Confessions of a Poker Writer: Dissecting the GPI Awards

TAGs: 2013 Global Poker Index European Poker Awards, Barny Boatman, European Poker Awards, full tilt poker, Global Poker Index, GPI, Lee Davy, Nicolas Levi, Poker Writer Confessions, UKIPT Galway Festival

Slaves, alcoholic socialites, scam artists, seventies style clothing and transgender women can take a back seat for a moment. The Oscars is not for another few weeks yet. Instead, it’s time for the 2013 Global Poker Index European Poker Awards results.

Confessions of a Poker Writer: Dissecting the GPI AwardsDid they get it right?

Let’s find out.

I had a particular interest in this award ceremony because for the first time in my short writing career I was nominated in the category of Poker Industry Person of the Year.

The contents of my piggy bank didn’t allow for a trip to Northern France, and so it was left to Nicolas Levi to inform me of my fate via text.

“They’re about to say who won industry person of the year.” Came the text.

Drums rolled in my head, wings fluttered inside my belly.

“It’s Neil Johnson gg mate.”

I waited for 30-seconds to make sure that he wasn’t joking. Nothing came except for text tumbleweed.

So it’s congratulations to Neil Johnson whom I am reliably informed works his socks off to provide a top-notch service to his players. Well-done Neil. And I guess, rather than wallowing in my own self-pity, I should instead concentrate on the fact that I made the cut. There are a lot of very talented, hard working people in this industry, and so to even have my ugly mug on that screen was credit enough.

But I do hate losing…

Anyway, on to the rest of the awards.

The European Poker Awards (EPA) have always been awarded through the process of a judiciary. The participants change every year to keep things fresh and this year the panel consisted of.

Nic Szeremeta – Honorary President of the GPI European Poker Awards

Stephen Chidwick – Player and winner of the UK POY award

Alex Dreyfus – GPI and Hendon Mob owner

Bruno Fitoussi – GPI European Poker Awards President

Bertrand ‘ElkY Grospellier – PokerStars Team Pro

Chris Hall – PokerNews journalist

Sandra Naujoks – PokerStars Team Pro

Luca Pagano – PokerStars Team Pro

There were a number of awards that were distributed without the need of interference from the judging panel. Instead, these awards were given in line with the accumulation of points earned from the GPI Top 300 Ranking system.

The winners were:

2013 Live Player of the Year – Ole Schemion

2013 Europe’s Leading Lady – Ana Marquez

POY Finland – Joni Jouhkimainen

POY France – Benjamin Pollak

POY Ireland – Dermot Blain

POY Italy – Dario Sammartino

POY Netherlands – Govert Metaal

POY Spain – Adrian Mateos Diaz

POY Belgium – Davidi Kitai

POY UK – Stephen Chidwick

Two more awards came from a wider voting system than the 8 judges. They were the Lifetime Achievement Award and the Rob Gardner Memorial Award for the Poker Personality of 2013.

Lifetime Achievement Award – Barny Boatman

65 members of the poker community voted for this award and they got it spot on.

As a member of the Hendon Mob Barny Boatman is one of the reasons that poker continues to receive the mainstream attention that it does. He is a pioneer. His win at last years World Series of Poker (WSOP) is widely talked about as one of the most emotional final tables in the history of the series.

That emotion comes from people who all love Barny. He is the epitome of a live tournament grinder, and to see him finally receive worldwide recognition for his efforts is very pleasing indeed.

“I’m not ready to retire just yet, I guess I have been around a long time, that’s why you get these things. When I first started out in poker, I spent a lot of time dealing and being stared at by dodgy looking reprobates. So no change there then. I really didn’t see this coming so I don’t have a speech prepared. But this means so much to me thank you very much.” Said Boatman as he picked up his award.

Rob Gardner Memorial Award for the Poker Personality of the Year 2013 – Roger Hairabedian

Members of the poker community voted for this award and I am puzzled as to how the name of Roger Hairabedian was pulled out of the melting pot.

Big Roger had an outstanding 2013 that saw him win a WPT National Series event in Annecy and take down his second consecutive World Series of Poker Europe (WSOPE) event in Paris…but this is not an award for those accolades.

That award belongs to Ole Schemion.

The award for personality of the year goes to the person who promotes the world of poker through actions that stem from a foundation of emotion. When I think of a ‘personality’ I think of color, chic, voice, controversy and opinion.

The previous winners all have a tinge of that: Tony G (2010), ElkY (2011) and Kara Scott (2012)…but Big Roger.

The poker community got this so very wrong.

The Jury Prize: Poker Dealers of Europe

This was a really nice touch by the judges and something I was fighting for when I previously wrote an article asking for poker awards ceremonies to acknowledge those smaller, yet key, cogs that keep our beautiful machine running.

I believe there were a lot of tears, and an applause that was unmet by any other winner. It was great to see and I hope more of the grassroots people in the game get recognized in more poker awards ceremonies around the world.

