Poker's Biggest Night
Men "The Master" Nguyen was the star of Cardplayer Magazine and Bodog's inaugural "Biggest Night in Poker," capturing the coveted Best Player honors for 2005.
Nguyen had a career-year in 2005; a tough accomplishment considering Nguyen was already a three-time Player of the Year recipient (1997, 2001, 2003) and is one of the most decorated and recognized professionals ever to play.
In front of family, friends, poker professionals, and a host of poker-loving celebrities, Nguyen thanked the crowd for their support and used his acceptance speech to speak about the growth of poker and his increasing love of the game.
"This country made me a poker champion," Nguyen said in a Bodog press release. "It made my dreams come true."
Cardplayer Magazine awards the Player of the Year title annually, using a point system that gives players certain values for their placement in major poker tournaments. The higher a participant places in a tournament, the more points they earn.
In 2005, no one earned more points than "The Master."
Nguyen took home the top award by pouring on the points in the year's final months, earning 1,500 points in November and December to reach a total of 4,604. Additionally, Nguyen totaled $973,620 in winnings and 16 final tables en route to the title.
The winner told Bodog media representatives that in 2005 he was most proud of setting lifetime records that will be tough to surpass, like becoming the all-time leader in World Series of Poker money finishes, with 49.
In years past, Cardplayer Magazine awarded the "Player of the Year" without much fanfare, running an article in their publication that acknowledged the winner.
This year, Cardplayer wanted to make a night of it.
Attempting to cash in on the current popularity of poker, the idea for a "Biggest Night in Poker," an event that mimics traditional award shows like the Oscars, "seemed a fitting way to celebrate the awards," Bodog representatives said.
The inaugural gala took place on Wednesday, February 15 at the Henry Fonda Music Box Theatre in Old Hollywood, California. Bodog and Cardplayer Magazine combined to create a show that may become an annual event.
Neither Cardplayer nor Bodog would comment on plans for next year's show.
Television star Brad Garret (Everybody Loves Raymond) emceed the inaugural night, which saw an attendance of more than 400 stars, fans, and pros.
Bodog CEO and event organizer Calvin Ayre said high attendance figures was a direct result of the recognized worldwide poker boom, both land-based and online play.
"Tonight we exalt in poker's tremendous success. We honor the players and their accomplishments," Ayre said in a press release. "But at Bodog we know we will be celebrating again and again. These kinds of nights will soon be commonplace as our industry continues to eclipse milestones. I'm glad we produced a high-caliber show."
Phil Ivey won the most awards, taking in the coveted "Most Feared," the "Best No-Limit Texas Hold'em Player," and the "Best Heads up Player" trophies.
The night solidified Ivey's place as one of the top players in the profession, further proven by the fact that he was nominated for a total of five awards.
Ivey's nearest competitors were Daniel "Poker Kid" Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth, who were each nominated for three awards.
Negreanu accepted his fan choice award in a gracious fashion, receiving the fan's "Favorite Poker Player" trophy by thanking Ivey for "allowing him to win something."
The only other multiple-award winner beside Ivey was Chip Reese, who took trophies for "Best Mixed Game Player" and "Best Cash Game Player."
The professionals chose the winners for the awards that dealt strictly with poker play. Fans were able to vote for two awards, "Best Celebrity Player," and "Favorite Player." Fan votes were tallied at Cardplayer.com.
Other winners included "Best Celebrity Player" Jennifer Tilly, "Most Underrated Player" Allen Cunningham, "Best Female Player" Jennifer Harman, "Breakthrough Player" Michael Gracz, and "Most Entertaining Player" Mike Matusow.
The last two awards were reserved for overall poker excellence. World Poker Tour announcer Mike Sexton received the "Poker Ambassador" award and legendary poker player Doyle Brunson took home the inaugural "Lifetime Achievement award."
Donning his traditional cowboy headgear, Brunson received his award to an extended standing ovation.
According to Bodog, celebrities in attendance included "Boston" Rob and Amber Mariano (Survivor), Christopher Masterson (Malcolm in the Middle), Danny Masterson and Laura Prepon (That 70's Show), Don Felder (of the Eagles) and Gilby Clarke, (formerly of Guns 'N Roses).