January 13 2015, by Eric Danis

GPI American Awards: Will a monster win the “up to 2K” Event of the Year?

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 events that may merit consideration when the Nomination Panel members make their selections.

In continuing our look at possible candidates for the upcoming GPI American Poker Awards, we turn our attention to events, with a buy-in up to $2,000, that are worthy of nomination in the Event of the Year category.

Although there are a few of my suggestions, there are plenty of other events all over Canada and the United States that do deserve this honor, so I urge all members of the Nomination Panel to do their homework before making their selections!


Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas NV | June 2014 | $1,500 buy-in | 7,862 players | $10,613,700 prize pool

While the Millionaire Maker was all the rage at the 44th WSOP in 2013, World Series of Poker organizers certainly outdid themselves, housing close to 8,000 players inside the halls of the Rio on a single day this past summer in Las Vegas as the Monster Stack event was created.

With over $10,000,000 on the line, France’s Hugo Pingray (GPI#1330) became an instant millionaire, winning over $1.3M – not bad for a $1,500 investment. To that point, Pingray had earned a little over $40K on the circuit. It was his only cash at the 45th edition of the World Series of Poker.

A total of 792 players cashed in the event, including Toronto Maple Leafs and Team USA star Phil Kessel (GPI#25780), who cashed in a prelim event at the WSOP for the second straight season.

I had the honor of playing in that tournament and although I didn’t cash, I did get to bag chips at the end of Day 1, plus, I got to play in a historic event thanks to the amazing work of the WSOP staff.


Oceans Eleven Casino, Oceanside (San Diego) CA | October 2014 | $1,100 buy-in | 520 players | $504,400 prize pool

The popular DeepStacks Poker Tour became the WPTDeepStacks during the 2014 season creating one of the most exciting smaller buy-in tours in North America heading into the 2015 season.

2014 ended near San Diego as a thrilling race to the WPTDS Player of the Year title came down to the final hours of the season. Justin Porter (GPI#7955) was able to fend off WSOP bracelet winner Joshua Pollock (GPI#478) and 2010 WPT Festa al Lago runner-up Michael Benvenuti (GPI#918) on way to a career payday.

A 44th place finish saw DeepStacks Edmonton winner Ryan Smith (GPI#892), who made the trek down from Saskatchewan, wrap-up WPTDS Player of the Year honors.


FireKeepers Casino, Battle Creek MI | October 2014 | $1,100 buy-in | 517 players | $499,990 prize pool

I don’t know a lot about Battle Creek, Michigan other than it’s the birthplace of wrestling legend Rob Van Dam (I’m ashamed to remember this) and the FireKeepers Casino has hosted some of the most successful events on the Mid-States Poker Tour, including MSPT Michigan in October.

Ryan Dykhouse (GPI#6898) would earn his biggest payday, collecting the $124,500 first place prize.

The final table included WSOP bracelet winner Adam Friedman (GPI#705) and rising phenom Nicholas Pupillo (GPI#776), who is definitely a player to watch this season on the US poker circuit.

MSPT organizers hosted several other successful events in 2014. WSOP bracelet winner Nick Jivkov (GPI#1660) won the Main Event at MSPT Tama in November.


Grey Eagle Casino, Calgary AB | August 2014 | $1,100 CAD buy-in | 308 players | $268,312 prize pool

The Province of Alberta is becoming a destination for many poker players in Canada and in the US. The WPT Deepstacks series will host a few events in Alberta in 2015, including the tour’s Championship at the Grey Eagle Casino in December.

The Grey Eagle has also hosted several important events on the Canadian Poker Tour. After a few tough years, the work of Kelly Kelner and team has allowed the CPT to once again gain serious traction in the country, including the CPT Summer Showdown which took place this past August at the Grey Eagle.

Over 300 players entered the event, blowing by the $150,000 guaranteed prize pool as Cliff Green (GPI#3293) would take home the $68,000 CAD top prize. WSOP bracelet winner and multiple-time FTOPS jersey owner Mike Leah (GPI#17) cashed in the event.

The CPT Summer Showdown series was also where Thi Nguyen (GPI#1140) would earn her first career win on the live tournament, winning the CPT Ladies National Championship. Nguyen is one of the contenders for the GPI Rising/Breakout Star American Poker Award.


Commerce Casino, Commerce (Los Angeles) CA | May 2014 | $1,650 buy-in | 584 players | $846,800 prize pool

It’s not secret that the Heartland Poker Tour is one of my favorite tours out there – has been for years! The “little tour that could” has solidified itself as one of the best tours on the US circuit. The HPT hosted several high profile events in 2014, including more $1,000,000 prize pools in Colorado, but it’s a California event that got my attention this year, perhaps the star-power at the final table forced my hand here!

In 2014, the Heartland Poker Tour joined forces with the always popular California State Poker Championship at the home of the WPT L.A. Poker Classic, the Commerce Casino, located minutes away from Los Angeles. The HPT event saw 584 players battle it out in hopes of getting a piece of the $846K prize pool. In the end, it’s three-time WSOP bracelet winner Jeff Madsen (GPI#52) who would earn one of his five victories on the circuit in 2014, earning over $160K for first place.

Alexander Greenblatt (GPI#526), who final tabled two events on the HPT in 2014, and Amit Makhija (GPI#819) also earned a spot on the podium in Los Angeles.


Bay 101, San Jose CA | March 2014 | $2,000 buy-in | 300 players | $570,000 prize pool

The Bay 101 Shooting Star $2K prelim event always seems to attract some of the top players on the live tournament circuit and 2014 was no exception with a top duo battling heads-up for the title, hours before the start of one of the most popular tour stops on the WPT in San Jose, California.

A year after WSOP November Niner Amir Lehavot’s (GPI#571) win in San Jose, South African star Ronit Chamani (GPI#294) would take the title, and the $152,080 top prize, defeating US pro Joe Kuether (GPI#23) heads-up for first.

WPT Champions Club member Anthony Zinno (GPI#53), and 2013 GPI European Female Player of the Year Ana Marquez (GPI#505) are two other notables who cashed in the event.


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]



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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.