What Do the American Poker Awards Actually Do For Poker?

Here are two of the four Pokerstars employees who won awards at a ceremoney sponsored by, erm, Pokerstars
Did Doug Polk's mocking of Alex Dreyfus and the GPL have anything to do with his snubbing at the American Poker Awards?
Was tonkaaaap robbed of an APA for his twitch stream?

Last week saw the glittering baubles of the 3rd American Poker Awards handed out by various members of the poker establishment on behalf of Alex Dreyfus’s GPI and their sponsor PokerStars.The awards were diligently covered by sections the poker media, and it would seem like a fine time was had by all at the back-slapping ceremony. Outside of the bash at the Beverley Hills Sofitel, though, does anyone really care about the APA’s? And perhaps more importantly, should they?

Expecting an awards ceremony which is staged by the GPI and sponsored by Pokerstars to be objective is like expecting a hungry lion to walk by a herd of antelope without stopping for lunch – it’s just not going to happen. Many of the members of the APA jury are either directly associated with either the GPL or PokerStars, have strong affiliations with them, or give them acres of media coverage. Not exactly a ‘closed shop’ but not far off it.

A cursory glance at the poker forums shows a distinct lack of interest in the APA’s from the people who really count, the serious poker fans and players.

The only mentions on 2+2 came from a short thread started by poster “my_nameaintearl” titled “Nominees for GPI American Poker Awards”. Rather tellingly, before listing the nominees the OP echoes our sentiments, writing, “Obviously most of these awards are based on sponsorship's and personal relationships so the Authenticity of these awards should be taken into question..."

The always outspoken Jason "carrycakes" Mo took to twitter on the night of the awards to offer up his humble opinion:

This isn’t to say there weren’t some worthy winners on the night. Maurice Hawkins quite rightly picked up “Breakout performance of the Year” after winning three WSOPC Main Events in 2016, and it was good to see Joey Ingram win “Podcast of the Year” for his fantastic output.

However, while Joe Ingram rightfully received his gong, his good friend and fellow poker content producer Doug “WCGRider” Polk, failed to receive even a single nomination, despite starting and growing one of the most popular, informative, and well-crafted media offerings in the poker world.

As well as Polk’s YouTube channel, his outings on Twitch in 2016 were among the most watched and certainly the most successful in twitch poker history. Twice last year he beat the record for the biggest live streamed win; he won a $700 PokerStars tourney for $162k in April, then won $455k for his runner-up finish in September’s SCOOP $10k High Roller event. In addition to this he also streamed the Stars $21k Super High Roller to 21,000 fans and battled high stakes regs including Ike "philivey2694" Haxton and Ben “Sauce123” Sulsky live on stream. Yet he did not even receive a nomination.

Could the reason be for Joey’s nomination (and subsequent win) and Polk’s snub have anything to do with the fact that Ingram ‘plays the game’ when it comes to not offending the poker establishment, while Polk has consistently called out the likes of the PokerStars, the GPL, and Alex Dreyfus for their actions? While it may be understandable for an organisation which has been publicly criticized by somebody to not want to heap praise or awards on them – it also makes something of a mockery of the credibility of the awards if this is indeed happening.

Polk has been particularly critical of Alex Dreyfus and the GPL this year, mercilessly mocking what he (and many others) perceived as an over-hyped, under-achieving platform which did virtually nothing to popularise poker. He also criticised Dreyfus personally in light of the accusations made by Fedor Holz and other highstakes players who leant Dreyfus money, only to have to wait several months for repayment after being promised it back within days.

Does poker really want someone who has acted in such a manner representing their game and bestowing awards upon the industry as though they are the “voice” of American or European poker?

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Even if the votes and wins are genuine, it’s hard not to question them in light of this. For example, Jason Mercier won “moment of the year” for his amazing heater at the WSOP where he won back to back bracelets and came runner-up in a third. Now, there’s no denying this was a spectacular achievement – but it wasn’t a “moment”, it was a series of occurrences which happened over a period of a week. Compare this to Will Kassouf’s heated exchange with Griffin Benger in their infamous AA vs KK showdown deep in last year’s WSOP Main Event. The Kassouf incident was a true “moment” and was watched and talked about for months after the event - making Kassouf, for a time at least, the most well known poker player on the planet. Whether you think Mercier was a more deserving winner or not, it’s hard not to be somewhat sceptical considering Mercier’s long-standing association with PokerStars.

The same can be said of Jason Somerville’s win in the twitch category. There’s no denying Somerville’s impact on twitch poker over the past couple of years, but in 2016 he was absent from twitch for a good 6 months, while Parker “tonkaaaaP” Talbot organically grew his twitch fanbase from scratch and had an amazingly successful 2016 grinding non-stop on twitch. Again, you can certainly put up an argument for Somerville, but his association with Pokerstars, the sponsor of the awards, will always cast an element of doubt over the results.

While the idea of an “American Poker Awards” is certainly something we can get behind, in our opinion the awards need to be truly independent, and to focus on promoting grass-roots poker rather than to serve the interests of a select few back-slapping buddies ensconced in the heart of the poker establishment.

As it stands, we think this little beauty posted by SrslySirius in the 2+2 thread says it better than we ever could;



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