Ballots have been cast, and the finalists for the third annual American Poker Awards have been revealed.
The nomination panel, which determined the finalists across nine categories, comprises more than 70 people representing a cross-section of the poker world: players, industry members, tournament organizers, casino staff, and sponsors.
The American Poker Awards will take place Thursday, Feb. 23, at the Sofitel Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. The awards, which are sponsored by PokerStars, will be preceded by a conference and sit-down dinner.
Here’s a look at each of the categories and some of my thoughts and predictions on the nominees.
Finalists announced in 10 categories
Ten categories have fields of four finalists. The finalists in nine of these categories were determined by the nomination panel, with the winner to be picked by select jury on the night of the awards.
TOURNAMENT PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR
- Kristen Bicknell, WSOP No Limit Hold’em Bounty
- Ari Engel, Aussie Millions Main Event
- Maurice Hawkins, WSOP Circuit Cherokee Main Event
- Mike Sexton, WPT Montreal
When the longtime announcer of the World Poker Tour — a poker hall-of-famer beloved by the community — steps out of the booth and wins a WPT event at age 69, it’s the Tournament Performance of the Year.
MOMENT OF THE YEAR
- Griffin Benger’s AA vs William Kassouf’s KK showdown in the WSOP Main Event
- Jason Mercier goes on historic one-week heater at the World Series of Poker
- David Peters, needing 3rd at EPT Prague to take GPI PoY from Fedor Holz, does exactly that
- Mike Sexton mounts incredible comeback to win first WPT title in Montreal
Tough category, but the William Kassouf vs. Griffin Benger hand at the World Series of Poker was high drama, and the very definition of a Moment of the Year.
BREAKOUT PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR
- Ari Engel
- Maurice Hawkins
- Ankush Mandavia
- Sam Soverel
By the letter of the law (a player breaking through with his or her first major tournament victory), this award would go to Ari Engel. But Engel has been around the poker scene for a long time and is considered a top tournament player, so his Aussie Millions didn’t really put him on the map.
EVENT OF THE YEAR
- Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open, Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood, Florida
- Super High Roller Bowl, ARIA, Las Vegas
- WSOP Main Event, Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas
- WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic, Bellagio, Las Vegas
It’s hard to go against the WSOP Main Event, but for my money, the Super High Roller Bowl is the winner this year.
MID-MAJOR CIRCUIT OF THE YEAR
- Heartland Poker Tour
- Mid-States Poker Tour
- WSOP Circuit
This is one of those categories where any of the four finalists could win, and nobody would feel like they were robbed.
INDUSTRY PERSON OF THE YEAR
- Tony Burns, Seminole Hard Rock Tournament Director
- Jack Effel, WSOP VP Intl’ Poker Operations & WSOP Director
- Sean McCormack, ARIA Director of Poker Operations
- Matt Savage, WPT Executive Tour Director & TDA Founder
This is always one of the more difficult categories to gauge, and as usual, any of the four finalists would be a solid pick.
MEDIA PERSON OF THE YEAR
- Lance Bradley
- Sarah Herring
- Joseph Stapleton
- David Tuchman
The APAs got it right this year when it decoupled podcasts and live streams from traditional media. However, the awards got it very wrong by eliminating the Presenter of the Year category and pigeonholed that category in with poker media. Three of this year’s poker media finalists were finalists in the Presenter of the Year category last year.
Unfortunately, this means there is only one member of the poker media among the finalists for this award, because, as we learned last year, when you put media people up against popular streamers or commentators they’re going to lose that battle.
PODCAST OF THE YEAR
- Full Contact Poker (Daniel Negreanu)
- Poker Life Podcast (Joe Ingram)
- PokerNews Podcast (Sarah Herring, Matthew Parvis)
- TwoPlusTwo Podcast (Terrence Chan, Ross Henry, Adam Schwartz)
A strong group of finalists, but Ingram’s podcast stands out in my mind.
MEDIA CONTENT OF THE YEAR
- “Bob, Charlie and a Life-Changing WSOP Main Event Journey” (Lance Bradley, PocketFives)
- “Life’s a Gamble” (Mike Sexton)
- “Stu Ungar’s Last Chance Gone Wrong” (Matthew Showell, PokerListings)
- Twitch coverage of the Aussie Millions (Jason Somerville)
The finalists in this category run the gamut.
You have Bradley’s heart-wrenching long-form piece, a great autobiography by Mike Sexton, an excellent short film about Stu Ungar, and Somerville’s live streams from the Aussie Millions.
TWITCH STREAMER OF THE YEAR
- Kevin Martin “KevinMartin987”
- Jason Somerville “jcarverpoker”
- Jaime Staples “PokerStaples”
- Parker Talbot “tonkaaaP”
*Finalists for Twitch Streamer of the Year selected by Twitch; however, the members of the GPI American Poker Awards Jury will select the winner of this year’s award.
The frontrunners for this award are Somerville and Staples.
Several American Poker Awards are decided without any input from the nomination panel.
CHARITABLE INITIATIVE OF THE YEAR
The Charitable Initiative of the Year award will go to “the tournament or tournament series to have done the best job at raising awareness as well as raising funds for a noteworthy charitable organization.”
The winner of this category will be chosen by the jury and announced on the night of the APAs.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
The winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award will also be decided by the jury on the night of the APAs.
Past winners of the award include:
- 2014: Steve Lipscomb
- 2015: Mike Sexton
POCKETFIVES LEGACY AWARD
The winner in this category is decided by the jury and will go to “an online poker legend who has also made significant contributions on the live tournament circuit.”
The Jury Prize recognizes someone in the poker world for his or her contributions. The winner is announced on the night of the APAs.
Global Poker Index Players of the Year awards
This year, there are four predetermined awards based on a player’s statistical performance over the course of 2016.
GPI FEMALE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Awarded to the top-ranking female player on the 2016 American GPI Player of the Year leaderboard.
- Winner: Cate Hall
GPI PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Awarded to the top-ranking player on the 2016 American GPI Player of the Year leaderboard 2016.
- Winner: David Peters
2016 GPI WORLD SERIES OF POKER PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Awarded to the top-ranking player on the 2016 GPI World Series of Poker Player of the Year leaderboard.
- Winner: Jason Mercier
THE HENDON MOB AWARD
Awarded to the player who accumulated the most results on the circuit in 2016.
- Winner: TBD