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Ramos, Nilsen, Puchkov Take Home 2016 Spirit of Poker Awards
The ballots have closed and the voters have spoken.
With two very closely contested races and one runaway winner, the 2016 Spirit of Poker Award winners have now been decided and all that's left is the celebratory high fives and the ceremony to award the victors at the 2016 Battle of Malta.
This year's winners:
Felipe Ramos (Brazil), Silje Nilsen (Norway) and Konstantin Puchkov (Russia), who all won over the voters with their talent, enthusiasm and commitment to promote, represent and support the game of poker in their home countries.
Most Inspiring Player: Felipe Ramos
There was one nominee who rose head and shoulders above the crowd in the voting this year and that was Brazil's Felipe "Mojave" Ramos.
With his outgoing, friendly character and a never-ending enthusiasm for the game Ramos stood out among his competition and collected the most votes in the Most Inspiring category by a wide margin.
If you've watched poker in the past 12 months - especially the Global Poker League, where he plays for the Sao Paulo Mets - you know that Ramos wears his love for poker on his sleeve and you can always see how deeply it fascinates him.
Ramos has been in the commentary booth for poker tournaments, perpetually updated his 30,000 followers on Twitter, streams live on his own Twitch channel and, importantly, plays all the games.
He cashed deep in four different variants at the 2016 WSOP and likes them so much he even streams HORSE! He writes strategy, runs his own training site and shares his love of the game with friends and admirers like Andre Akkari and football superstar Neymar Jr.
His home country might be his favorite subject to talk about – did you know that Brazil has the best pizza in the world? (according to Ramos) – and Ramos' contributions over the past 6 or 7 years have clearly helped make Brazil the fastest-growing poker market in the world.
With two formidable finalists in Kitty Kuo and Fatima de Melo alongside him in the Most Inspiring Player category, Ramos is a very worthy winner. Also nominated this year were Dan “jungleman12” Cates, Mike Leah, Dominik Nitsche, Luca Pagano and Vladimir Troyanovsky.
Rising Star: Silje Nilsen
In the most closely contested category of the year Norwegian Silje Nilsen proved it's not the biggest results or the highest stakes that inspires fans to get behind you.
Nilsen has been impressive on the felt in her own right since her deep run in the BOM main event last year, where she finished 75th.
Shortly after that she went to the Norwegian Championships and finished 2nd to WSOP runner-up Felix Stephensen. In those two events alone she outlasted almost 4,000 players.
But most importantly, with Norway legalizing poker last year and holding its National Championship on home soil for the first time (broadcast live on National TV no less), Nilsen inspired a new generation of women in her home country to take up the game.
She appeared in a short documentary about her life and poker pursuits, earned a sponsorship from Guts Poker and carried on an esteemed tradition of inspiring female players (see Annette Obrestad and Elisabeth Hille) from the poker-mad nation of Norway.
Nilsen made her first trip to the World Series of Poker this year and, while the results weren't what she'd hoped, left with the attitude that shows she's got what it takes to stick around in the game:
Did not go as well as I hoped, but there's only 1 year to the next one— Silje Nilsen (@PokerSilje) July 22, 2016
With a virtual dead heat between Nilsen, Argentinian superstar Ivan Luca and Italian Walter Treccarichi in the voting it was Silje's growing social media presence that carried the day and won the votes to put her over the top.
If you follow her on Twitter, you'll see why.
Living Legend: Konstantin Puchkov
There are players whose merits in poker are often underrated or go by relatively unnoticed, like Barny Boatman and Donnacha O’Dea, who literally helped build the very foundation the game is on today.
There are players who’ve conquered hardship or achieved to become a WSOP or EPT champion, like John Gale and Jan Bendik.
And then there are players who seem to have always been there, who poker seems to have been built around.
Konstantin Puchkov is one of these players and he’s shown a consistency over the past 5 or 6 years that most of us would kill for, regardless of our age.
Puchkov plays all the games and never gets out of line with his bankroll, skipping the high roller scene entirely. You’ll see him in the main events - much like the latest EPT Barcelona when he finished 13th.
But he’ll also still be there when, for example, that same EPT wraps up with a €100 Hyper Turbo event (in which he finished 3rd).
Puchkov has 45 WSOP cashes, which doesn’t seem much compared to Phil Hellmuth’s 118, but Puchkov’s first entry is from 2010 -- more than 20 years after Hellmuth’s first WSOP win.
On the list of most WSOP cashes in one summer Puchkov is second and third with 11 and 10 cashes. He also holds the records for most EPT cashes – by a mile – with 82!
Puckkov’s enthusiasm goes as far as naming the horses he breeds with poker terms like “Freeroll” and “Full House," and maybe it’s this extraordinary spirit that won him the award of “Living Legend” from the poker community.
PokerListings would like to congratulate all three 2016 winners of the Spirit of Poker Awards and we hope to see you all at the Battle of Malta in November!