The Global Poker Index (GPI) hosted its second annual Global Poker Awards ceremony in Las Vegas last Friday, handing out more than 20 gongs to players and industry figures in celebration of a year’s achievements in the game.
A number of the category shortlists featured events or individuals associated with PokerStars, and as the ceremony unfolded at the Poker Go Studios, at the Aria Casino, it was clear the red spade was in for a good night.
By the time the festivities wrapped, two PokerStars Ambassadors were clutching trophies, the PokerStars Live Events team had been recognised for its centrepiece tournament, a spectacular moment on the PokerStars stage in Monte Carlo drew special attention, and a stalwart of PokerStars Blog’s formidable writing team had earned due recognition for his commitment and craft.
The full list of PokerStars winners was:
Streamer of the Year — Lex Veldhuis
Podcast of the Year — Jennifer Shahade’s “The Grid”
Event of the Year — The PokerStars Players Championship (PSPC)
Hand of the Year — Ryan Riess’s 10-high call at EPT Monte Carlo final table
Media Content of the Year (Written) — Poker and Pop Culture by Martin Harris
Streamer of the Year
Winner: Lex Veldhuis
Other nominees: Hristivoje Pavlovic, Ben “Spraggy” Spragg, Matthew Staples
Lex Veldhuis needs little introduction these days as the most popular poker streamer on the planet, and he picked up the award for streamers for the second consecutive year. His unfiltered honesty while playing at the PokerStars tournament tables is both highly insightful and entertaining. He is a brilliant companion both for his conversation and elite-level thinking on the game.In October, more than 20,000 people watched as Veldhuis made it through a field of 327 entries to play heads-up for a WCOOP title. Although he fell at the final hurdle, the performance once again underlined his unique appeal. Now one of the elder statesmen of the streaming game, Veldhuis is both market leader and mentor to the hordes of streamers and viewers who want to either be like him or just be part of his community. The ridiculously popular Lex Live series of events is now the first date added to many players’ calendars.
Lex Veldhuis sent a video to the awards ceremony in which he said: “Thank you so much for the award of streamer of the year. I’m super happy. I won it last year and I can’t believe that I won it this year as well. It’s been such an awesome year. I’m very grateful for everything that’s happened and also very grateful to get recognition from my peers. I know there are a lot of amazing streamers, people that have worked really hard as well. Everybody is putting out great content.” He saved his last words for his audience: “I love you guys. You make it so easy to get out of bed every day. It’s just so much fun to grind poker while hanging out with you guys.”
Veldhuis also said: “It’s really nice. It’s very humbling, you know. It’s so nice getting so many nice Twitter messages. It’s like appreciation from your peers [referring to winning the award], and then on top of that you see how many people are rooting for you, too.”
Podcast of the Year
Winner: Jennifer Shahade’s “The Grid”
Other nominees: DAT Poker Podcast, Poker Life Podcast, The Fives
Thanks to her background in chess, Jennifer Shahade originally joined PokerStars as a Mind Sports Ambassador, but has long since been a valued member of Team Pro and is prominent in promoting the return of online poker to her home state of Pennsylvania. In 2019, Shahade added yet another string to her bow when she began a brilliant podcast series titled “The Grid”. The format is simple and the execution sublime: every episode, Shahade invites a poker player to talk about a particular two-card hold’em hand and reveal the significance it has had in their life or career. There are 169 possible holdings — the 13×13 “grid” of the title — which means 169 guests and 169 fascinating conversations with some of poker’s most compelling thinkers. Dreamt up during an idle moment at the PSPC, Shahade is currently 31 episodes through a unique and enlightening series. She can now add “award-winning” to the podcast description too.Jennifer Shahade says: “I was happy and honored to win the best podcast award for The Grid. It meant a lot to me and my husband Daniel Meirom (the producer) as we’ve put so much work and passion into this project. The concept itself is a little wacky: 169 episodes, with each possible poker combo matching with one interview. Just goes to show you never know what will resonate with people, but if you’re passionate about it, do not stop. I had no idea we were going to win until a camera man went for a close-up as Maria Ho opened the envelope. What a cool moment!
Meirom was watching the broadcast from home, with the couple’s 3-year-old son Fabian. Needless to say, the other two members of the Grid team were equally delighted. Click to watch their response on Instagram.
MORE ABOUT THE GRID: OFFICIAL WEBSITE | “STEPPING INTO THE GRID” — POKERSTARS BLOG ARTICLE
Event of the Year
Winner: The PokerStars Players Championship (PSPC)
Other nominees: Triton London Million for Charity, World Series of Poker Main Event, World Series of Poker BIG 50
Towards the end of 2017, someone at PokerStars hatched an idea that was greeted by near-unanimous excitement: a massive live poker tournament in which rank amateurs could go up against seasoned pros, with millions of dollars on the line. Not only that, but PokerStars would also boost the prize pool to the tune of $4 million.
