The PokerListings readers have spoken.
For the fifth consecutive year, the PokerListings Spirit of Poker Awards aimed to recognize a group of players who have contributed more than just big results at the poker tables.
Their enthusiasm, passion and contributions to the game go well beyond the felt and the nominees put forward in 3 categories - Most Inspiring Player, Rising Star and Living Legend - symbolize the "Spirit" of poker that will keep the game flourishing for decades.
Our readers then took over and voted for the players they found most inspiring, most promising and most revered. After three months of online voting the results are now in and we're proud to announce our 2017 winners:
- Most Inspiring Player - Liv Boeree
- Rising Star - Espen Uhlen Jørstad
- Living Legend - Per Hildebrand
Liv Boeree – Most Inspiring Player
For most readers, no introduction is needed for Liv Boeree.
A long-time Team PokerStars pro, EPT main event winner, Raising for Effective Giving (REG) co-founder, astro-physicist and Burning Man regular, Boeree is widely known as one of the top poker ambassadors on the planet.
Liv began her poker career on a reality TV show where she learned the game from Phil Hellmuth but cemented her status as a rising star when she won the EPT San Remo main event in 2010 -- at the time the largest EPT event on European soil.
Unlike many EPT winners before and since, though, instead of fading back into the crowd she took it to even higher levels.
By working meticulously on her game she's now at home among the game's elite, exemplified by such varied turns as being captain of the London Royals of the GPL, appearing on the revived Poker after Dark and winning her first bracelet in the $10k Tag Team event at the WSOP this summer with her partner Igor Kurganov.
Outside of poker she’s an active supporter and co-founder of Raising for Effective Giving (REG), a burgeoning charity that raises money from poker players (and non-players alike) to maximize the impact charitable donations can have on those most in need.
Liv will often raise her voice to criticize political leaders and short-sighted decisions and discuss important issues like climate change while still finding the time to marvel at an amazing picture of Saturn.
If you ever get a chance to sit with her at the poker table, chances are that it’ll be an experience you'll remember on a number of levels.
Espen Uhlen Jørstad – Rising Star
From World of Warcraft to the world of poker to the world of meditation, Espen Uhlen Jørstad has lived in all of them.
The popular Norwegian Twitch streamer and Hans Zimmer fan is 29 years old, which makes him one of our oldest nominees yet for this award. But poker is a game for everyone, and people come to it when the timing is right for them.
Uhlen Jørstad has undergone quite a remarkable development. He went from being a “fat anxious slob” addicted to WoW to being a soldier in the Norwegian army to being an athletic poker player to being an ambassador for Unibet poker.
Based in Malta for the last couple of years Jørstad is currently travelling the US West Coast with a friend from Estonia, playing his favorite format - cash games – in the casinos between Seattle and San Francisco.
Based on the time and effort we know he puts into his game, take it from us -- it won’t be long until you see him at the final table of a big international event.
He shares his poker life via open and heartfelt blogs and vlogs so this will hopefully find him somewhere on the road and make for another great chapter in his expanding poker book.
Per Hildebrand – Living Legend
It’s been a good year for Per Hildebrand, one of the pioneers of Swedish poker, as he was recently inducted into the Swedish Poker Hall of Fame -- only the fourth player ever to enjoy this privilege.
In his induction ceremony Hildebrand was commended for both his attitude and for “greatly contributing to enhancing the reputation of poker both in Sweden and internationally as a player and organizer."
Our readers agree.
His poker career officially began when he came second in the European Poker Championship in Malta of 1988, which was won at the time by Norwegian poker legend Thor Hansen (who won this award in 2014).
Hildebrand’s biggest success was probably reaching the final three tables of the 2005 WSOP Main Event – the year Joe Hachem won – but just this past summer he missed a WSOP bracelet by a hair, finishing second in the $10k 2-7 Championship to show he hasn't lost a step at all.
For many years Hildebrand was one of the organizers of the Swedish Poker Championships and he was also active in one of the first poker clubs in Sweden. He later founded the website 24h poker which has since become the Entraction poker network.
For over 30 years, Hildebrand has given back to the game of poker and clearly remains both a gentleman and a role model for young players to admire in Sweden and beyond.
Spirit of Poker Awards at Battle of Malta!
The Spirit of Poker Awards ceremony will take place this November at the 2017 Battle of Malta, Europe’s friendliest poker tournament.
Previous winners of Spirit of Poker Awards include Felipe Ramos, Humberto Brenes, Silje Nilsen, Thor Hansen, Dominik Panka, Charlie Carrel, Anatoly Filatov and Konstantin Puchkov.
All SOPA award winners are personally invited to come play the Battle of Malta and attend the award ceremony.
Congratulations to this year's winners and thank you greatly for your contributions to the poker world! We'd be honoured to see you in Malta in November!