such, as I went through the nomination ballot, I went with choices that, while they may not win, they have the honor of being nominated.
For Breakout Player of the Year, there are a couple of choices that are hard to overlook. Art Papazyan won two World Poker Tour events in the past year to firmly establish himself as one of the up and coming stars in the game. Another player who also showed his mettle was Mike Del Vecchio, as witnessed by his recent run at the 2018 Aussie Millions Main Event. Either one of these men would be outstanding choices.
For Poker Moment of the Year, here’s where I was looking a bit deeper. It is tough to overlook Papazyan’s two WPT victories, Harrison Gimbel’s completion of poker’s Triple Crown or Scott Blumstein’s dominant performance at the World Series of Poker Championship Event final table, but these two choices deserved to be noted. First, Ema Zajmovic’s effort in becoming the first woman to win an open event on the MAIN WPT tour was groundbreaking, especially as it came more than 15 years into the tour’s existence. The other choice I made was the clash between Gaelle Baumann and Vanessa Selbst at the 2017 WSOP Championship Event, which eventually saw Selbst sent to the rail during the first level after Selbst’s full house was routed by Baumann’s quads.
Podcast of the Year is always difficult because of the number of quality podcasts out there. For years Joe Ingram’s Poker Life Podcast has been the benchmark (and he will be nominated), but Bernard Lee’s “The Bernard Lee Poker Show” has also delivered some excellent quality. My second choice was not talking about the game per se, but talking about the mental aspect. “Poker on the Mind” from Dr. Tricia Cardner and Gareth James offers outstanding advice for improving the mental approach to the game, something that isn’t always seen in our business.
For Best Tournament Performance, World Champion Blumstein’s run is a lock for the nominees. Thus, I went with Darren Elias’ WPT Fallsview championship, which put him in the pantheon of players who have won three WPT titles (Gus Hansen, Carlos Mortensen, Anthony Zinno and David ‘Chino’ Rheem are the others). My second choice was Christian Harder and his breakout win at the PokerStars Championship Bahamas Main Event, an outstanding victory over a tough field.
For Poker Media Content of the Year, there were two choices that stood out. First was Martin Harris’ work at PokerNews and his interview with Jack Binion. In that interview, Harris got the definitive story as to the Johnny Moss/Nick Dandalos “heads up match” in 1949 (it is well worth the look for the historical implications). Second was Chad Holloway’s story on poker player Matt Jarvis’ move into the business world. Although this writer wrote about Jarvis’ new calling five months earlier, Holloway brought a great story in Jarvis as he looked to make sure he has a good life for he and his family rather than chasing the tournament circuit.
For the rest of the nominations…OK, maybe I didn’t deviate from the norm that much! Here’s a look at my choices for nominations in the other categories, with some commentary:
Industry Person of the Year
Bryan Mileski, Mid-States Poker Tour founder/operator
Bill Mason, Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood Director of Poker Operations
Event of the Year
Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open, Hollywood, FL
partypoker MILLIONS North America, Playground Poker Club, Montreal
(Hey, ANYONE can pick the WSOP Championship Event!)
Mid-Major Circuit of the Year
Mid-States Poker Tour
Heartland Poker Tour
Poker Journalist of the Year
(Two people that I have worked with over the 15 years I’ve been in this business that deserve recognition for their outstanding achievements in the realm of poker journalism)
Video Blogger of the Year
Streamer of the Year
(If you’re not checking out Dutch Boyd’s streaming efforts, you’re missing out)
Biggest Influencer on Poker
Broadcaster of the Year
(This will be the final time that Sexton might be recognized for his groundbreaking work with the WPT)
So, who will be the nominees? We’ll have to have some patience as the nomination process will conclude next week and the announcement of the nominees will follow. Then, on February 22, poker’s biggest awards night will take place in Tinseltown, complete with the fanfare that it deserves.