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!
Originally called the "This is 50+" Award we renamed it the "Living Legend" Award in 2013, which couldn't possibly be a more fitting moniker for our past winners including November Niner Pierre Neuville, Thor Hansen, Humberto Brenes and Konstantin Puchkov.
For example the Godfather of Norwegian Poker, as Hansen is known, has not only survived a 35-year poker career among the greats of the game he's also survived terminal cancer. As his doctors told him, "I'm not made of blood and flesh. I'm made of steel."
Neuville not only swept to our inaugural award but went on to become the oldest player ever to make the final table of the World Series of Poker Main Event. Brenes has simply altered the course of poker for all of Latin America.
Our five nominees for the 2017 Spirit of Poker Living Legend award are equally befitting of hyperbolic accolades. All are poker players over 50 who not only compete with the best young guns in game today but often come out ahead.
Sharp of mind and spirit they repeatedly show us that game of poker doesn't have to pass you by as you get older. In fact you might even find yourself getting better at the game - and booking the results to prove it - well into your golden years.
Back to the PokerListings Spirit of Poker Awards main page here.
Barny Boatman (England)
England produced the first European poker shows and if you watch one of them it’ll have Barny Boatman in it. The Londoner has been in poker so long that his first prize money was paid out in Lira. Boatman is a globalist in the best sense of the word. He dropped out of school early and then lived and worked in Spain, Hong Kong, Australia and Sri Lanka. He had almost every job from bartender to builder, teacher to journalist. For a while he worked as a legal advisor in Bermondsey and never lost a trial. Having survived a near-fatal motorbike accident he developed a new attitude to life. His hobbies include skydiving and scuba diving and his sense of humour is best described as Pythonesque. Boatman is an inspiration to poker. The most important achievement of the double WSOP-bracelet winner is still the founding of the HendonMob, which developed into the largest poker database on the internet. When Barny Boatman took up poker, he was already 15 years older than the age some of the young poker millionaires retire – yet, he won two WSOP bracelets and cashed in nine events at the WSOP -more than ever before.
Per Hildebrand (Sweden)
Per Hildebrand is one of the pioneers of the Swedish poker scene. His first live cash goes all the way back to 1988 when he finished 2nd in a Five Card Draw event in Malta for $3,831. During the 80’s and 90’s - long before poker was a popular game in Sweden - he was one of the people who helped to organize the Swedish Poker Championship. He is also the founder of the Entraction Poker Network which was very big during the mid-2000s. On the poker tables Hildebrand has delivered impressive results lately. In this year's WSOP he finished 2nd in the $10k No-Limit Draw Lowball Championship and he cashed in five events. The year before was almost as good. He cashed in three events and two of them were final tables (6th & 7th). On top of that he has won the Swedish Championship in Pot Limit Omaha twice in a row (2015 & 2016). Back in 2005 Hildebrand went very deep in WSOP Main Event and finished 27th to earn $305k – his biggest cash still today. Hildebrand has been in the game longer than most of today's players have been alive and he has worked to improve it – both on and off the tables.
Marcel Luske (Netherlands)
During the poker boom, if somebody didn't know Marcel Luske's name,
you said “the guy in the suit and the upside-down sunglasses." Then they
knew. Luske brought branding into the European poker scene. Six out of
his first eight cashes are tournament wins and they date back to 1999.
Luske was elected Player of the Year twice, he was a guest commentator at the WSOP, founded the International Poker Association, likes singing at the table and even has his own poker song on YT. In 2003 – the Moneymaker year – Luske made the final two tables of the WSOP ME, came back the next year and bubbled the final table in 10th place. This year he finished in 23rd out of 7,221 players - just like that. Luske has final-tabled EPT and WSOP events, the Master Classics and the Australian Open, he’s been on TV shows and mentored players like Noah Boeken and David Williams.
For many years the European grand seigneur was a member of the PokerStars Pro team. Currently, he’s with PartyPoker and helping rebuild the brand of the former largest online poker operator in the world.
Padraig Parkinson (Ireland)
He was there when poker arrived in Europe via a hotel in Dublin. In the early 1980s Stu Ungar, Amarillo Slim, Puggy Pearson, Dan Harrington, Doyle Brunson, Mike Sexton and Tom McEvoy flew across the Atlantic to play and Padraig Parkinson was there waiting for them. Without him, Texas Hold’em would have come to Europe much later. He’s unremittingly supported poker in Ireland since. He was one of the first Europeans to make the WSOP ME final table when – incredibly – three Irish players made the final nine. Parkinson eventually finished third while countryman Noel Furlong won. He was invited to the iconic Late Night Poker show and declined, but changed his mind when more money was added. He went on to win the Grand Final beating Phil Hellmuth along the way. Every year Parkinson plays in Europe’s oldest tournament, the Irish Open, and he prides himself on having “lost more money on it than anyone else." He’s a member of the Irish Hall of Fame, sure, but also the least pretentious guy you can think of. Nobody represents the recreational player better than him and that’s as strong as ever in 2017 - even with decades of professional poker behind him.
Mike Sexton (USA)
Sexton isn't a poker ambassador – he is the poker ambassador. He became a Las Vegas pro in 1985 and he’s commentated on the World Poker Tour for so long it seems it was built around him – even if he’s now left to focus on rebuilding partypoker. He was part of the group that first brought Texas Hold’em to Europe in the early 1980s. He played in the times of Amarillo Slim and Johnny Moss and he’s still good enough to keep up as his first WPT title in November 2016 shows. Sexton has a WSOP bracelet, just missed the ME final table, won the Tournament of Champions and made the money in the first $1 million Big One for One Drop. Sexton has over 250 live cashes and is a member of the Hall of Fame. He’s the author of a poker book and the founder of a non-profit charity organization. Apart from all this, open-minded and always smiling Sexton is one of the most popular people in the poker world. If Mike Sexton represents poker, its past and its future are equally bright.