On February 27th 2015 the first edition of the annual GPI American Poker Awards will be held in Los Angeles. While we have had the European Poker Awards for a decade a North American counterpart has been missing. Now it’s finally here and we get a chance to reward the achievements of the top players and industry contributors of North America in a structured way. Featured awards – 14 overall – include GPI player of the year, GPI female player of the year, rising star, best tournament performance, best event, media person of the year, best poker innovation of the year and many more.
PokerWomenNews has a seat in the awards’ nomination panel and leading up to the award ceremony we will take a look at and discuss some of the categories – today the Rising Star award. The award is definitely one of the most prestigious to be given and in a year that saw such great breakout performers as Daniel Colman, Mukul Pahuja and Brandon Shack-Harris it’s certainly not an easy task to be nominated. To be nominated to the Rising Star Award a player must meet the following criteria:
“Awarded to the American or Canadian poker player without a major poker title* heading into 2014 who enjoyed a breakout year on the live tournament circuit this season as judged by the nomination panel and the members of the jury. *Players who have won a WPT or EPT Main Event and/or a WSOP bracelet or any High Roller or Super High Roller tournament prior to Dec, 31 2013 do not qualify for this category.”
With the criteria in mind PokerWomenNews will take a female perspective on the category and look at two players that we think deserve to be nominated: Melissa Burr and Thi Nguyen (AKA Tea Newyen).
Melissa Burr is primarily a mixed-games cash game player and one of the very few women in the world, who plays the highest stakes. From time to time she plays tournaments as well and this year she decided to give the WSOP 2014 a shot – and what a great decision that was! Even if Burr did not win one of the coveted bracelets, her performance at the tables was outstanding. Burr final tabled 3 events and finished in 9th place in Event #40, $1,500 Six-Handed Dealer’s Choice, for $9,944 – just short of her fourth final table
Melissa Burr reached her first final table in Event #10, $10,000 Limit Omaha Hi-Lo, where she finished in 8th place for $51,768. Two weeks later she took 5th place in Event #30, $1,500 Seven-Card Stud Hi-Lo, for $39,181 and she finished the series off by final tabling the prestigious $50,000 Poker Players’ Championship as the first woman ever, finishing in 7th place for $165,435. All in all a tremendous accomplishment that ought to secure Burr a place among the nominees for the Rising Star award.
Even though Canada’s Thi Nguyen did not get the kind of attention that Burr did, the young player from Toronto certainly had a breakout year in 2014 cashing for nearly $250,000.
Nguyen began the year by final tabling the WPT Fallsview Poker Classic in February, where she finished in 8th place for C$32,496. In July she won her first title, when she took down the Canadian Poker Tour Ladies Championship for C$6,000. At the same venue she final tabled the High Roller event, finishing in 5th place for C$7,800. In August Nguyen once again made a final table, this time at the Playground PokerClub Montreal Festival, where she made it all the way to the final three players in the Main Event and a cash of C$89,700. As if this wasn’t enough Nguyen won her second title of the year, when she took down the Venetian Deepstack Extravaganza 3.5 Main Event for a score of $120,561. Truly a breakout performance by a player that very few had heard of prior to 2014.
Natasha Barbour, who fell short of the $10 Million Guaranteed Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open in 12th place for a $99,775 payday and Jennifer Shahade, who won the first Open Face Chinese Poker World Championship for €88,000. Patti Haggerty for her 4th place finish in the $2 Million Guaranteed Borgata Poker Open for $118,981 and Angela Prada-Moed, who finished runner-up in WSOP Event #45, $1,1000 No-Limit Hold’em for $189,632. Not to mention Maggie Morris, who certainly incarnates the fact, that you don’t have to be a twenty-something player to be a rising star! In February Morris won the Big Stax 300 at Parx Casino for a nice $95,000 payday and she continued with a deep run in WSOP Event #49, $5,000 No-Limit Hold’em, where she finished in 4th place for a $212,202 score.
Who do you think deserves to be nominated Rising Star 2014?
Photo: Thi Nguyen/Melissa Burr