Poker has an image problem.
When money is your primary source of fuel, you’re going to have some unsavoury incidents, and in 2019, we had one, when the Stones Gambling Hall cheating allegations found its way onto the international press reel.
In the past few days, lawyers defending Stones Gambling Hall, its owners Kings Casino LLC, Mike Postle and Justin Kuraitis, filed a motion to dismiss the $30m lawsuit.
The case is the villain of poker’s story.
Yet, every story also needs a hero.
The Stones incident wasn’t the only time that poker became the talking point of plumbers, gas fitters and chefs around the world in 2019. In the summer, Paul Phua turned his dream of hosting a £1m buy-in charity poker tournament into a reality.
Triton Million: A Helping Hand for Charity enthralled the world.
Triton would wear the cape.
Triton would be our hero.
The morality and ethics of poker are often called into question, helped by the cases like the Stones cheating scandal, and that’s why the Global Poker Awards (GPA) is a much-needed tonic for the industry. There are no unwashed bedsheets. No cigarette butts in the ashtray. No thick fog. Instead, we have a red carpet, tuxedo’s leg-splitting dresses, and cat-cream smiles.
It’s a night when poker’s avengers unite.
Triton Poker Lighting The Lantern
The second annual edition of the GPA took place at the PokerGO Studios at Aria, Las Vegas, on Friday night, and the high stakes stratum featured prominently spearheaded by the tribes most prestigious poker tour.
The Triton brand and its associates appeared in numerous shortlists. Triton co-commentator, Lex Veldhuis, won the Streamer of the Year award, and players competing on Triton tables featured, but lost, in shortlists for Final Table Performance of the Year, and Hand of the Year. But it was the categories of Industry Person of the Year, and Event of the Year where Triton shone brightest.
The Triton Million: A Helping Hand for Charity came up against the PokerStars Player’s No-Limit Hold’em Championships (PSPC), the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event, and the WSOP BIG 50 in the shortlist for Event of the Year.
Fifty-four players paid the £1,050,000 Triton Million buy-in, the highest attended for a seven-figure buy-in event. The £54m prize pool is the highest prizepool outside of the WSOP. The £16,890,509 that Bryn Kenney picked up for finishing second to Aaron Zang remains the most significant single prize ever handed to an individual poker player (Aaron Zang collected £13.7m after a heads-up deal, and went on to win the event).
Outside of those incredible achievements, Triton’s organisers rolled out the innovations including changing shot clock rules, and dividing pros and non-pros for the first six levels, and raised £2.7m for charity.
But it was not enough to win the GPA.
Instead, the honour went to the PSPC, which in itself created history by becoming the largest attended $25,000 buy-in event the world had ever seen, when Ramón Colillas won the $5.1m first prize. Like Triton, PokerStars also pulled out the innovations, giving away 300 free seats, with the largest contingent having never before competed in a $25,000 buy-in event.
Two very different events.
Only one winner.
Close, but no Ghurka cigar.
Paul Phua Wins Industry Person of the Year
PokerStars is a private company.
Triton is the dream of two men, and one of them reached the short-list of the coveted Industry Person of the Year award.
Paul Phua didn’t start playing poker until his 40s, but like everything that Phua does, it didn’t take long for him to want to become the best. Only Phua took extraordinary steps to realise his dream.
Instead of travelling the world competing in other people’s games, Phua created his own. Triton Poker is a reflection of the values and beliefs of Phua, and his partner Richard Yong. A tour that rumbles around the world, stopping at the most salubrious of locations, with world-class service, world-class players and world-class production.
Triton has brought back the old nostalgic air of high stakes magnificence but paraded it around the world like never before, culminating in that magnificent £1m buy-in event.
It’s no coincidence that Phua and Katz were both short-listed. Both have done so much to elevate high stakes poker to a whole new stratosphere, and the poker community needs that exposure, and the influx of money if it is to continue to thrive and thrive it does.
Phua managed to do what Triton Million did not, and took the award, ahead of his esteemed competition. It was a fitting moment for a man who has finished in the money (ITM) in Triton events more than any other, without having anything to put into his trophy cabinet. Even for a man of Phua’s drive and determination, one doubts he thought this would be the first piece of silverware to grace the Phua home.
Ironically, on the night that poker celebrated its heroes, its current villain still managed to find its way into headlines, when Joe Ingram collected the award for Best Media Content (Video), for his investigation into the Stones cheating scandal.
But there was no last stand between the heroes and villains.
Merely a celebration of everything that makes this game great.
GPA Awards: The Results in Full
GPI Breakout Player of the Year
Robert Campbell (Winner)
Final Table Performance of the Year
Phillip Hui – $50k Poker Player’s Championship (Winner)
Hossein Ensan – WSOP Main Event
Alex Foxen – WPT Five Diamond
Bryn Kenney – Triton Poker Super High Roller Series, Montenegro
Jamie Kerstetter (Winner)
Stephen Chidwick (Winner)
Streamer of the Year
Lex Veldhuis (Winner)
Vlogger of the Year
Andrew Neeme (Winner)
Podcast of the Year
The Grid by Jennifer Shahade (Winner)
DAT Poker Podcast
Poker Life Podcast
Industry Person of the Year
Paul Phua (Winner)
Tournament Director of the Year
Matt Savage (Winner)
Event of the Year
PokerStars Players Championships (Winner)
WSOP Main Event
WSOP BIG 50
RUNGOOD Poker Series (Winner)
Road to the PSPC
Journalist of the Year
Joey Ingram (Winner)
Broadcaster of the Year
Nick Schulman (Winner)
Media Content (Written)
Poker and Pop Culture by Martin Harris (Winner)
A Fight for Fatherhood by Lance Bradley
Kevin Roster Spread Sarcoma Awareness by Aleeyah Jadavji
The Unabridged Story of the Hendon Mob by Paul Seaton
Media Content (Photo)
Drew Amato (Winner) – Dario Sammartino at the WSOP
Antonio Abrego – Ryan Laplante
Joe Giron – Frank Stepuchin
Hayley Hochstetler – Doyle Brunson and Jack Binion
Media Content (Video)
Investigating Mike Postle – Joe Ingram (Winner)
Legends of the Game Stu Ungar – PokerGO
The Big Blind with Jeff Platt
Who Makes Money From Professional Poker – Sam Rega for CNBC
Poker Personality of the Year
Jonathan Little (Winner)
Hand of the Year
Ryan Riess Makes 10-High Call at EPT Monte Carlo (Winner)
Bryce Yockey v Josh Arieh
Sam Trickett v Stephen Chidwick
Thi Xoa Nguyen v Athanasios Polychronopoulos
Poker ICON Award
Johnny Chan (winner)
The Hendon Mob Award