January 09 2015, by Eric Danis

GPI American Awards: Wilkerson, Davies amongst breakout candidates

Note: These are not official nominees for the category. Members of the Nomination Panel have until February 1st, 2015 to place their votes. This is simply a compiled list of players that may merit consideration when the Nomination Panel members make their selections.

The nomination panel will have quite the dilemma when handing in their votes for the poker’s 2014 Rising Star award, to be presented at the GPI American Poker Awards at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills on February 27th. The award, which seeks to honor the player who enjoyed a breakthrough year – rising towards stardom during the season – on the live tournament poker circuit could include a few established online stars who certainly enjoyed a big year on the live circuit in 2014. Daniel Colman, Doug Polk and Ami Barer may be selected by some, while other members of the nomination panel may chose to look at true “breakout” candidates, those who pushed their way into poker’s elite for the very first time in 2014.

In order to help the members on the nomination panel, here are a few names to keep in mind. Please note that these aren’t necessarily the “sure bet” candidates for the award. The purpose of the article is to take a look at a few players who enjoyed great years in 2014, from those who won major tournaments to some who broke out on a smaller scale…


GPI#59 | 2014 PoY#46 | 2014 Wins: 1 | 2014 Top 10: 6 | 2014 Winnings: $1,342,079

Dylan Wilkerson (World Poker Tour)Dylan Wilkerson (GPI#51) had been around the circuit for a few seasons, but 2014 was certainly the breakout year he was certainly hoping for. Just like Schindler, Wilkerson had failed to collect a six-figure score on the circuit prior to entering the 2014 poker season – but that all changed this year as he earned six-figure scores on four different occasions, starting in February, where he finished second to Matthew Lapossie (GPI#683) at the WPT Fallsview Poker Classic in Niagara Falls.

Wilkerson would once again be the WPT bridesmaid just a few weeks later at the WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star in San Jose, where he took 2nd to James Carroll (GPI#431). Still, just under $1M in winnings in just a few weeks? I’m sure Wilkerson was happy with the winnings, despite coming so close … but in November, Wilkerson would not be denied. He would finally win his first major event at the WPT Emperors Palace Poker Classic in Johannesburg, adding another $145,836 to his 2014 winnings.

Four of his 10 cashes in 2014 came in WSOP events in Las Vegas and in Melbourne, including a pair of Top 10 finishes in PLO Hi/Lo events this past summer. Wilkerson would finish 3rd in the 3K event and 9th in the $1,500 event.

Wilkerson started the 2014 poker season ranked #513 in the GPI World Poker Rankings and ends the year at a career-best #51.


GPI#111 | 2014 PoY#71 | 2014 Wins: 4 | 2014 Top 10: 18 | 2014 Winnings: $1,042,257

Scott Davies (WSOP)Following a few seasons of minimal success on the live tournament circuit, Scott Davies (GPI#111) certainly made up for lost time in 2014 with one of the best season-long performances of the season.

While accumulating a few cashes around the world to start 2014, it was at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas where things really started picking up for the American pro. He would leave Vegas with six scores in the bank, including a $111,942 windfall, making the final four in the $10,000 Heads-Up event.

That would only be the start of his WSOP success in 2014 as he made his way to Melbourne to play WSOP Asia-Pacific – and would leave Australia with his very first WSOP gold bracelet, winning the APAC Main Event, earning the biggest payday of his poker career.

Having started the year ranked #1101, Davies made the best of his 18 Top 10’s in 2014 (including four victories), finishing the year almost 1,000 spots ahead of where he started.


GPI#774 | 2014 PoY#597 | 2014 Wins: 0 | 2014 Top 10: 1 | 2014 Winnings: $712,275

Looking for a dark horse in this race? Look no further than Connecticut native Glenn Lafaye (GPI#774). Lafaye’s sample size may not be as big as the others on this list, but a pair of significant scores on the World Poker Tour certainly put him in the mix.

Lafaye would finish second at the prestigious WPT Los Angeles Poker Classic in March, staring at a high profile final table that included the eventual winner – and online Triple Crown monster – Chris Moorman and international singing sensation and WSOP bracelet winner Patrick Bruel.

Following up his LAPC score, Lafaye then came back to the East Coast for another WPT deep run, finishing 17th in the WPT World Championship at the Borgata in Atlantic City.

Lafaye moved up over 1,500 spots in the GPI World Poker Rankings in 2014.

The European circuit has been blessed with amazing raw rookies on tour in the past few years. World #1 Ole Schemion was GPI Euro Rookie of the Year in 2012 while WSOP Europe Main Event winner Adrian Mateos Diaz took home the trophy last season. It is much more difficult to find true, “raw” rookies in North America. There are obviously many reasons for this, namely age, the ability of qualifying for events online, etc … but here are two true rookies that enjoyed successful years on the US circuit this season that may deserve your vote:


GPI#1140 | 2014 PoY#889 | 2014 Wins: 2 | 2014 Top 10: 5 | 2014 Winnings: $249,479

Thi Nguyen (GPI#1140), the Canadian sensation burst onto the poker scene last February with a pair of deep runs in prelim events at the WPT Fallsview Classic in Niagara Falls … add to that a 3rd place finish at the Playground Poker Montreal Festival and people starting taking notice.

Nguyen would then take her show on the road to the US, heading to Las Vegas chasing the dream. She would leave LV with a career victory, winning the Venetian Deepstack Extravaganza Main Event in September, earning $120,561 for the W.

Nguyen went from being unranked to finishing the season at a career-best #1140.


GPI#451 | 2014 PoY#254 | 2014 Wins: 4 | 2014 Top 10: 9 | 2014 Winnings: $561,401

While most people who turn 21 are busy planning their big birthday bash, Ryan Van Sanford (GPI#451) was busy winning a World Poker Tour Main Event. That’s right, Van Sanford turned 21 while outlasting 460 other players to win the WPT bestbet Jacksonville Fall Poker Scramble, taking home $421,668 – not a bad birthday gift!

Van Sanford would add three other victories in 2014, cashing in 17 events and totalling $561,401 in earnings in his rookie season on the live tournament circuit, ending the season ranked inside the Top 500.


The 2014 GPI American Poker Awards will take place on February 27th, 2015 at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills.

Over 130 poker industry members have received their ballots and will have until February 1st to submit their votes for all categories for the inaugural GPI American Poker Awards. If you are a poker industry member and have not received your voting instructions via e-mail – or should you have any questions – please reach out to us at [email protected]

* Wilkerson photo courtesy of World Poker Tour
* Davies photo courtesy of World Series of Poker


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About the author

Eric Danis’ passion for poker came at a very early age but it’s when writing about and covering the game he loves that Danis is most in his element. Danis is better known for creating www.PTPRpoker.com where he spent a few years covering poker events. Danis is also known for having worked on the poker shows Poker Eh! and The Pulse on the Quad Jacks Network.