It’s election year, but the BLUFF Reader’s Choice Awards have nothing to do with health care, tax rates or whether or not the nominees can pronounce the name of a country in the Middle East. The BLUFF RCA is about fun and giving poker fans the chance to have their voice heard.
The votes have been counted. No hanging chads and no recounts necessary. The BLUFF RCA have been an annual tradition for eight years running now. Each year we include new categories that accurately reflect what poker fans want.
This year, readers were given 13 different categories to vote on at BluffMagazine.com and the response was another record setter. All told, 10,103 votes were cast, passing the total from 2011 and breaking
into five digits for the first time ever.
Thirteen categories, but only 12 winners. How’s that possible? Well, read on and find out. Oh, and thanks for voting!
THE CATEGORY: Favorite Male TV Personality
THE WINNER: Antonio Esfandiari (WSOP Live Coverage)
ESPN took a major chance when they decided to broadcast near-live coverage of the World Series of Poker Main Event in 2011. That gamble paid off however with strong ratings, rave reviews and two Readers’ Choice Awards for the broadcast team. The first went to Antonio Esfandiari who beat out the previous winners in this category Joe Stapleton (2011) and Mike Sexton (2010).
With nearly no experience as a commentator, Esfandiari stepped into the booth and immediately won poker fans over with his ability to talk poker strategy without talking down to the casual viewer. His sense of humor and ability to play off of the others on the broadcast made it seem like Esfandiari had been doing commentary all of his life.
Esfandiari captured the RCA by taking nearly 45 percent of the votes cast. Sexton and Stapleton were nearly neck-and-neck for second and third. Ali Nejad, who worked for “Poker After Dark” before Black Friday and most recently for Epic Poker League, finished fourth.
2. Mike Sexton (World Poker Tour) – 25%
3. Joe Stapleton (The Big Game) – 22.2%
4. Ali Nejad (Poker After Dark/Epic Poker) – 8%
THE CATEGORY: Favorite Female TV Personality
THE WINNER: Kara Scott (WSOP Live Coverage)
The near-live coverage of the WSOP also brought about another new addition to the broadcast team — the sideline reporter. Rather than reaching into its own talent pool, ESPN looked to the poker world and found Kara Scott. The Canadian-born Scott does have some TV experience and has played big buy-in poker tournaments before and she was a natural from the word go.
Working in the live broadcast environment Scott never had the ability to do a second take and she handled every bustout interview with grace while talking to poker players at their most miserable moment. That seemed to resonate with viewers who took to social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook to rave about the job Scott was doing.
Last year’s winner, Amanda Leatherman, finished second in voting for her work on “The Big Game” and her total vote numbers were probably hurt by the Black Friday imposed cancellation of season two broadcasts. LeeAnn Tweeden, of the since canceled “Poker After Dark”, finished third just ahead of fourth-place finisher Kimberly Lansing of the “World Poker Tour.”
2. Amanda Leatherman (The Big Game) – 23.6%
3. LeeAnn Tweeden (Poker After Dark) – 18.8%
4. Kimberly Lansing (World Poker Tour) – 13.5%
THE CATEGORY: Favorite Web-based Poker Show
THE WINNER: “The Micros”
The amount of web-based poker content being produced seems to grow each year. Whether it’s a magazine-style news show produced by the World Wide Leader, one of a couple of the more popular podcasts, a show featuring a redhead arguing with a skeptic or an animated show about online poker players, there was no shortage of ways for poker fans to entertain themselves.
In the end it was “The Micros,” the animated show about three online poker players and their pursuit of riches and poker glory that took the award. Produced by John Wray and Jay Rosenkrantz, “The Micros” took one-third of the votes this year as poker fans fell in love with Chase Berger, Tommy Phuoc, Rose Ballenger and even the villain, Maximilian Rofls III. “The Inside Deal,” ESPN.com’s version of SportsCenter for poker fans, finished second, narrowly edging out the “TwoPlusTwo PokerCast” by only 1 percent. The bottom two shows were both new additions to the category this year. “QuadJacks Radio” and the WPT’s “Jess and BJ Show” finished fourth and fifth respectively.
2. “ESPN Inside Deal” – 22.5%
3. “TwoPlusTwo PokerCast” – 21.5%
4. “QuadJacks Radio” – 13.1%
5. “The Jess and BJ Show” – 9.5%
THE CATEGORY: Favorite Poker Blog
THE WINNER: WickedChopsPoker
The Entities at WickedChopsPoker.com might just have to retire after winning this category for the third year running. The combination of breaking news, snarky commentary, hot girls and the occasional controversial incident or two seems to be the winning formula for the poker blogosphere kings.
Despite this being its first year of operation, the Subject:Poker blog picked up more than a quarter of the votes and gave WickedChopsPoker a real run for its money. Focused on breaking stories and working with anonymous sources, Subject:Poker has given readers a look inside the shambles left of Full Tilt Poker.
