An annual tradition continued at the Aviation Club de France in Paris on the evening of Friday, February 12, as the ninth European Poker Awards took place at a poker star-studded, dressy affair that preceded the European Finals of Poker. And after all of the nominations were in and the votes tallied, it was Vitaly Lunkin of Russia who walked away with the top honor of 2009 Player of the Year.
Lunkin was up against Jeff Lisandro, Dragan Gallic, Paul Spillane, and Antoine Saout for the Player of the Year category. But it was Lunkin’s year, with over $3.2 million in live tournament earnings for the twelve-month period. The big successes began for him in May of 2009, when he won the Russian Poker Tour Main Event for more than $436K, then took to Las Vegas only two weeks later and won his second World Series of Poker bracelet (first of 2009) with a win worth nearly $1.9 million in the $40K NLHE Anniversary Event. Throughout the remainder of the WSOP, he had five other event cashes, two of which were final tables. His worldwide success earned him the Player of the Year award, one that was won by Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier the prior year.
Saout was up for another award in the Rookie of the Year category, along with fellow competitors Martin Silke, Jens Kyllonen, Tristan Clemencon, and Benjamin Spindler. But Saout took it down, most likely due to his stellar third place finish at the 2009 WSOP Main Event final table followed up by a seventh place finish at the 2009 WSOP Europe Main Event final table. The young Saout who only turned into a live tournament pro in late 2008 became the 2009 Rookie of the Year.
A player who took an honor for the second year in a row was Sandra Naujoks of Germany. She grabbed the title of Europe’s Leading Lady for the second year running, this year having beat players in the same category like Leo Margets, Kara Scott, Annette Obrestad, and Lynne Beaumont. Naujoks hit her stride in 2009 with her EPT victory in Dortmund in March, as she became the first woman to ever win an EPT Main Event. Another EPT cash and two WSOP cashes, as well as other cashes in Europe throughout the year, gave Naujoks a solid record and the award.
Outstanding Tournament Performance of the Year went to Jeff Lisandro, who beat out Lunkin, Saout, Ville Wahlbeck, and Pieter de Korver for the trophy. And Internet Player of the Year went to Patrik Antonius, who plays at the highest stakes available and has participated in some of the biggest online cash games ever recorded. He won the award over other nominees in the category, namely Bertrand Grospellier, Ilari Sahamies, Jude Ainsworth, and Chris Moorman.