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New Faces of Scandinavian Poker

by Joel Hinz |  Published: Mar 02, 2009


"Blast those Swedes!" "Oh crap, it's the Danes!" "Argh - a final table of big-stacked Finns!" "I would have gotten away with it, if it weren't for those pesky Norwegians."

Phrases such as the ones above - although perhaps slightly less eloquent and frequently containing four-letter expletives - have been heard and uttered a lot, online as well as in casinos and poker clubs, for the last few years. Scandinavians have earned a reputation for being ruthless risk-takers, aggressive beyond belief. This view has been fueled by players such as Gus Hansen and Mattias "The Screaming Swede" Andersson, whose playing traits were televised and seen by millions of people.

But this article will not be about Johnny "bad_ip" Lodden, William Thorson, Patrik Antonius, or Ilari "Ziigmund" Sahamies. It will also not be about the older pros; there's no room for well-established players such as Chris Björin, Thor Hansen, or Martin de Knijff. Instead, you're now reading about the players of tomorrow, those who during the last two years have emerged as the newest generation. These are some of the most important new faces of Scandinavian poker.

Peter EastgatePeter Eastgate (Denmark)
Age: 23
Nickname: Icegate
Best result: World Series of Poker main event (2008),
first place ($9,152,416)

Unarguably the most obvious inclusion on the list, this young Dane won the main event of the 2008 World Series of Poker. He was the youngest to ever do so, prompting Swedish blogger Johan "Indiscreet" Kretz to comment on Eastgate as a "100 percent Internet kid" who leaves the older generation, consisting of people like Kretz, behind on the tracks.

Although some recent winners of the acclaimed main event have been accused of only being lucky and forced to endure constant criticism for not continuing their spells of success, Peter Eastgate quickly followed up by getting to the last two tables of the London stop on the European Poker Tour.

Don't count on winning any tournament this former finance student turned poker pro joins for the next year. He intends to play a lot of live tournaments during the upcoming season, and it would be no surprise to anyone if he manages to cash in several. Indeed he notched up his first post-World Series victory at the $5,000 side event at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in January 2009 winning $343,000.

Trond EidsvigTrond Eidsvig (Norway)
Age: 23
Nickname: Tronde
Best result: Master Classics of Poker main event (2007), first place ($896,912)

Trond Eidsvig rose to fame in 2007 when he crushed the European competition, cashing four times in season four of the European Poker Tour and reaching three final tables in those four attempts - a fantastic feat.

The final tables came, in chronological order, in Barcelona (fifth), Dublin (fourth), and Poland (eighth). In total, he has made more than $600,000 in EPT tournaments, and that's still less than he got for winning the Dutch Open in 2007, beating a truly international final table where the top seven where all from different nations. Add to that a couple of smaller cashes on big tours and in the World Series of Poker, and you get one menacing Norwegian poker player.

After his breakthrough season, Eidsvig concentrated on online poker. He blamed this mainly on the high Norwegian taxes on gambling winnings, as he did not take financial backers. He has since returned to playing virtually all EPT stops as Full Tilt Poker is now sponsoring him on a two-year basis.

Rasmus NielsenRasmus Nielsen (Denmark)
Age: 20
Nickname: Jungleras
Best result: World Series of Poker $1,500 no-limit hold'em (2008),
second place ($389,557)

One of the youngest and hottest Scandinavian players at the moment, Rasmus Nielsen was well known as "Jungleras" on Danish poker communities for some time before he started posting the serious results that really shot him to fame.

His first notable achievement came in 2007, when he finished in 32nd place in his country's nationals - perhaps not something that should have gotten more attention, but a mark of what was yet to come.

The next year, he proved a force to be reckoned with. Tim Vance, the eventual winner of the EPT Scandinavian Open, needed a six-outer on the river in said event after a blank turn and an impressive call by Nielsen with 8-8 against A-Q on a J-9-7 flop. He got his ace on the river, and the young Dane finished fourth in his home country, winning $307,285.

Set to prove his high finish was no fluke, he got his biggest tournament success to date during the summer, losing heads-up to J.C. Tran in the WSOP $1,500 no-limit hold'em event, taking $389,557 home with him. He then followed that up by placing fifth in the Master Classics of Poker (also known as the Dutch Open), where the top five were all either Danes or Swedes.

Stefan MattssonStefan Mattsson (Sweden)
Age: 22
Nickname: El_Matador
Best result: World Poker Tour Spanish Championship (2008), second place ($342,989)

This young Swede must really love Barcelona and Las Vegas. His four major cashes have all been in these cities, and on each of the big three tours. Maybe there's something special on the beaches or in the neon lights.

Stefan Mattsson started playing poker while working at a paper mill, promising himself to concentrate on the game if the first six months proved promising. Sure enough, he got a job offer after a few months, but quit and went instead to Las Vegas the next year to finish 57th in his first attempt at the World Series of Poker main event.

