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Dan Podheiser

Dan  Podheiser

Dan Podheiser has covered the gambling industry since 2013, but he has been an avid poker player for more than a decade, starting when he was just 14 years old. When he turned 18, he played online poker regularly on U.S.-friendly sites until Black Friday in April 2011.

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Top 10 picks for the Global Poker Index American Poker Awards

19 Feb 2016

By Dan Podheiser
This Thursday, the 2nd Annual Global Poker Index American Poker Awards ceremony will be held in Beverly Hills. Everyone who's anyone in the poker world will be there.

Unless, of course, they're playing in or working at a poker tournament, like the WPTDeepStacks series at Parx Casino in Philadelphia, the WPT Fallsview Poker Classic at Fallsview Casino Resort in Niagara Falls, or maybe the Macau Poker Cup at City of Dreams Macau.

But apart from that, everyone will be at the second edition of the GPI APAs this week. And I can't wait to see who takes home the hardware.

There are 11 different award categories this year, and PokerNews has assembled a handy roundup of the nominees in each category. The following are my picks for who (and what) I think should win the awards at this year's event.

10. Media Person and Media Content of the Year: Jason Somerville and his Twitch broadcast

As I wrote at the end of last year, Somerville's accomplishments on Twitch created a revolution in the poker world. The live stream trend, which had long been popular in the eSports industry, took off in the poker community after Somerville inked a deal with in March 2015 to stream his play on the site to a live audience.

The numbers for Somerville's Twitch steam in 2015 were quite staggering:

Somerville didn't just set a trend in the poker world; he set the bar high for any online poker player looking to follow in his footsteps. Other than Jamie Staples, another PokerStars-sponsored streamer, Somerville's ability to simultaneously engage with and inform his viewers – while playing at fairly high stakes – is leaps and bounds above his competition.

With all due respect to Brad Willis, whose BUST, an Insider's Account of Greenville's Underground Poker Scene was a truly incredible series, and to Joe Ingram, Kevin Mathers and Donnie Peters – three of the hardest-working people in poker – Somerville deserves to scoop the two awards for which he's nominated.

9. Poker Innovation or Initiative of the Year: Poker Central launches 24/7 television network

I don't think Poker Central will win this award, as it hasn't even really caught on in the poker community yet, much less a mainstream audience. Hell, I can't even figure out how to get it to play on my Apple TV! (I probably shouldn't admit that.)

But the idea of a 24/7 television channel dedicated to poker is awesome, and in my opinion, a necessity to keep the game's popularity afloat. Golf has its own channel, as does tennis and auto racing. And my wife watches HGTV, a channel about home improvement, 16 hours a day on the weekends – and we don't even own a home. So I'm guessing that there will eventually be enough people to provide the demand needed to make Poker Central a viable product – they just need to find out how and where to watch it.

Joe McKeehen holds the WSOP ME bracelet aloft after steamrolling over the competition.

Joe McKeehen holds the WSOP ME bracelet aloft after steamrolling over the competition.

And despite having not yet figured out how to watch the channel whenever I want, I have enjoyed watching YouTube videos of Poker Central's coverage from the Super High Roller Bowl and high-stakes cash game at the Aria from last summer. They even brought back High Stakes Poker legend A.J. Benza to do commentary for the cash game, which carried a lot of nostalgia for me. I loved it.

Still, considering its struggles to catch on thus far, I'm guessing Poker Central doesn't have much of a shot to win an award for "innovation." Gun to my head, I'd say the WSOP online bracelet event will take this one down.

8. Poker Presenter of the Year: David Tuchman

If Norman Chad is the Johnny Chan of poker broadcasters (famous, rich, overrated), then David Tuchman is Joey Knish – a true grinder if there ever was one. (Sorry, I was determined to make a "Rounders" reference in this column.)

Tuchman broadcasts the live-streamed final tables on during the World Series, and he also provides live stream coverage for "Poker Night in America" cash games, which are some of the most entertaining poker events to watch these days. Tuchman, along with his old "Live at the Bike" partner Bart Hanson, are without a doubt the most poker-savvy commentators in the world (not including color analysts).

I think Kara Scott, Joe Stapleton and PokerNews' Sarah Herring all deserve a ton of credit for their work in 2015, but Tuchman is an absolute beast in the booth. I'd listen to him broadcast live poker over just about anyone else.

7. Charitable Initiative of the Year: Charity Series of Poker (Matthew Stout)

The Charity Series of Poker (CSOP) held just two events in 2015, but it generated enough buzz to attract several big-name pros as sponsors and promotors of the cause. If you follow poker players on Twitter like me, then you probably see the #CSOP hashtag trending on your timeline every once in a while. And that's because these events – poker tournaments that create competition and award real cash to players while also generating tons of money for charity – are so popular.

According to the CSOP website, the charity supports the Three Square Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity and the Community Food Bank of New Jersey. That alone is worthy of recognition.

However, it's not exactly fair to say that one charity in the poker world is necessarily better than the others. The CSOP, along with the Chad Brown Memorial Tournament, Tiger's Poker Night and the WSOP One Drop tournaments all did exceptional work in 2015. They should all be honored for their accomplishments.

