On February 25, 2016, I was honored as the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2nd edition of the GPI American Poker Awards in Beverly Hills, CA. It was a fabulous evening, first class all the way. More importantly, many deserving people who have all contributed to the betterment of the poker industry, were nominated for various awards. Special congratulations to all the winners. (Click here to see the winners.)
The Lifetime Achievement Award was the last award presented that night. The lovely (and totally professional) Kara Scott, the host of the evening, was given the task/honor of presenting that award. Her introduction was heartfelt and sensational. As she started talking about the qualifications of the recipient, I recognized that those qualities/characteristics could fit me. And then she announced my name as the winner. Wow! Very nice – but totally unexpected. As I was walking to the podium, I was quickly trying to gather my thoughts about what I would say.
Honestly, no one said a word to me about this award prior to the event. The truth is, I almost didn’t even go! It’s not because I didn’t want to, but I didn’t arrive back in Vegas from a WPT event in Fallsview, Canada, until 11:30 pm the night before. I then had to get up, pack, and drive to LA (about a five-hour drive). After arriving at the Commerce, I was tired and the idea of fighting traffic to get to the SLS Hotel in what would be well over another hour drive just didn’t seem too appealing to me. In addition, the next day, I had to be in the studio at 8 am doing voiceover work for the WPT all day.
But, the WPT’s Executive Tour Director Matt Savage was nominated for the Industry Person of the Year Award,which he won, and I wanted to support him, so I got dressed and did decide to go. Surprises are nice, but I couldn’t help but think, what if I felt too tired and didn’t go? By informing someone that they are going to win, they will be there for sure and will also have time to think about what they would like to say. People said my speech, although totally impromptu, was great but I sure would have liked to had time organize it and include all I wanted to say. For these reasons, I would suggest award shows tell winners in advance that they’ve been selected as winners. You always think of things you might have left out or would have liked to have said at that moment.
Proud of the WPT
Someone I forgot to mention when thanking those who played a substantial role in my career was Steve Lipscomb, the Founder of the World Poker Tour. Although I had no broadcasting experience, he took a chance on me to be a commentator, along with Vince Van Patten, when the WPT started. I’m proud to say that we’re both still here after 14 seasons. Ironically, Steve won the Lifetime Achievement Award last year at the American Poker Awards. What an honor to win this award the year after Steve won it.
I also wish I would have reflected a little more on my lifetime in poker and how it led me to this podium and getting the Lifetime Achievement Award. I wish I had talked about my first trip to the WSOP in 1984 and how it changed my life. I played three events, made two final tables, and because of my success at that first WSOP, I moved from NC to Las Vegas, where I still reside today. I’ve never missed a WSOP since the first one I attended in 1984 – and as long as I’m healthy, probably won’t miss one until I die.
I’ve had more than my share of success as a player over my career, but it was my transition to the business side of poker and my contributions to the industry that led me to receiving this Lifetime Achievement Award. And I sincerely appreciate those who recognize my contributions. It started with my dream – putting on the Tournament of Champions of Poker in the late 90’s. The TOC led me to getting my jobs with PartyPoker (which became the #1 online poker site in the world) and the World Poker Tour (which changed the poker world forever). I’m extremely proud to have played a key role in the two most influential aspects of the growth of poker in history – television and online poker.
I’m not retiring!
I also would have liked to mention in my acceptance speech that, “Just because I’m receiving this award tonight doesn’t mean I’m retiring. I’m going to continue my efforts to help poker grow and make it a more enjoyable game for everyone to play.” And I’ve got plans to do just that. I’m still a consultant with PartyPoker and look forward to attending a number of their PartyPoker sponsored events throughout the year. I love their Grand Prix Tour – bringing poker to the people – and their new marketing plans. And of course, I plan to continue working for the WPT. In addition, I just finished writing a book, Life’s A Gamble, that will be out this summer. It’s basically about poker/golf/gambling stories that includes chapters on a number of poker legends. It’s a fun and entertaining read. I guarantee you’ll love it.
Speaking of revolutionizing the game: As you may/may not know, I’m a huge supporter of bringing an ‘Action Clock’ (i.e., a shot clock) into poker. IMHO, speeding up the game will make playing poker a much more enjoyable experience. I would love to see an ‘Action Clock’ used in every tournament and every cash game in the world. I’m thrilled that the WPT is going to utilize the Action Clock in this year’s season-ending $15k buy-in WPT TOC in April at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino. (You must have won a WPT event to qualify to play in this prestigious tournament.) I’m hoping that after watching the WPT TOC, the rest of the industry hops on board and utilizes the Action Clock for their tournaments/cash games as well. I sincerely believe that the vast majority of players will love it.
When I received poker’s greatest honor, induction into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2009, I considered that a Lifetime Achievement Award. I’ve now been blessed with actually winning a real Lifetime Achievement Award. Once again, “Thank you” to the American Poker Awards. I sincerely appreciate this recognition.