OP-ED: Poker World Needs To Try Harder with Global Poker Awards

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Poker Awards
There's still time to fix the poker awards, but we need to act soon (photo: Global Poker Index)

I would like nothing more than to see the game of poker and this industry thrive unimaginably. I also believe the Global Poker Awards, which were previously two distinctions, the American Poker Awards and European Poker Awards, are good for the industry.

That belief is becoming less and less so each year.

I’ve always touted the importance of this ceremony to celebrate the industry and accomplishments within. Quite honestly, it’s getting to the point where one could make the argument the awards aren’t good for poker because some of the nominees and even some of the categories are so far off the mark.

If you’re like me and believe the awards can help push poker in the right direction, then we’re going to need to change how we do things and try a bit harder. I’m well aware the Global Poker Awards aren’t going to spark the next poker boom, but they’re a piece of the puzzle that can increase the industry’s legitimacy. For an industry that is constantly clawing and scratching for every inch of legitimacy it can get, this is important.

When the nomination list goes out, do those that receive it take the adequate time to best make their selections? The answer to that question can’t possibly be yes. I’ve talked to enough people to surmise that there’s too many with representative votes who aren’t holding up their end of the bargain. Of course, this is a shared responsibility between the Global Poker Index and those on the nomination panel. The GPI needs to put standard over inclusion, but ultimately, most of the nomination panel isn’t putting in the time and effort the privilege should require.

The nomination panel isn’t helping if, every single year when it’s time for the awards, too many are half-assing it through the process, voting for friends and co-workers simply because of relationship, and not putting in the time it takes to make the best decisions. It’s kind of like poker in a lot of ways. Are the voters in it to simply splash around a little in the game and be considered a “known” person in the industry, or do they want to actually put in the effort it takes for this to mean something?

Improve the Process

This year’s nomination panel was pegged at more than 130 members, according to the GPI. That’s too many by about 120.

I get it, the awards are now global so you’re going to need a greater representation from across the globe, but the lobbying for friends and coworkers is blatantly obvious and the lack of knowledge is highly evident. This is where the GPI needs to step in and make a change. Again, we need to emphasize that the awards are a standard of achievement, not a popular participation trophy.

Instead of having a huge nomination panel, form a committee and give them real responsibilities. I’d suggest a committee of 10-12 people, and I’d make it an interview process for a person to be accepted to the committee.

We can start by having each media outlet nominate one person to possibly be on the committee. Poker media members should, in theory, be the ones with the best grasp on all things poker across the globe. We should want those with the most expansive knowledge on the committee, but we’ll certainly need to vet them.

Each person nominated to be a part of the committee would be interviewed by the GPI and either accepted or refused. Think of it like a job interview and the GPI is hiring, just for a gig with no pay. If you’d like to be on the committee but having to go through an interview process is something that you balk at, you’re not someone who deserves to have representative votes. Of course, we would have to trust that the GPI would pick the best individuals for the committee. I would also suggest that if this is a route taken, the GPI consider a relevancy factor with each committee member and candidate. Meaning, the person must still have relevancy within the industry.

Another requirement for being on the committee would be that you absolutely must be present for all meetings, and for the final committee gathering to determine the award winners. There would be several rounds of discussion and voting. Again, this speaks to one’s level of commitment.

Part of the problem with how it’s done now is that you have more than 130 members on the nomination panel who determine the finalists and then a much smaller group of about 10 hand-picked jury members who determine the winners. The way it is, the jury is left to pick from the bunch they’re given, rather than go through a few rounds of discussion, vetting, and voting to determine the best winner. Look at what happened a couple of years ago with Breakout Player of the Year. Nick Petrangelo arguably should’ve won Breakout Player of the Year for 2015, but he didn’t even make the list of finalists. Having a committee of the same people who go through the process from start to finish would pay big dividends here.

The committee wouldn’t, and shouldn’t, be all media, though. I would suggest including players or general industry members, but ones that aren’t strongly tied to one organization. Again, each candidate would need to be vetted and accepted. With general industry members, it can be difficult for a person working for one organization on a daily basis to have the required knowledge outside of their organization. Not that this is their fault, it’s just the nature of how things work.

Each year, I would repeat this entire process, giving seniority, based on performance, to those on the committee the year before. I’d also suggest having alternates on standby should anything extreme cause need for a replacement on the committee. Alternates would go through a similar process as other committee members.

Better Categories

These are the poker awards, right? Why aren’t we giving out an award for Online Poker Operator of the Year, Live Poker Operator of the Year, or Poker Media Outlet of the Year? It seems silly to not award those.

The Tournament Performance of the Year award has to go. If we keep it, can we all just agree to award it to the WSOP Main Event champion every year? There is no greater tournament performance each year than grinding through that monstrosity of a poker tournament, competing against really good players in the best-structured tournament in the world for a massive amount of time.

Remove Moment of the Year. Half of the things that get listed here aren’t “moments” and this award blends too much with Tournament Performance of the Year. In its place, I’d suggest we add in Hand of the Year. In the current digital age and the age of social media, so many great hands see the light of day in consumable content. The content is also easily shareable, which helps promote the awards and generate buzz. Hand of the Year is also a great way to add in a fan vote.

Ditch Poker Journalist of the Year. I’d suggest we go back to Media Person of the Year, if anything, and then if we want to further celebrate the media, we do so with individual awards such as Photo of the Year, Story of the Year, and Feature Video of the Year. There are enough great pieces of content to fill these respective categories.

Industry Person of the Year needs a new name. I understand what’s meant to be done with this award, but doesn’t “industry” implies anyone in the industry can win? Rename this to represent what it is really meant to do, Poker Executive of the Year.

With Breakout Player of the Year, the GPI could implement a “breakout factor” for each player to help everyone out. I doubt everyone with a vote is grinding through Hendon Mob. The GPI knows how much a player climbs in the GPI from year to year and the award can be more on-brand if that’s what the nominations are based on.

Start Earlier

Whatever causes these awards to become a thing a month before they happen needs to stop. Give everyone more time to think about the awards, dive into researching what should win and what shouldn’t, and pump up the various elements such as the content pieces, tournament performances, and players.

We also need to move the awards so that they take place earlier in the year. The awards this year aren’t taking place until early April. That’s the fourth month of the year. People can’t remember what happened last week, let alone 4-16 months ago. The awards being held closer to the start of the year would keep the previous year, which is what we’re supposed to be celebrating, fresher in everyone’s minds.

If the awards are going to be partnered with Poker Central and PokerGO for future years, it seems like a no-brainer to hold the awards would be at the front or back end of the US Poker Open that takes place at the beginning of February. PokerGO could host the awards in the PokerGO Studio either the day before or the day after the US Poker Open festival. If it’s before, there’s additional content to showcase during the festival. If it’s after, you can spend the week hyping up the awards to generate a larger audience for them.

Or, maybe we could just hand out participation ribbons ever year?

The views and opinions expressed in this Op-Ed are those of the author and do not
necessarily reflect the position of PocketFives or other staff.

1 COMMENT

  1. Excellent article, excellent suggestions. I get the impression that the GPI president isn’t really open minded to massive change such as this. His real concern seems to be with trying to spin the present uproar rather than make corrections to, or overhaul the process.