Tao of Poker, one of the longest running poker blogs going, finished third with a respectable 18.2 percent of the vote. Dr. Pauly, who also pens a monthly column for BLUFF, has never pulled any punches when it comes to covering the poker world and many of his biggest fans consider him poker’s answer to Hunter S. Thompson.
2. Subject:Poker (subjectpoker.com) – 26.4%
3. Tao of Poker (taopoker.blogspot.com) – 18.2%
4. Hard Boiled Poker (hardboiledpoker.blogspot.com) – 9.9%
5. Riding the F Train (ftrain.blogspot.com) – 8.2%
THE CATEGORY: Favorite Las Vegas Poker Room
THE WINNER: Aria
Some might call it an upset. Others might call it a changing of the guard. But anybody who’s been following the live poker action in Las Vegas over the past year or two probably won’t be surprised to see Aria Poker Room take this award home, upsetting perennial winner The Bellagio.
The Aria, home to The Ivey Room and the high stakes mixed games frequented by the likes of Jason Mercier, Scott Seiver, Chau Giang, David Williams and Ben Lamb, has quickly established itself as the player friendly room for high stakes regulars and the tourists and locals grinding away at $1/$2.
The Bellagio, which had won this category every year since its inclusion, finished second but may have been hurt by some player unrest during the Five Diamond Poker Classic at the property in December (the same time as voting was open). Players were unhappy with some of the decisions by poker room management.
The Venetian came in third while the Wynn finished fourth with only 6 percent of the total votes.
2. The Bellagio – 26.99%
3. The Venetian – 18.22%
4. Wynn – 6.19%
THE CATEGORY: Favorite Poker Tweeter
THE WINNER: Daniel Negreanu — (@RealKidPoker)
There’s absolutely no question that Daniel Negreanu is one of the two or three most popular poker players in the world and his win in this category bears that out. Negreanu, who has almost 150,000 followers on Twitter, snagged nearly half of the votes to win the first of two RCAs for him this year.
While some poker pros have taken to Twitter seemly to whine about a bad beat or brag about their latest ridiculous purchase, Negreanu has shown the ability to use the 140 character maximum to become even more human, more likable and more reachable to his fan base — and his haters.
The runner-up in this category, Jean-Robert Bellande, uses his Twitter account to keep his 32,000 followers updated on his latest bankroll news. He managed to grab 25 percent of the votes, roughly half of what Negreanu had. The other two nominees, last year’s winner Doyle Brunson and Erik Seidel, finished with a combined 25 percent of the votes.
2. Jean-Robert Bellande (@BrokeLivingJRB) –25.6%
3. Doyle Brunson (@TexDolly) –14%
4. Erik Seidel (@Erik_Seidel) –11%
THE CATEGORY: Favorite California Poker Room
THE WINNER: The Commerce
The Commerce Casino in Los Angeles is one of the shining jewels of poker on the West Coast and its continuous run of wins in this category proves it’s a favorite with players. Being the largest poker room in the country certainly helps as the live games and tournament schedule are both built to include players of all kinds and all bankrolls.
While it might seem like the Commerce has this category on lock down, the numbers this year don’t quite agree. The Bicycle Casino, with nearly one-third of the total votes, was as close as anybody has ever come to unseating the incumbent and might prove to be the only room capable of pulling off the upset.
The only non-L.A. room nominated, Bay 101 finished a respectable third place while the Hollywood Park Casino, which recently underwent a major renovation and upgrade, finished fourth.
2. The Bicycle Casino – 32.9%
3. Bay 101 – 20.1%
4. Hollywood Park – 8.9%
THE CATEGORY: Favorite Florida Poker Room
THE WINNER: Hard Rock Seminole
Poker continues to explode in the Sunshine State but players there have a clear-cut top pick. The Hard Rock Seminole won its first ever RCA by taking almost 52 percent of the votes, completely distancing itself from the other three nominees. The multiple World Poker Tour events on the schedule at the Hard Rock Seminole give the property a major profile boost in the eyes of players.
None of the three other nominees made much of a run at Hard Rock this year. The Jacksonville Poker Room finished second with 18.9 percent of the vote with Daytona Beach Kennel Club & Poker Room on its heels with 17.3 percent. The Isle Casino Pompano Park finished fourth with 12 percent.
2. Jacksonville Poker Room – 18.9%
3. Daytona Beach Kennel Club & Poker Room – 17.3%
4. Isle Casino Pompano Park – 12.1%
THE CATEGORY: Breakout Performer of the Year
THE WINNER: Ben Lamb
Ben Lamb crushed this category in a fashion eerily similar to how he crushed the 2011 World Series of Poker. Lamb, known mostly for a deep run at the 2009 WSOP Main Event and for being one of the regulars in The Ivey Room at Aria, came to the Series and put on a show.
