The "Most Inspiring Player" Award
The votes are in and the official winner of the 2013 PokerListings Most Inspiring Player award is Japan’s Naoya Kihara!
Upsetting some of the biggest names in poker including Daniel Negreanu, Marvin Rettenmaier and Isaac Haxton, Kihara won over our panel with an amazing combination of great results, positive attitude and for single-handedly changing the course of poker in an entire country.
The first-ever WSOP bracelet winner in Japan, Kihara has spent the past year spreading the word about poker as a skill game in Japan and has made an immeasurable impact on its future in a country where it’s still considered “illegal.”
Our primary criteria for the players nominated in this category were that they are inspiring, innovative and inviting to new players to the game and Kihara fits the bill on all accounts.
Congratulations to Naoya Kihara and look for him at the 2013 Battle of Malta in September to receive his award!
Who doesn’t have a good time when Mad Marvin is at the table (or doing shots and playing guitar at the player’s party)? Back-to-back WPT titles capped in Cyprus showed the happiest guy at the tables is also one of the best.
After a lull in 2011/2012 Negreanu found the fun in his game in 2013 and got the results to match with three straight major final tables and the WSOP APAC Main Event title. After all these years, still no one brings more fans to the game than DNegs.
Japan’s first bracelet winner is doing his best to bring an entire country to the game with his unprecedented success and infectious positivity. Not just a one-off winner either, Kihara continues to make impressive scores with a ninth-place finish at the WPT Championship in May.
The surprising winner of the WPT Player of the Year award, TV producer Salsberg proved a pure love of grinding can take you to big places. Salsberg also hopes to bring the “real tournament circuit” to the mainstream with his new show Whales.
The most famous scarf-wearing poker player of all-time, Danzer continues to keep pace with a changing game. He not only won the SCOOP leaderboard this year he’s grown into a mixed-game master while still being one of the classiest and friendliest players in the game.
One of the most esteemed young Russian poker pros, Lykov won EPT Kyiv in 2009 and claimed the EPT Player of the Year title in 2010. A WSOP bracelet in 2011 and an FTOPS title, a PokerStars Sunday Warm-Up win and EPT Grand Final side-event title in 2013 have only padded his impressive portfolio.
After winning his first bracelet at the 2012 WSOP Palumbo just kept crushing with an outright WPT Grand Prix Venice title, four side-event final tables and an impressive 8th at the WPT World Championship.
One of the most respected players in the world Haxton crushed the high-stakes games from Monaco to Macau. He’s also revolutionizing live-stream commentary with his impeccable hand analysis. Haxton’s literally opening up a whole new field of thought in poker that might very well change the game forever.