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The PokerListings Spirit of Poker Awards shines the spotlight on players who go above and beyond to be ambassadors for poker and this year three very deserving winners accepted their awards in the categories of Living Legend, Rising Star and Most Inspiring Player. Konstantin Puchkov from Russia won the Living Legend award thanks to overwhelming crowd support in the online voting, overcoming tough competition including Barny Boatman, John Gale and Donacha O'Dea. Norway's Silje Nilsen won this year's Rising Star award, thanks to a big year that included a runner-up finish in the Norwegian Poker Championship. And finally Brazil's Felipe Ramos was the recipient of the Most Inspiring Player award. Ramos works tirelessly to promote poker in his home country and abroad and even though he was unable to make it to the Battle of Malta to receive the award in person, he sent in a video acceptance speech thanking his fans for the honor.
Maria Ho: Every year the PokerListings Spirit of Poker Awards shines the spotlight on players who go above and beyond to be ambassadors for the game and exemplify the qualities we all love about the poker world.
Past winners include a who's who of poker's most loved players including Thor Hansen, Humberto Brenes, Shannon Shorr and many more.
This year's Awards had a long list of worthy nominees in the categories of Living Legend, Rising Star and Most Inspiring Player and after online voting was finished we were left with three very deserving winners.
Konstantin Puchkov was the fourth Russian player to win a World Series of Poker bracelet and he did the very first time he ever cashed at the WSOP.
Puchkov also set the record for most cashes in a single year at the World Series with 11 and in total he's cashed 33 times and made eight WSOP final tables.
To win the Living Legend award Puchkov beat a tough lineup including Barny Boatman, John Gale and Donacha O'Dea and he joined us at the Battle of Malta to accept his award.
Maria Ho: I'm standing here with the winner of the 2016 Spirit of Poker Awards in the category of Living Legend, Russia's Konstantin Puchkov. Congratulations to you.
Konstantin Puchkov: Thank you very much PokerListings for the award. As I wrote on my Twitter, I'd rather be the rising star but it's too late.
Maria Ho: This year's Rising Star winner is Norway's Silje Nilsen.
Last year Nilsen barely missed winning the Norwegian Poker Championship, losing heads-up to WSOP Main Event runner-up Felix Stephensen.
To win the award Nilsen got more votes than other popular up-and-comers including Germany's Rainer Kempe and American Sam Abernathy.
Maria Ho: Silje Nilsen from Norway, congratulations to you.
Silje Nilsen: Thank you so much.
Maria Ho: How does it feel to know all your fans voted for you to win this award?
Silje Nilsen: Oh it feels great. I was so surprised when I won it meant so much that all these people voted for me so I'm really happy.
Maria: Ho: Great. Congratulations and good luck for the rest of this tournament.
Silje Nilsen: Thank you.
And finally, the winner of the Most Inspiring Player award is Brazil's Felipe Ramos.
Ramos has been a huge force in growing the game of poker in his own country. He's got a sponsorship deal with PokerStars and he's one of the most passionate poker pros in the world.
Felipe Ramos: Hey guys this is Felipe. Unfortunately I can't be there with you at the Battle of Malta. I would have been loving to be there but I'm here in New Jersey playing the first ever PokerStars festival.
I'd just like to say thank you so much. Winning the Spirit of Poker Awards for Most Inspiring Player just means the world to me.
Maria Ho: Congratulations to all of this year's Spirit of Poker Award winners. I'm Maria Ho from the Battle of Malta.