PokerListings Rising Star Award 2016

Update: It's official! The 2016 winners of the PokerListings Spirit of Poker Awards are set. And they are:

  • Most Inspiring Player: Felipe "Mojave" Ramos
  • Rising Star: Silje Nilsen
  • Living Legend: Konstantin Puchkov

A big thank you to all who voted and congratulations on our very worthy winners! We hope to see all of you at the 2016 Battle of Malta!


What makes a player fit the title of Rising Star in the game of poker? Impressive results and a sophisticated understanding of high-level poker strategy are definitely a part of it.

But if you look at our previous Rising Star Award winners - Charlie Carrel, Dominik Panka and Luca Moschitta - it’s the intangibles that separate the best and brightest from the pack.

A particular type of charm at the table and off. A mind that approaches the game in a groundbreaking way. A need to share their love for the game with everyone they come across.

The five nominees below all bring something special to the poker table that takes them above and beyond the “average” young player in the game today.

These are the Negreanus and Boerees of the future, carrying poker’s flag into the mainstream.

And the future looks pretty bright in their hands. Vote for your 2016 Rising Star to your right; bios below.

Back to the 2016 PokerListings Spirit of Poker Awards main page here.

Samantha Abernathy - (USA)

samantha abernathy

Abernathy took the poker world by storm in 2016 with a third-place finish in the Aussie Millions for $625,000. Along the way she also played maybe the hand of the year against slow-roller Mikel Habb.

She followed that up with an epic $10,000 prop bet bike ride from LV to LA, spurred on by Instagram millionaire Dan Bilzerian.

She continued to be an excellent streamer and all-around very good poker player into 2016 with the potential to hit superstar heights and, possibly, break the Internet with a deep run at the World Series of Poker this year.

If the future of the poker industry is in the hands of such smart, multi-talented and engaging people – male or female – we’re in good shape for years to come. And anyone who can get the hashtag #shipittomama trending is certainly a force to be reckoned with. 

Rainer Kempe - (Germany)


There are so many good (and increasingly great) poker players coming out of Germany these days it’s hard to keep track of them all.

You’ll want keep an eye on Rainer Kempe, however. In less than five years on the circuit Kempe has won nearly $2m in live tournaments including a €25k high roller win for €539k at EPT Prague.

Kempe doesn’t mind traveling beyond the comfortable confines of Continental Europe for poker, either, as he’s piled up deep runs in Florida, Montreal, Nottingham, Dublin, Melbourne, Vegas and Dublin in the past year alone.

The fact that he even played the $300k buy-in Super High Roller Bowl in Las Vegas this year, let alone that he made the final table, says enough about his talent. Coming from a country of dozens of certifiable crushers it takes a lot for people to take notice. Kempe has done so and more. 

Ivan Luca - (Argentina)

Ivan Luca

Brazil seems to get the lion’s share of attention when it comes to poker in South America but Argentina is producing some incredibly gifted players as well.

Case in point: Ivan "negriin" Luca.

Luca has accumulated $3.2 million in live tournament earnings since he burst on to the poker scene in 2011 and over $2m online. He’s got a WSOP bracelet from 2015 as well as a ton of wins down in Argentina. 

In 2016 he had the interesting distinction of beating his own girlfriend heads-up to win a Eureka Main Event in Rozvadov for €106,186. To top it off he finished third in the race for EPT Season 12 Player of the Year.

Not bad for a 24-year-old.

Silje Nilsen - (Norway)


Silje Nilsen is a familiar name to anyone that was at the 2015 PokerListings Battle of Malta.

Nilsen was among the chip leaders in the main event before bowing out in 75th place after a late night out the previous evening.

She one-upped herself by making the final table of her next low buy-in European tournament - the Norwegian Championship, which was broadcast on National television – and finishing runner-up for $89k to November Niner Felix Stephensen.

Nilsen is a delight at the tables and one of the most talkative players you’ll encounter, not to mention very skilled. A sponsorship with Guts Poker shows there are plenty of others who recognize her immense potential in a country obsessed with poker.

Walter Treccarichi - (Italy)

Walter Treccarichi

Walter Treccarichi may not be a name that many poker fans are familiar with but that’s likely to change - quickly.

Treccarichi has had numerous scores over the last couple years with side event wins at both the Aussie Millions and this year’s EPT Grand Final, where he won the 2k FPS High Roller.

He’s already up to $1m in live tournament earnings and rising fast, finishing second in the Gold Player of the Year standings for Season 12 of the EPT.

Treccarichi is such an esteemed player in the Italian poker scene that Max Pescatori selected him as a member of the Rome Emperors for the Global Poker League, too.

As a name to watch in one of poker's most important markets, Treccarichi's influence could be a big deal very soon.