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American Poker Awards – 2015 Recap

March 5 Sandra Wong

American Poker Awards Makes Good News for Poker

This past weekend the very first American Poker Awards ceremony was held in Beverly Hills at the SLS hotel. Over 200 of the industry’s poker players, media and behind the scenes staff who make tournament poker possible in the North America were in attendance.

Photo Courtesy of Alex

The awards had followed the Global Poker Conference held during the day. The conference featured five seminars which provided discussion between the industries experts from many different areas of poker. During the conference, the following seminars took place:

Live Poker in a Digital Era

Discussion Leader: Matthew Parvis, Chief Creative Officer,

  • Digital Marketing: How it can (and will) define poker rooms and bring in new players.
  • Social & New Media: Creating a larger, more loyal and more engaged engaged player base for Live Poker Rooms.
  • Using New Technology & Digital Tools to develop new business for Poker Rooms and innovate the Live Poker industry.

The Future of Poker – Live Poker Leaders

Discussion Leader: John Caldwell, Owner, iGameNet. Former Director, PokerStars &

  • Discussions on 2015 Poker initiatives from Major Operators.
  • Keys to Live Poker growth by Industry thought leaders and key stakeholders.

Live & Online Poker: Two industries in harmony.

Discussion Leader: Nolan Dalla, Creative Director, Poker Night in America

  • The same side of two different coins: How Live and Online poker industries  push growth within each other without becoming co-dependent.
  • Cooperation and support in the U.S.: How these two industries’ integration and support of one another should shape the re-invigoration of Poker in the U.S. in 2015

Online Poker Snapshot: The current state of online Poker in the U.S.

Discussion Leader: Chris Grove, Co-Founder, Online Poker Report

  • Lessons learned from the return of regulated online Poker gaming in 2014.
  • Changes and industry adaptations to make to ensure a more successful 2015.

Players’ Perspective

Discussion Leader: Eric Raskin, Editor-in-Chief, ALL IN Media House

  • Players’ panel featuring top talent discussing the Live Poker ecosystem from the player’s perspective.
  • Players’ hopes and calls to action for the Live Poker Industry Industry: What players (should) want, and continued improvements for 2015.

Photo Courtesy of Alex

Hosted by the always incredible Kara Scott, once again Miss Scott has shown the poker world how talented and eloquent she truly is!

The was plenty of buzz leading up to the inaugural event and like many it seemed, I was a bit skeptical about how the event would be received. One might say “do poker players need more recognition?” After all isn’t winning money and rising in rankings reward enough? As the date approached and the list of nominees released, I realized that this event isn’t as much for poker players. But rather for the industry innovators, bloggers, journalists, tournament staff and all the others who work hard day in and day out to make tournament poker happen.

 Overall the night’s big winner was Alex Dreyfus CEO of Global Poker Index. Alex’s visionary efforts not only put together the big event but have also helped develop and expand poker as a recognized sport.  With the state of online poker being what it is (still about as unsure as it was a year ago) guys like Alex are uniting the industry leaders, poker players and media to help elevate poker poker to the next level.

American Poker Award Tweets: 

Poker Tweet Nola Dalla

Mike Sexton “Congrat’s to all winners (& losers) at #AmericanPokerAwards & thk to Alex Dreyfus to make it happen. It was a great evening. #vision
Daniel Negreanu “Thanks again to visionary Alex Dreyfus for putting on a great event last night”
Matt Savage : “Really cool night last night GlobalPokerIndex #AmericanPokerAwards. Congratulations to Alex Dreyfus and his team on job well done!”

The divas in poker were out in “full bling,” I’m sure happy to be rid of all the hoodies, sweat pants and shades even if just for one night. Women who have truly lead the way for others in a male dominated industry, took part in both the conference during the day and the awards ceremony later that evening. Without women like the legendary Linda Johnson or Jan Fisher, poker equality would not have become what it is today. From those who have led the way for us, to today’s ladies of poker; the night was much shiner with them in attendance!

The world’s best female poker player without a doubt is Vanessa Selbst who took home the award for “Best Female Player Of The Year” began her acceptance speech with: “First I’d like to open up a dialogue about  ladies tournaments and what everyone feels about them.” After a low, dull silence in the room she followed with “nah we’re not going to do that. Geez! None if you even laughed, give me a little more credit than that!”