The Best Event of the Year – Full Tilt Poker UKIPT Galway Festival

If we were awarding prizes for the best poker books, then one would assume that a prerequisite of any judging panel would be that they had read each book.

Otherwise how can they make an informed decision?

I voted for the International Stadiums Poker Tour (ISPT) event in Wembley stadium, but wasn’t surprised that it didn’t make the short list. It’s all about bias and why awards ceremonies are always going to drum up much debate.

You had to be there to understand how big the ISPT was. If you set aside personalities for a second and just concentrate on what they managed to achieve over those few days, you have to take a bow.

Nothing like that has ever been pulled off before. It was innovation personified when it comes to a tournament. But I’m biased because I was there. I wasn’t at the UKIPT Galway Festival, so if I was a judge, how could I even have an opinion?

The fact that the event suffered an overlay doesn’t even come into the equation for me. After all the ISPT had the biggest overlay in the history of the game.

‘Best Event’ can mean so many things for so many people. If this award continues then I think the nomination process needs to be expanded so people who went to a wider range of festivals can have their say.

The Internet Player of the Year – Toby Lewis

I think this award should be redefined as the Internet Tournament Player of the Year and here’s why. The awards ceremony doesn’t include an award for Live Cash Game Player of the Year because there is insufficient data from which you can formulate a decision.

The same rings true for Internet cash games. As I have previously wrote, players can now hide their online cash game results from the general public. This means that Niklas Heinecker’s $9m haul might not even have ranked him as the biggest online cash game winner of the year.

So let’s just clear up the water and only recognize the tournament players. The decision over whether Heinecker’s $9m haul is better than Lewis’s SCOOP/FTOPS victories, or Moorman’s $10m success is arbitrary, and must have been a real problem for the judging panel to pick a worthy winner.


I picked out those awards that I believe had some contentious flavor to them, so winners like Philipp Gruissem, who won an award for Best Tournament Performance of the Year, didn’t get a mention because the nominees all came from tournaments that covered the larger spectrum of the poker world: EPT, WPT and WSOP.

The Gruissem victory was well deserved and came out of a pot that didn’t seem to contain a snowflake of bias.

So why then did I include Barny Boatman’s victory?

If I was a member of the judging panel I would have voted for Boatman. I am honest enough to say that I think he deserved it, but I am also honest enough to admit that I have a soft spot for the fella. I like him on a personal level, he is a fellow countryman, always affords me the time of day, and so the law of reciprocity comes into play.

So if I can be biased then so can the other members of the judging panel. This means that a wider view is needed. Picking an award winner is no different than analyzing statistics. You need to dilute the potential for bias and tracking larger samples of data in an aim to create a more accurate picture does this.

Matthew Pitt, Editor, UK PokerNews, shares this opinion.

“I don’t think the deciding votes for the European Poker Awards should come from a preselected jury. I believe that each awards recipient should be determined by either (1) a public vote (2) by an extension of the nomination process.

“Currently, the players who make up the GPI 300, and a number of others from the poker community, nominate potential winners in each category. Why not allow the number of nominations each player received from these people to be the final vote with the GPI team having the final say if the number of nominations are tied?

“Having a jury means each award is based on eight people’s opinions instead of potentially hundreds, or even thousands, of people.”

So Pitt agrees, like me, that a wider pool of people are needed to ensure a cleaner set of scorecards.

GPI owner, and member of that judging panel, Alex Dreyfus has a different opinion. Dreyfus was my vote for Poker Industry Person of the Year, and did make the shortlist before pulling out, because he didn’t want his affiliation with the event to cloud people’s judgments.

“The public voting system for awards doesn’t work because it allows marketing machines to manipulate the results through unfair use of their large databases, so it doesn’t bring a fairness to the awards.

“This is why the EPA have used a judging panel for the past 13-years, and many other awards ceremonies manage their awards in this way (cinema, movies, etc.).

“That being said we are continuing to look at ways of making the judging system more impartial, and are also looking at introducing even more awards for people within the industry, and also categories that allow smaller alternative circuits to receive recognition alongside the bigger tournaments.”

Two very differing opinions of the cleanliness of the wider tranche of opinion, and I must confess a point of view that I had never really thought of when I sat down to write this tome.

There is a dichotomy between the judging panel methodology and the ever-expansive member of the public vote. Yes there is some inevitable bias when you narrow the pack, but the award to Big Roger goes to show that even the wider audience gets it wrong.

So what’s the answer?

I believe it lies somewhere in between.

Expanding on Pitt’s idea, and taking Dreyfus’s concerns into consideration, I would create a nomination panel that includes 300 players, and a wide variety of members of the poker community that have a presence around as much of the poker circuit as humanly possible.

This creates a wide enough set of voices to dilute bias, keeps the potential for big marketing machines to manipulate the figures in restraints, and makes the poker community feel like every organization had an evenly balanced input into the results.


Sill no text from Levi.

I guess I really did lose


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