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Young Scandinavians are Taking Over: Are the Women, as Well?

by Rolf Slotboom |  Published: Aug 01, 2006


When I started playing for a living, I was only 24 years old. Yes, I say "only" because the first three years of my career, I was always the youngest player in my game by far. I made my living playing against 40- and 50-year-olds, who had been playing poker before I was even born. Poker was seen as an old man's, cigar-type game – and, quite frankly, a large percentage of the time, the games I played in fit that cliché remarkably well.

It is only eight years later and things have changed so quickly that I cannot believe it myself. Final tables at major European tournaments are comprised almost exclusively of 20- and 30-year-olds now: young and aggressive players who are eager to take over. Nowadays, if you are over 30, you are considered a veteran! Even in online cash games, it is often the young players who dominate – mostly Americans, but more and more young Scandinavians, as well. Recently I talked to someone who predicted that the "big game" at Bellagio will soon be cleaned out by Scandinavian Patrik Antonius, and he expected that people like Bengt Sonnert, Tore Lagerborg, and other top online players would then quickly follow suit and change the complexion of that game completely.

So, while in the past poker was a popular pastime for older men, and experience counted for a lot, nowadays it seems like the top players are getting younger and younger. And not only that, but more and more young women seem to be finding their way into the big games as well – and they're beautiful women, on top of that. Players like Isabelle Mercier, Xuyen Pham, and Cecilia Nordenstam have already shown that they can compete at the highest level. And in this issue, we will feature three more young ladies who may or may not follow in their footsteps – the "Betsson Girls." And, yes, of course they are Scandinavian – because that seems to be the breeding ground for up-and-coming players.

In the U.S., people are still waiting for the first woman to win the World Series of Poker. Here in Europe, we have not had any female EPT winners, either. In fact, the past EPT season had just two female finalists (Anina Gundesen and Isabelle Mercier). But now that more and more ladies are finding their way into these events, it should not be too long for a young woman to win a major title. In my view, this may be the best thing that could happen for poker, because not only may it lead to a large group of young women trying to follow suit, but it may change the way the game is perceived in the eyes of the public. Imagine what this could do for poker: a beautiful young woman lifting the trophy at the EPT Grand Final. It would shock the men, that's for sure. But, more importantly, it could give poker in Europe yet another tremendous boost – and this would ultimately benefit every one of us.