Some Thoughts on the Global Poker Awards: No Boos This Time!

Out of nowhere

It’s early 2018 and I’m in London visiting friends. My customary indifference to award shows is for once overridden by the fact of being up for one: “The Chip Race” has unexpectedly been nominated for Podcast of the Year in the first ever GPI Global Poker Awards. We were the only (some might say “token”) Europeans in the category (the other four nominees were all American). If I’m honest, I was surprised we made the long list, even more surprised we made the nominations shortlist, and both David and I assumed we were basically drawing dead to win the award. Whenever we were asked if we were going to the awards, we both joked that we weren’t flying all the way to Vegas to see which of the four Americans won.

Unfortunately, no one from ‘The Chip Race’ is here to accept the award.”

David was so convinced we were drawing dead that he didn’t bother staying up for it (or at least that was his excuse: copious consumption of alcoholic beverages on the occasion of his son’s second birthday may also have been a contributor to his heavy night’s sleep). My host was keen to watch though, so watch it we did. That meant that at some time around 2am I was staring incredulously at Ali Nejad on a laptop screen saying: “Unfortunately, no one from ‘The Chip Race’ is here to accept the award.”

David has a similarly jaundiced view to mine on awards, but he wrote an uncharacteristically soppy blog the next day thanking everyone who ever helped us with the show (although again, that might have been hangover sentimentality). As much as people love a long list of credits at the end of a movie (as in not at all, unless you’re in them), they love a bit of controversy even more, and on this occasion our old friend Daniel Negreanu provided his. His expression of disgust at us winning the award on the night was chronicled on the PokerNews Instagram story and drew sharp condemnation as sour grapes from far and wide.

Why the hate, Daniel?

He reacted to this a few days later on his own unnominated podcast by doubling down, saying he had every right to be disgusted (though in response to his co-host Terrence Chan singing the praises of “The Chip Race” paradoxically said we might be good for all he knows, but he didn’t know never having listened to a single second) because we were, in his words, “not good dudes” because we attack him constantly. Clearly, we have different definitions of constantly, as the so-called “attacks” amounted simply to us writing exactly one blog each critical of his comparison of certain player types to cancer, and his defense of unpopular PokerStars policies, and some tweets back and forth around the time of the blog.

After his podcast drew further outrage, he doubled down again in an expletive-laden exchange with Lappin on Twitter with more than a strong whiff of racism (referring to us with the charged “you people”) and misogyny (when he dragged Lappin’s girlfriend into it). I pretty much sat this one out, but Lappin loves a good Twitter barney as Negreanu quickly found out when he was put back into his box and returned to tweeting about hockey, veganism, and the size of a part of his anatomy he appears unusually proud of (no pics Daniel, please, for the love of God, no pics).

listeners were quick to defend us and the show even in the face of seemingly more powerful voices

I don’t want to harp on about Negreanu and the tiny handful of others who cast shade on our award: people tend to show their true colors in these situations and there are bad losers in all walks of life, but I prefer to focus on positive people. Most of our rivals for the award were incredibly gracious and complimentary, and many of our listeners were quick to defend us and the show even in the face of seemingly more powerful voices. I’ve always preferred quality to quantity and while we might have but a tiny fraction of the followers of a Negreanu, our tribe of “you people” is sharp, committed, engaged and not afraid to make their voices heard.

How did this happen again?

Flash forward to 2024, almost six years to the day from when Negreanu inadvertently did us a massive favor booing as we were announced as GPI winners, effectively putting us on the map for a lot of Americans from whom we moved from being two Irish guys they’d never heard of who did a podcast they’d never listened to, to two guys Dnegs hated for some reason.

This time, I am at home grinding online, keeping an eye on the awards on my laptop off to the side. Once again, we are nominated, as we have been every year except the one after we won, but once again we are not expecting to win. Once again, we are the only European podcast on the list, and two of the others nominated are the two most recent winners: “Only Friends” and “Poker In The Ears.” Our tip to win is the OG of poker podcasts, “Thinking Poker,” hosted by our friends Andrew Brokos and Carlos Welch, cruelly overlooked until now (this is actually their first time to be even nominated).

Once again, I’m stunned when we are announced as the winners (the first two time winners). Jeff Platt reads out a short speech we sent him in which we say we think “Thinking Poker” should have won, and hope they do next year.

This time there are no boos or ews (Negreanu was not in attendance this time), and the reaction from the other nominees to our victory was annoyingly gracious. What’s even the point of winning if nobody is going to throw a hissy fit over it?

With sincere thanks

It’s traditional, though, after the awards for those who were nominated but didn’t win to ruminate over how the awards could be improved, and this year was no exception. I tuned in to listen to Berkey and friends dissect what the awards have become, which is essentially a bunch of industry awards with some players (few of which turn up) awards and some awards for content creators. This makes for less than compelling viewing as we wonder which award Jack Effel will accept on behalf of WSOP, and who Adam Pliska will thank in his speech this year.

I’ve raised my own suggestions in the past, and the fact that books are drawing dead in the Written Content section against more easily clicked and consumed articles (this year it was the turn of my friend Alex O’Brien to lose out in that category with her excellent debut book The Truth Detective) and that strategy content has never once won an award remain a frustration, but I won’t dwell on those.

we owe a huge gratitude to Eric Danis and the rest of the GPI team for giving us these awards

I agree with most of what Berkey and friends said. There have been complaints that none of the European winners showed up to collect their awards, but as long as they are always in Vegas, that’s likely to continue. I, for one, am not flying 14 hours both ways to sit at a table looking awkward when some other podcast or writer is called out as the winner. If they want to make these awards truly global, it might be an idea to have them outside the PokerGO studios in Las Vegas some years. That said, I think we owe a huge gratitude to Eric Danis and the rest of the GPI team for giving us these awards. It’s a largely thankless job, particularly when you’re dealing with poker players who never agree on anything. If you ask six poker players what they think of something, they’ll find six different ways to criticize it.

I’ll end by thanking everyone who works on the show. It’s a real passion project for David who puts in the hard yards prepping and editing our interviews. Barry Carter is our secret weapon, transforming what has historically been the dullest segment (the News) with his wit. Saron does all our graphics, and my own wife Mireille was the single biggest force in steering the show out of its initial mediocrity with her fierce constructive criticism. I’d especially like to thank all our listeners: without you we’d have stopped a long time ago.

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