Excellence in a variety of ways
On March 3, poker’s glitterati will assemble for the fourth annual GPI Global Poker Awards. The ceremony will take place in the PokerGO studio at Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas and it will be broadcast live on PokerGO.
‘The Godfather, Part III’ of my article trilogies
In Part 1 and Part 2, I weighed in on the awards honoring players and content creators. The third umbrella category is ‘Industry Figures’ and this will be the subject of Part 3 – historically ‘The Godfather, Part III’ of my article trilogies (in the sense that the characters are older, the pace is more prosaic, and it is ultimately ruined by nepotism.)
On the night, there are four awards given out that are not voted for, neither by a panel nor the fans. These awards recognize excellence in a variety of ways. They are Poker ICON, Charitable Initiative, The GPI Award of Merit, and The Hendon Mob Award. Speaking to VegasSlotsOnline News, the GPI’s poker information manager Kevin Mathers insisted that, unlike other years, the recipients of these awards would be kept secret until the night.
USA! USA! USA!
The vast majority of live poker was in the US in 2021 so it was somewhat understandable that they dominated last year’s awards but that simply wasn’t the case in 2022. Last year, 53 out of 68 (78%) of the nominees in the 17 panel-voted categories were North American. This year, 55 of the 68 (81%) are either American or Canadian. Simply put, North America’s dominance in what are meant to be global awards is a problem.
There are just ten European nominees this year
I know that GPI President Eric Danis has tried to address this phenomena by reaching out to more European poker industry people and influencers but despite his best efforts, the award nominations fail to reflect our global game. There are just ten European nominees this year and more worryingly just four from the rest of the world – Thailand’s Punnat Punsri, Argentina’s Alejandro ‘Papo MC’ Lococo and Mariano Grandoli, and Australia’s Tim Duckworth who is one third of the PokerGo Podcast.
If you zoom out and look at the 266 award nominations that have been handed out over the four years, 199 have gone to North Americans (75%), 48 have gone to Europeans (18%), and just 19 to the rest of the world (7%). With this in mind and that the trend is towards an even greater US representation, I think a strong case can now be made for bringing back the European poker awards.
Regardless, let’s cast our eyes over the contenders in the industry categories this year.
- James Hartigan (Ireland)
- Jamie Kerstetter (USA)
- Jeff Platt (USA)
- Nick Schulman (USA)
Platt deservedly won this one last time out for his work in various broadcast roles as a host, presenter, commentator, and ‘please stand upper.’ Schulman is the commentary GOAT and after his turn as High Stakes Poker commentator this year, I would expect to see him in the winner’s enclosure next year. Hartigan is a veteran of the booth, having anchored EPT coverage for well over a decade and there is a lot of heat around his candidacy, thanks to a campaign launched by his decorated co-host Joe Stapleton.
My hunch is Hartigan will triumph but I’m torn in this category because I think Kerstetter is extremely deserving for her commentary work throughout the year, especially on the World Series of Poker Main Event. From an entertainment perspective, she is the funniest person in poker, delivering her vicious, biting one-liners with a smile. From a strategy perspective, it was obvious that she had been in the lab, delivering more precise analysis this year than ever before.
I’m going to give the nod to Kerstetter, mainly because she rigged the inaugural 2019 awards so that The Chip Race won. Ewwwwwww!
- EPT Barcelona Main Event
- Triton Poker Coin Rivet Invitational
- World Series of Poker Main Event
- WPT World Championship at Wynn Las Vegas
The WSOP is a massive undertaking each year and normally gets recognized in this category a couple of times, regardless of how long the lines were, how under-trained the dealers, how Spin and Goey the new formats were, or if Phil Ivey had to play in a bowling alley. This year, it’s only up once for the Main Event which didn’t break records as was anticipated but it must be said ran ultra-smoothly in a new and improved venue.
EPT Barcelona was a fantastic festival and deserves its nomination
The EPT in Barcelona is Pokerstars’ flagship event each year which under Amaya became a crap-shoot, rake-fest cattle-mart. Under Flutter, the company has returned to a policy of treating the players like human beings again and thanks to the likes of Willie Elliot in a customer engagement role, make them feel like valued customers. EPT Barcelona was a fantastic festival and deserves its nomination.
I was not invited to the Triton Poker Coin Rivet Invitational but I watched the coverage and it was superb. Triton has raised the bar when it comes to livestream coverage and with the help of the fantastic people at Merit Poker, they created something special, unique, and entertaining.