Lamb won his first WSOP bracelet, cashed five times and made three final tables, including the Main Event where he finished third. All told, he won just under $6,000,000 — roughly 85 percent of his lifetime live tournament earnings. The other contenders in this category never stood a chance. Sam Trickett finished closest to Lamb but only had a quarter of the votes that Lamb picked up.
In any other year Trickett’s win in the Aussie Millions $100,000 Challenge, runner-up finish in the $250,000 event and Partouche Poker Tour Main Event title might have been enough to wrap this award up, but not in the year of the Lamb. Chris Moorman, Galen Hall, Matthew Waxman and Elio Fox combined for only 24 percent of the total votes.
2. Sam Trickett – 15%
3. Chris Moorman – 9.4%
4. Galen Hall – 8.2%
5. Matthew Waxman – 4.6%
6. Elio Fox – 2.2%
THE CATEGORY: Favorite Male Player
THE WINNER: Daniel Negreanu
It’s hard to watch poker on TV without seeing Daniel Negreanu smiling back at you. “KidPoker,” like most poker pros, has both fans and haters but his legion of supporters outnumber his detractors and they showed up in force to vote for him. Negreanu finished with almost 30 percent of the votes.
Negreanu was the clear-cut winner but the three players behind him made second place a race of its own. Closest to Negreanu was former BLUFF Player of the Year Jason Mercier. Phil Ivey, who took half of 2011 off after the Full Tilt scandal broke, finished third and Tom Dwan came in fourth.
Two players who had successful years on the felt finished tied for fifth. Phil Hellmuth and Erik Seidel each garnered 9.4 percent of the votes.
2. Jason Mercier – 18.3%
3. Phil Ivey – 17.1%
4. Tom Dwan – 16.3%
5. Phil Hellmuth – 9.4%
6. Erik Seidel – 9.4%
THE CATEGORY: Favorite Female Player
THE WINNER: Liv Boeree
The number of female superstars in poker is on the rise and you need look no further than this category. Liv Boeree, a former EPT champion, took home the RCA with more than one-third of the votes cast. The one advantage Boeree may have had over the other competitors is that she’s got a strong fan base on both coasts.
Vanessa Selbst, who won her second NAPT title in early 2011, finished second with more than 20 percent of the votes. Her year is even more impressive when you consider she was in the process of finishing law school at Yale while playing poker around the world. No biggie.
Vanessa Rousso and Maria Ho finished third and fourth respectively while rising star Amanda Musumeci
2. Vanessa Selbst – 20.4%
3. Vanessa Rousso – 18.1%
4. Maria Ho – 14.8%
5. Amanda Musumeci – 9.1%
THE CATEGORY: Favorite East Coast Poker Room
THE WINNER: The Borgata
The RCA for Favorite East Coast Poker Room was the closest of the 13 categories this year. The three nominees quickly turned into a twohorse race with The Borgata and the Foxwoods Resort & Casino duking it out.
When the final votes were cast it was Atlantic City’s premiere property, The Borgata, winning by a little less than 8 percent. As far as Atlantic City casinos go, The Borgata is far and away the leader. Home to a World Poker Tour and what many believe to be the best-run tournaments east of The Strip, The Borgata continues as a shining example of what happens if you listen to your players.
The Foxwoods Resort & Casino was the runner-up this year, but not by much. The casino that seems to pop
up in the middle of nowhere is also a World Poker Tour stop and enough cash game action to keep small stakes grinders and tourists in play 24/7.
2. Foxwoods Resort & Casino – 36.6%
3. Mohegan Sun – 19%
THE CATEGORY: Top “On the Felt” Moment of the Year
THE WINNER: Phil Hellmuth finishes runner-up three times at WSOP
There probably isn’t a more polarizing player in poker than Phil Hellmuth. And no, we’re not talking about his range here. Poker fans either love Phil Hellmuth or they hate Phil Hellmuth — there is no in between. That’s why his amazing run at the 2011 WSOP was so amazing — it seemed like almost everybody was cheering for him to break through and win bracelet No. 12. Only he never did.
Hellmuth finished runner-up in three different championship events and in the process took away one of the bullets his detractors have always held: the Poker Brat can only play Hold’em. Hellmuth’s second-place finishes came in 2-7 Lowball, Seven-card Stud Hi-Lo and the $50,000 Players Championship event.
Hellmuth’s win gives him a little bit of revenge over Ben Lamb. It was Lamb who won WSOP Player of the Year while Hellmuth recorded another second-place finish. This category however flipped the script as Lamb came in second, just 11 percent behind Hellmuth, for his overall dominance at the WSOP.
The back-to-back NAPT wins for Jason Mercier and Vanessa Selbst finished third while Erik Seidel’s win in the biggest buy-in tournament of the year, the $250,000 event at the Aussie Millions, came in fourth.
2. Ben Lamb dominates WSOP – 30.9%
3. Jason Mercier and Vanessa Selbst post back-to-back NAPT wins – 16.5%
4. Erik Seidel wins Aussie Millions $250,000 Championship – 10.7%