After that, things were quiet, until the next summer. This time, he took things up a notch and placed 22nd in the same event. Although he wasn't able to repeat the very impressive feat in 2008, he did cash twice on the European Poker Tour, as well as taking second place after Casper Hansen from Denmark in the annual Spanish World Poker Tour event.

This former dealer will likely keep concentrating on cash games, as he believes he's better at those than at tournaments, where blind structures seldom do him justice.

Jesper HougaardJesper Hougaard (Denmark)
Age: 24
Nickname: Kipster
Best result: World Series of Poker $1,500
no-limit hold'em (2008), first place ($610,304)

Jesper Hougaard's first live cashes went virtually unnoticed, winning a small side-event at the World Heads-Up Poker Championship in Barcelona and cashing in the WSOP main event. Granted, he got plenty of attention anyway, being a former member of the national table tennis team, but it was nothing really notable in the results-centered poker world. Poker success came gradually, as he finished fifth in his nationals in 2008, and reached the final table of the Irish Open.

His claim to fame, however, came during last year's World Series of Poker where he cashed four times, winning two events. The first bracelet came in event 36, a $1 500 no-limit hold'em event, in which he outlasted 2,443 competitors to take it all home to Denmark (minus outrageous Danish gambling taxes). He then followed this up by winning a WSOP Europe £1,500 no-limit Texas hold'em event as well. His total WSOP winnings exceed $900,000, and he will surely bring this to well over a million this summer.

Hougaard picked up poker after watching Gus Hansen win World Poker Tour events on TV. So, who will be inspired by Hougaard and become the next major Danish force?

Annette ObrestadAnnette Obrestad (Norway)
Age: 20
Nickname: Annette_15
Best result: World Series of Poker Europe main event (2007), first place (£1,000,000)

Everyone knows Annette Obrestad. She started playing poker at only 15 years of age, amassing freeroll money on PokerStars, and went on to online fame under the nickname Annette_15. Her first big feat, news of which spread like wildfire across the Internet, was winning an online multi-table tournament while only looking once at her cards. She later said it was to show that position and reading skill is much more important than people realise.

Then came the win in the inaugural WSOP Europe event, and if she wasn't on everybody's lips before, she quickly became so. Not only did she claim the top prize of £1 million, but she was also the youngest bracelet winner ever. It's unlikely that we'll see a younger one any time soon, as she is still not of legal gambling age in Nevada.

Obrestad followed her win by taking second place on the Irish EPT stop the very next month, and has had numerous top finishes in high stakes events online. It will be very interesting to see what she can do in Las Vegas once she turns 21.

Michael TureniecMichael Tureniec (Sweden)
Age: 23
Nickname: Unknown
Best result: EPT London (2008), second place ($708,411)

In 2007, Las Vegas saw the birth of a future star of Swedish poker when Michael Tureniec cashed twice, including once in the main event of the World Series of Poker. He got a lot of attention early on, as he had amassed a huge stack after day one and was fourth in chips going into day two, but he didn't make the huge money.

The next year, he started out slowly by cashing in several side-events at the EPT and in Swedish casinos. Then came a second place finish in the EPT London (to which he had qualified online), and after that, a first place at one of the Dutch Master Classics of Poker events. Suddenly, he had won just under about a $1,000,000.

Tureniec has also had big stacks in several other major events, including the Aussie Millions in 2008, and is very likely to keep rolling over opponents worldwide.

Juha Lauttamus (Finland)
Age: 24
Nickname: Unknown
Best result: EPT Prague (2007), fourth place ($266,975)

If you're wondering why you haven't heard of this young Finn, it's likely because most of his success has been in Scandinavia. He has been an online pro for several years now, and he converted it to live results in December 2007, when he finished fourth at the EPT Prague.

A few months later, he chose to play in San Remo as well, only to find out that registrations were closed. So instead, he opted to play in the Nordic Masters of Poker in Stockholm, finishing third in the second-biggest tournament in Sweden. In August, he played in his country's nationals, reaching the final table in a major tournament once again. He has not yet made much noise, but that may very well change in the near future!

The Butcher (Sweden)
Age: 28
Nickname: Slaktarn
Best result: Full Tilt Poker $25,000 pot-limit Omaha world championship (2008), first place ($560,000)

Slaktarn - Swedish for the Butcher - is broke. Again. According to an interview this elusive high-stakes Omaha player gave last year, this should mark the fourth time. His money management skills aren't bad; they just appear to be perfectly non-existent. So why write about him?

His inclusion can, in a way, be seen as a tribute to the stereotypical, really aggressive online Scandinavian player. He won $560,000 in a $25,000 heads-up pot-limit Omaha tournament on Full Tilt Poker, while also crushing the $200/$400 games of the same type on the same site, and most notably, tried to play Gus Hansen whenever possible, quoting him as a "giant fish who calls too often".

But alas, the young Butcher from Sweden is broke - meaning it's time for another of the same type. The highest online tables are once again roamed by a fearless Swede with, presumably, no sense of money management whatsoever.

This one calls himself "Blom". He's also anonymous. And he won't be the last of the rapidly emerging new faces of Scandinavian poker.