Update: The votes are in and we have our 2017 Spirit of Poker Awards winners! Congratulations to:
- Most Inspiring Player - Liv Boeree
- Rising Star - Espen Uhlen Jørstad
- Living Legend - Per Hildebrand
Thank you to everyone who voted! The 2017 Spirit of Poker Awards will be presented at the 2017 Battle of Malta! See you there!
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, Silje Nilsenand 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 2017 Rising Star to your right; bios below.
Oriol Fernández (Spain)
The story of Oriol Fernández is one of a guy who has literally grown with poker. He started playing when he was 15 years old while his father was playing online poker at home. Nowadays, he’s better than his father - both online and live. Fernández is the top prospect in both poker domains in Spain. He won the 888 SuperSeries at 888poker.es and the High Roller at the PokerStars Festival in Marbella - all in less than a week. The Basque Country player is also preparing his assault on the international scene and he has spoken excitedly about bringing that talent to the next Battle of Malta. He won’t be alone as the full “New Generation” from Spain – some of whom live in Malta - will be with him.
Espen Uhlen Jørstad (Norway)
Malta-based Norwegian Espen Uhlen Jørstad is 29 but still a new name in the poker world. He quit online poker shortly after Black Friday but decided to take up the game again and started up his own Twitch stream last year. Jørstad turned out to be a natural-born Twitch streamer, combining his poker skills with his extremely welcoming personality. Unibet quickly recognized his potential and signed him as an ambassador. If you should be so lucky to meet Jørstad at a live tournament you're for sure in for a good time with the friendly Norwegian. Perhaps he'll tell you his very interesting background story about how he used to be an introvert teenager addicted to World of Warcraft or his army days where he transformed into a man. And with a Master’s degree in brewing science, don’t miss out on his suggestions on what beers to drink.
Kelly Winterhalter (USA)
When we first met Kelly Winterhalter at the 2016 WSOP she was barely a year-and-a-half into her poker career but had already cashed 4 of 6 events she played that summer. The founder of her own successful organic skin care line, Ellovi, the entrepreneurial Winterhalter made such a quick impression on the poker world she soon grabbed invites to appear on Poker Night in America where she more than held her own against big, brash pros like Phil Hellmuth and Tony Bracy. Fans outside of the US might not know the multi-talented Winterhalter yet but we suspect they will very soon. A self-described lover of “books, animals, quantum weirdness and nature,” she’s exactly the kind of multi-dimensional player/human needed to take the game to new avenues. Look for her online as iceprincess77.
Vivian Saliba (Brazil)
Vivian Saliba started playing poker when she was 12 years old on a family holiday but she had to wait until 17 to see her first action in a Sao Paulo card room. After that, poker became a “lucrative hobby” for her. She used the money earned in the game to pay for law school but two years ago found herself at a crossroads between continuing her studies and playing full-time poker. She opted for the latter and promptyl won the Paulista Poker Championship (CPH) in Omaha that same year. After that Saliba won more titles in Brazil before travelling to the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas this summer for her first time. An 11th place in the $10,000 Pot Limit Omaha Championship(for $47,923) and a nice run in the Main Event (421st for $27,742) are harbingers of much more to come - and definitely delighted her 26,000 Instagram followers.
Parker “TonkaaaaP” Talbot (Canada)
Parker “TonkaaaaP” Talbot is living proof there are still big poker sponsorship deals available provided you bring something special to the table. The Toronto native had been grinding online poker for years but was introduced to Twitch by his friend and streaming megastar Jaime Staples. Talbot puts in a ton of volume at the tables and his many hours on stream have made him an easy choice as one of the best Twitch Poker follows in the business. Talbot brings an energy to the online tables and his NeverLucky.tv channel that is simply infectious. He’s also been known to play a few hands of drunken blackjack -- much to the delight of his fervent fanbase. All of Talbot’s hard work paid off in early 2017 when he snagged a sponsorship deal with 888poker. Since joining 888 Talbot has begun playing a number of live tournaments while Vlogging his journeys for the followers back home. It all adds up to a major poker brand only getting bigger.