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Neuville, Kihara Highlight Past PokerListings Spirit of Poker Winners
For three straight years PokerListings has been awarding special prizes to sometimes unheralded poker players for their outstanding passion for the game as part of our Spirit of Poker Awards.
There’s a good chance you’ve heard of at least one of our former winners as Pierre Neuville become the first Spirit of Poker winner to make the celebrated November Nine this summer.
The idea behind the Spirit of Poker Awards was to show that the media acknowledges and appreciates when players display an enthusiasm and passion for poker.
The awards highlight the performances and achievements of players who don’t necessarily stand in the spotlight all the time.
Kihara, Neuville, Hansen Among Past Winners
Take Naoya Kihara for example. Kihara is still relatively unknown in Europe, but he’s the first Japanese player ever to win a WSOP bracelet –- Takahiro Nakai became the second one this summer –- and he’s a spearhead for the promotion of poker in the far East.
Since he won the PL Award for being the Most Inspiring Player of the Year, Kihara has made it to #1 on the Japanese GPI, joined team PokerStars and past the $1 million mark in winnings while traveling around the globe.
Or how about Thor Hansen, our winner of the Living Legends segment last year. The Norwegian poker icon has been living as a Las Vegas poker pro decades before something like online poker was even invented.
Hansen played with all the mobsters who used to rule in Vegas, he was staked by Hustler owner Larry Flynt, and he won his first bracelet in 1988, when Chris Moneymaker was twelve years old.
When he married Poker Hall of Fame member Eric Drache was his best man and the Norwegians proudly call Hansen their “Godfather”.
He faced the worst diagnosis you can receive from a doctor in 2012 and he was told he had but a few months left. So Thor adapted.
He went back to Norway to get treatment, and he refused to give up. He started playing online and won a SCOOP event. He went back to Vegas this year and cashed five times.
If that’s not an inspirational story in poker than what is?
All Ages Represented in the Spirit of Poker Awards
On the other end of the scale, nobody had ever heard of Dominik Panka before January 2014. Then he won the PCA main event and the high roller event in Deauville before the month ended.
Panka represents a new generation of young players who combine great poker skills with a humble attitude and a desire to achieve more in life than just tournament results.
After being named the Rising Star of the Year at the Battle of Malta, 2014, Panka confirmed his skills when he returned to Malta a few months later and came third at the EPT main event.
Luca Moschitta, who was our first Rising Star, has had 17 international cashes since late 2013, and he’s established himself as a team pro for PlanetWin365.
Shannon Shorr has been inspiring poker players for many years. A professional in the truest sense of the word Shorr is on his own regarding finances and organization with no safety net in form of a sponsoring contract.
In his blog, he talks about his journey through life and the world and gives insights into his personal thoughts that everybody can relate to.
Neuville Still Burning Bright
Finally Pierre Neuville was the first player to win the Living Legend Award in 2013 thanks to his extreme passion for poker and the fact he qualified for 21 EPT Main Events in a row and finished runner-up twice.
Since then, Pierre has made the money in 35 tournaments, and 2015 is without a doubt going to be the biggest year of his life, because he has a seat at the biggest table of all: The 2015 WSOP November Nine.
He’s also guaranteed a little over one million in prize money already in the WSOP main event, so this year is also the one where he’s going to have his largest score ever.
Do you agree with our nominations for the most promising Rising Star, the Most Inspiring player of the year, and best player over 50 this year?
Go to our PokerListings Spirit of Poker Awards 2015 page and place your own vote. The Awards Ceremony is going to take place during the Battle of Malta in November.
Rising Stars – Luca Moschitta (2013), Dominik Panka (2014)
Most Inspiring Player of the Year – Naoya Kihara (2013), Shannon Shorr (2014)
Living Legends – Pierre Neuville (2013), Thor Hansen (2014)