Daniel Negreanu was chosen as Best Ambassador For Poker. Given all he has done even prior to signing with Pokerstars, Daniel has been a longtime spokesperson for the sport who is very deserving of such an award. Daniel made sure to note and pay tribute during his acceptance speech to Sexton who he said was an ambassador to him starting out, along with praising Alex Dreyfus for making the evening such a success.  Above all, Daniel gave thanks to his amazing parents, saying “I won the parent lottery. Not everyone was as lucky as I was. I had an amazing mother who loved me dearly and also my father who was my role model.” Daniel’s mom was loved by many whom she cared for in her usual loving way by cooking meals for pros like Phil Ivey when he won three bracelets and Layne Flack when he had won two bracelets. Phil Ivey was also nominated in this category, which his good buddy Daniel made sure to poker fun of asking the room full of people to “raise their hand if they were in the same boat thinking, why in the word is Phil Ivey on this list!”

For me personally, Nolan Dalla has not only been a favourite of mine but a leader in poker journalism who has without a doubt set the bar very high for quality and excellence in an industry I am very proud to be a part of. Many of the written work we read today on the internet has become lazy to keep with the limited time span that readers give their attention to. Nolan has found a way to not lose his flare and style with his work, while switching to online based content and doing so exceptionally well! It was a great pleasure to include his perspective on the first ever American Poker Awards show and Global Poker Conference.

I asked Nolan about what he has seen develop in 2014 and from what was discussed during the conference, could he give any insight towards online poker returning to the United States?

“Dan Goldman was best suited to address this question.  He appeared on the panel that I moderated.  Goldman, with background both at PokerStars and Native American tribes in California projected legalization in perhaps 2017, and after a lengthy regulatory framework is set up, the first actual poker hand to be dealt in CA sometime late in 2019.  In the meantime, we would see online poker in some other U.S. states, but CA is a game changer for the entire industry.  Alex Dreyfus even pointed out this could ignite another poker boom (CA legalization).”

During the night’s award ceremony Chris Grove was the winner of the “Media Person Of The Year” award. Dalla being one of the most recognized for his success in media around the world shared why he thought Chris was so deserving of this honour.

“When I started out writing about poker, there really was no such thing as poker journalism.  Now, we have reporting every bit as good as national mainstream news organizations.  We also have investigative journalism and op eds which are full of different perspectives.  Chris Grove consistently puts out reliable information that no one else seems to get, and also presents it in a way that’s useful to those of us who follow the news, particularly in online poker.  Over the past 12 months, his work has been excellent.  I’m also fond of Robbie Strazynsky’s work as well as writings by Steve Ruddock.”

The poker industry has become extremely different post Black Friday, especially in the U.S. If the American Poker Awards were introduced prior to the big crash, surely things would be different. If the American Poker Awards were introduced prior to Black Friday, how do you think it would be different?

“ It would have been compromised by rival online sites, lacking a real consensus about anything.  It might not have even been possible.  Without an impartial overseer, an awards presentation such as this lacks credibility and I fear the divide between major companies would have rendered anything prior to 2011 as nothing more than a time buy and marketing exercise.  This was as close to an Academy Awards or Grammy’s as you will get in poker.”

The very first American Poker Awards has now come and gone. Some skeptics – myself included – were pleased to see that the event didn’t just recognize poker players.  Nolan Dalla legendary poker writer and journalist (who is often difficult to impress easily as he is a man with high standards of excellence) left me with how he felt the inaugural ceremony had gone.

“Poker players get recognized for accomplishment all the time, with trophies, cash, fame, etc.  How about recognizing some of those behind the scenes who make this all happen.  Every major industry has its awards, from legal to insurance companies.  We live in an awards oriented society.  As big and diverse as poker is now, a ceremony such as this was long overdue.  I predict it will only get bigger and become more prestigious.”

Finally, would he like to see anything done differently, category wise for nominations.

“I would separate media content into two categories — writing and digital (video).  The skills sets are completely different .  I would also award a best poker book of the year.”

American Poker Awards Winners:

  • Poker’s Best Ambassador: Daniel Negreanu
  • GPI Player of the Year: Dan Colman
  • GPI Female Player of the Year: Vanessa Selbst
  • Breakout Player of the Year: Brandon Shack-Harris
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: World Poker Tour founder Steve Lipscomb
  • Industry Person of the Year: WPT President Adam Pliska
  • Media Person of the Year: Online Poker Report’s Chris Grove
  • Tournament Performance of the Year: Mark Newhouse in WSOP Main Event
  • Media Content of the Year: Brad Willis for PokerStars Blog’s “WSOP 2014: Stages / Never Stop Fighting”
  • Event of the Year (buy-in over $2,000): World Series of Poker Main Event
  • Event of the Year (buy-in under $2,000): WSOP Monster Stack
  • Charitable Initiative of the Year: “All In” for Kids Poker Tournament Presented by CHOP & WPT Foundation
  • Innovation of the Year: Twitch for Live Streaming Poker

– By Lynne Bennett –

Check out her own personal blog at for more of her poker insights or Tweet her @cdnpokerchick 



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