There can only be one winner, however, and I think it simply must go to the WPT World Championship at Wynn Las Vegas. To create something to rival the WSOP in its first year is extraordinary. The $15m guarantee was thought to be ambitious but in the end, thanks to the overlaying qualifiers, the feel-good giveaways, the hype train, and the response from the poker community, the players in attendance ultimately competed for a $30m prize pool.
Best Industry Person
- Ryan Beauregard (USA)
- Jack Effel (USA)
- Mori Eskandani (Iran/USA)
- Tana Karn (USA)
Rightly or wrongly, and I believe it is the latter, the voting panels lean heavily towards the live poker realm, both in the player and the industry categories. This particular bias has manifested down the years when choosing the Best Industry Person with past recipients including Angelica Hael, Paul Phua, and Matt Savage.
This year, legendary poker producer Mori Eskandani is in the mix versus the WSOP vice president Jack Effel, who oversaw the WSOP’s successful migration to Paris and Bally’s, 8131 Media founder and CEO of Rungood Tana Karn who continued to grow his empire of brands, and Wynn executive director of poker Ryan Beauregard who was one of the major forces behind the WPT World Poker Championship.
I predict a victory in this one for Beauregard, making it a deservedly big night for the Wynn and it’s exceptional team.
Best Tournament Director
- Paul Campbell (USA)
- Ray Pulford (USA)
- Matt Savage (USA)
- Toby Stone (England)
This category features four great candidates, all of whom express their passion for the game time and time again in poker’s trenches. Paul Campbell is the tournament poker manager at The Aria. Ray Pulford is the head honcho over at the Wynn. Matt Savage is the executive tour director on the WPT while Toby Stone calls the shots on the European Poker Tour.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I think this will be a night that recognizes probably the greatest ever poker event, certainly the best I have attended (and I’ve been to 250+ over my 17 years). The WPT World Poker Championship in the Wynn was so special and you can be sure that pretty much everyone who voted in this category was in attendance.
don’t be surprised if Ray Pulford nicks it
For that reason, I think the award will go to the WPT’s Matt Savage but don’t be surprised if Ray Pulford nicks it!
Best Mid-Major Circuit/Tour
- RUNGOOD Poker Series (RGPS)
- Mid-States Poker Tour (MSPT)
- World Series of Poker Circuit (WSOPC)
- WPT Prime (WPTP)
I must admit that this is the category in which I have no informed opinion. I am surprised to see no European-based tour in contention but that argument has been made already. The Rungood Poker Series has won in past years, The MSPT seems like a fantastic tour, the WSOP Circuit has been resurgent during the boom, but my hunch is the new WPT Prime will emerge victorious as it made quite the splash in its first year.
Fans Choice – Best Trophy
- EPT Main Event Trophy
- PGT Stairway to Millions Trophy
- WPA – Women’s Poker Association
- WSOP Main Event Bracelet
Last year, I speculated that this category was an attempt by GPI to inject a bit of whimsy into the proceedings and that I really didn’t see the point of a category like this, particularly if it is coming at the expense of recognizing an online player, a strategy content creator, or a journalist.
it was a tonic to see a yonic trophy design
That said, I did like the Georgia O’Keef-esque offering by the Women’s Poker Association. In a world of phallic effigies, it was a tonic to see a yonic trophy design.
Fans Choice: Fave Livestream
- EPT Live – PokerStarsLive
- King’s Casino Livestream
- Hustler Casino Live
- Poker at the Lodge
Definitely one of the two best new categories (the other being Rising Star), livestreams are very much their own art form, something between event television and late night radio. The skill and stamina required for these sometimes week-long streams is no joke and I am glad that GPI has decided to recognize it as a category.
While this is specifically a prize for work done in 2022, given that this is a new category, there might be a tendency to consider the body of work done before. If that is so, I think EPT Live will triumph. However, in the year that brought us so much livestream drama, it is hard to look past ‘Hustler Casino Live’ and one would assume that their fans are very engaged and will have happily voted.
Fans Choice: Poker Personality
- Ryan DePaulo (USA)
- Felipe Mojave Ramos (Brazil)
- Lex Veldhuis (Netherlands)
- Ethan “Rampage” Yau (USA)
This is viewed as one of the big ones of the night so I saved it for last. Refreshingly, all of the people nominated this year actually possess personalities, something that was not a requirement in previous years.
I must say that I am surprised not to see Greg ‘GregGoesAllIn’ Liow up for this award. To his credit, he launched an admirable campaign.
All of the shortlisted players have huge followings but I suspect breakout star Ethan ‘Rampage’ Yau might rise to the top.