The first PokerStars Players No Limit Hold’em Championship (PSPC) was a $25,000 buy-in event, open to anybody, with $1 million added to whatever the first prize was set to be. That was the first enormous giveaway. But PokerStars also offered 300 special tournament tickets, known as Platinum Passes, to players, which cost nothing, but came with a seat in the game and an expenses-paid package to the Bahamas. The Platinum Passes had to be won in the year building up to the event, either by sheer luck (in random giveaways), by winning contests hosted by Team Pros, by cracking codes, as a sweetener to other tournament successes, or just by being a general good egg.
The PSPC was a soaraway success, with 1,039 players, a prize pool of $26,455,500 (inc. the $1 million added) and Platinum Pass winner Ramon Colillas walking away with a $5.1 million first prize. The GPI voting committee knew a good thing when they saw it.
It was so good, we’re doing it all again this year.
Jennifer Shahade collected the award in Las Vegas on behalf of PokerStars, and read a statement from Rebecca McAdam Willetts, Associate Director of Group Public Relations for The Stars Group, who later told PokerStars Blog: “The PSPC took on a life of its own. We knew ultimately what we wanted to achieve – something unforgettable for all poker lovers – but we didn’t know in the beginning what that would look like. That was purposefully done. We needed to test the waters as we went and make sure that what we were doing was hitting the right notes. We needed to be able to adapt to players’ feedback.
“The event was a huge task and a global effort. Every part of PokerStars worked on this event at some time or other – customer support, studio, content teams, Stars Rewards, VIP Store, legal, compliance, social, blog, ambassadors, public relations, marketing, and live events of course. The list goes on and on.
“There was also a core team of about 60 of us assessing and executing on a daily basis. We celebrated when our players celebrated, we cheered Pass winners on, we cried, we laughed, we went on the journey. That’s all down to our players, the bonds they formed, the stories they told and the dreams they dared to believe in. The PSPC really took on its own life-force, one that we all embraced here at PokerStars.”
Hand of the Year
Winner: Ryan Riess’s 10-high call at EPT Monte Carlo final table
There were five players left from a field of 922 entries, but only one EPT crown up for grabs. Ryan Riess, bidding to become the first WSOP Main Event winner to also claim a title on Europe’s premier poker tour, got involved in a blind vs. blind encounter with the German boss Manig Loeser. The board was double-paired; Loeser had around 10 times the stack of Riess; Loeser shoved the river and Riess would have to risk everything for a chance at winning the pot. One other thing: Riess only had 10 high to go with the two pair on the board. But something just didn’t smell right.
“This would be one of the most insane calls we’ve ever seen on an EPT final table, to call with ten high,” said Fintan Hand, calling the action in the commentary booth. “But honestly, I don’t think it’ll be the craziest one. He might be able to work this out…Can he make a wild call with the ten deuce?”
Riess surrendered one of his remaining two time-bank cards to think it through and then he sensed that he might be ahead. He backed his judgment for all his chips and…well, he wouldn’t be a GPI award winner if he was wrong, would he.
In his acceptance video at the GPI awards, Riess said: “That was one of the most fun and entertaining hands I have ever played and I’m glad everybody enjoyed it.” But perhaps his at-table comment in the immediate aftermath of the hand was even more amusing: “Seven high would have been tough,” he told Loeser as the pair discussed the way the pot played out.
Media Content of the Year (Written)
Winner: Poker and Pop Culture by Martin Harris
Other nominees: A Fight for Fatherhood: The Biggest Win of Jason Young’s Life, Lance Bradley (PocketFives); Kevin Roster Spread Sarcoma Awareness at WSOP, Wants to End Life on His Terms, Aleeyah Jadavji, Hayley Hochstetler (Poker News); The Unabridged Story of The Hendon Mob, Paul Seaton (Poker News)
Last but not least in this run through of GPI success is the triumph closest to us at PokerStars Blog. Martin Harris is a stalwart of poker media, with bylines across many of the major poker sites, and has been a regular contributor to PokerStars Blog for more than a decade. What casual readers might not know is that Harris also teaches in the American Studies Program at UNC Charlotte. His subject? Poker — specifically where the game intersects with culture and how it has historically played a part in the everyday American life.In addition to being a great writer, Harris is a scholar of poker, and he poured decades of knowledge and passion on to 432 pages of his award-winning book titled Poker And Pop Culture. It is exhaustive but endlessly entertaining, and on its release became an immediate essential text for anyone whose interest in poker stretches beyond the felt and into the game’s fascinating wider resonance.
Martin Harris says: “I’d been working on this book since the mid-2000s, really, although it wasn’t until the last few years or so that I knew it was actually going to be a book. Finally completing it and then seeing it published was very satisfying, then to have such nice response from readers so far has been an added pleasure. For those who haven’t checked it out yet, it might seem like a big, thick history book, but in truth it’s full of great, fun stories and I’ve been pleased to hear people tell me how accessible and entertaining it is. I was also pleasantly surprised to win the Global Poker Award for Poker & Pop Culture. I think like in poker, there is always some combination of luck and skill involved in something like this, and I’m honored and humbled to have won. The best part, though, has been all the nice comments and congratulations I’ve gotten. It might sound corny, but I kind of regard the book as my attempt to ‘give back to the game.’ I’ve made so many friends and met so many interesting people through poker, and it’s great to be reminded in such a fun way how great a community it is.”