6. Industry Person of the Year: Jack Effel, WSOP Vice President and Tournament Director

Effel caught a ton of heat during the World Series of Poker last summer; some deserved, but most not so much. But as he told me in an exclusive interview during the 2015 Main Event, that's his job – to take the heat and turn complaints into constructive changes going forward.

Effel and his team were responsible for creating the Colossus, the $565 buy-in WSOP event that shattered the poker record books when it attracted 22,374 entries and 14,284 unique players. They introduced the first online bracelet event at the WSOP in 2015, and they do an exceptional job every year of turning the World Series of Poker into every poker player's Disney World.

But more than that, Effel is one of the most approachable and communicative people in the poker industry. You'll see him bouncing around the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino all day, just about every day from Memorial Day to the Fourth of July. And during the WSOP's offseason, he's an active participant on Twitter, using the medium to engage with players to find out what they want to see at the WSOP the following year.

5. Event of the Year (Buy-in Over $2,000): Super High Roller Bowl, Aria Resort & Casino

I personally don't think any of the events nominated in this category – including the 2015 WSOP Main Event, the WSOP One Drop High Roller and the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown – were particularly exciting or interesting. The Super High Roller Bowl wins this award by default, because it was a $500,000 buy-in tournament.

That's right: 43 players ponied up half a million dollars.

The best part of this event, which was won by Brian Rast for $7.5 million, was the broadcast put on by Poker Central and commentators Kara Scott and Jesse Sylvia. Those videos are on YouTube if you want to check them out.

But yeah, 2015 didn't produce a ton of interesting high buy-in events. The Main Event, despite having Daniel Negreanu make it down to the final 11 players, was pretty uneventful, as Joe McKeehen basically went wire to wire from Days 7-10.

Oh well. If Poker Central broadcasts another Super High Roller Bowl (which they plan to do in 2016), I'll watch it. But beyond that, it's just another high-stakes event.

4. Event of the Year (Buy-in Up to $2,000): WSOP The Colossus, Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino

The Colossus, on the other hand, was revolutionary. Casino City's Aaron Todd was on hand from start to finish to take in the action (he even played in the event), and though he came up with 10 ways to improve the event going forward, the Colossus was by all measures a complete success for the WSOP and the poker world.

Any time you can get 14,000 poker players together in one room, it's good for the game, no matter what anyone says.

Many players complained about the flat payout structure of the event, but it was a brilliant move by the World Series to pay as many amateur players as possible. The Colossus will be back again in 2016, this time with a $10 million guarantee, and I wouldn't be surprised if the record for largest live poker tournament field is shattered once again.

3. Breakout Performance of the Year: Joshua Beckley

Not only did Beckley finish second in the 2015 Main Event for $4.4 million, but he also had arguably the most impressive final table of the November Nine. Sure, McKeehen dominated from start to finish, but he also was slapped in the face with the deck (and played exceptionally well, too). McKeehen was expected to win easily, and he did.

Beckley, meanwhile, entered the final table seventh in chips, but laddered all the way up to second place with solid, conservative play. He seemed acutely aware of the table dynamics throughout the final table, often choosing to pick on the weaker players instead of rumbling with other pros. And though he made a few questionable plays down the stretch, Beckley's run at the Main Event was truly impressive.

But that tournament was not Beckley's only claim to fame in 2015. He actually began the year by cashing for a total of $80,000 in two events within the span of two weeks at Parx Casino. And while the November Nine was waiting for the final table to kick off, Beckley was busy taking down a WSOP Circuit ring, when he won the $365 No-Limit Hold'em Monster Stack event at Palm Beach Kennel Club Poker Room for just over $22,000.

I'd say that's a breakout year for Beckley.

Daniel Negreanu speaks to a reporter after being busted in 11th place from the WSOP Main Event.

Daniel Negreanu speaks to a reporter after being busted in 11th place from the WSOP Main Event.

2. Moment of the Year: Daniel Negreanu busts 11th in WSOP Main Event
This was the moment that "killed poker." If Daniel Negreanu made the November Nine, the game would have seen a rebirth in popularity that would have harkened back to the days of the height of the boom. Instead, Negreanu was busted by mean old Joe McKeehen, and the game was dead for good.

Yeah, sure.

Negreanu's run in the WSOP Main Event was certainly the top storyline of 2015, however. I don't think he left the ESPN featured table once during the network's coverage of the event. He's the biggest star in the game and was playing for its most coveted prize. Had he won the Main Event, it would have been spectacular – but it wouldn't have revived the poker industry back to 2006.

Still, it was fun to watch, and that's why it deserves the award.

(By the way, who would get this award in this scenario? Negreanu? Why would he want an award for losing the most important hand of his life? Is this like some kind of sick bad beat jackpot? Now I really hope he wins.)

1. Tournament Performance of the Year: Joseph McKeehen, WSOP Main Event

McKeehen made Philly sports fans proud when he slaughtered the Main Event final table while wearing Connor Barwin and Allen Iverson jerseys. And that's exactly what he did – he absolutely annihilated anyone who stepped in his path.

McKeehen caught cards like Jamie Gold in 2006, but actually knew what to do with them. He's a true pro who was kissed by the ring of variance at the right time in 2015, and he capitalized on it, like any pro would.

Not much else to say here. Nobody dominated a major poker tournament more in 2015 than McKeehen.
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