Not quite a year ago, I was huddled in the back corner of a Macau poker room, ducked beneath the smoke from the rail, and pecking away at my computer. I was halfway around the world in a place I'd never been and feeling a little disoriented. From nowhere--and I mean that almost literally--appeared Kirsty Thompson. She arrived without fanfare or even an explanation. She was simply there. As I worked to process why she--like me--would be halfway around the world in a place she shouldn't be, she disappeared again, presumably to do what she do best--and for what she was recognized tonight at the British Poker Awards.
Just a little while ago, Thompson won the British Poker Award for the Biggest Contribution to Growing & Promoting Poker. Though she was up against some top competition, it's not hard to understand how she won. Thompson is the UKIPT President and Head of Live Rooms Europe. She's widely recognized as one of he key components of the UKIPT's success and the recent growth of the game in the UK.
When I spoke to Thompson several weeks ago about her nomination, I sensed something sort of curious about her. While she would inevitably be honored to win in her category, she cared more about "her baby," the UKIPT Nottingham stop, winning the Best UK tournament category. And guess what? It did. No real question why, either. Last April Nottingham drew 1,625 players who fought for a prize pool worth £1,137,500.
When the awards turned from players to tournament directors, UKIPT and EPT TD standout Toby Stone emerged as the favorite. Originally from Bradford, Toby Stone got his start in poker at the infamous Rainbow Casino in 1991. He started in the pit as a dealer but quickly moved into the poker room.
"It was far more interesting," he said.
Today, Stone is one of PokerStars' go-to TDs for most of its major European tours, and this year's recipient of the Best Tournament Director Award.
Later in the night, the British Poker Awards turned to matter of personality, and the honor for Poker Personality of the Year went to Team PokerStars Pro Liv Boeree. Not only has Boeree proven her championship poker chops over the years, but she's also been known to be an unabashed character off the table. Few people can throw a huge party, break their ankle, and be playing a WSOP event in 24 hours, but that's how Boeree rolled this summer.
Finally, Team Pro Vanessa Selbst took home the award for International Player of the Year, which will shock exactly no one. Since the start of 2012, Selbst has continued her career-long hot streak with a second WSOP bracelet, four other WSOP cashes (including another final table), and a win at the LA Poker Classic.
Big congrats to all the PokerStars folks who took home top honors tonight, as well as all these winners (with thanks to @Barry_Carter for the live feed of winners on Twitter): Sam Trickett (Cash player, tournament player, Player of the Year), Palm Beach (card room bar), Restaurant (The Vic), Neil Channing (Blogger), Chris Moorman (Online Player), Dusk Til Dawn (Card Room), Simon Trumper (Card Room Manager), and Craig McCorkell (Breakthrough Player).
Brad Willis is the PokerStars Head of Blogging