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Viktor ‘Isildur1’ Blom

The Enigma Unveiled

by Julio Rodriguez |  Published: Jun 07, 2011


Viktor BlomIn late 2009, the poker world was captivated by one online grinder playing under the name “Isildur1.” With no regard for his bankroll and the willingness to play anyone at any time, the unknown Swedish phenom quickly became the talk of the entire poker community.

In the span of just a few months, the teenage sensation took part in the 10 biggest online pots of all time, taking on the likes of Phil Ivey, Tom “durrrr” Dwan, Patrik Antonius, Brian Hastings, Cole South, and Brian Townsend. As a result, the ultra-aggressive Swede managed to win and lose millions, all the while choosing to keep his identity secret, which only magnified interest in the eyes of the public.

In December of 2010, nearly a year after he had appeared on the high-stakes scene, the 20-year-old prodigy signed a deal to represent PokerStars and join its roster of professionals. One month later, the worst-kept secret in poker was revealed when Viktor Blom came forward to unveil his identity at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure.

Blom has been notoriously quiet about his story, but he agreed to an exclusive interview with Card Player to give the world some insight into his mind.

Poker Beginnings

Blom learned Texas hold’em from his brother at the age of 14 while in high school. They spent the better part of their nights playing heads up for a krona (about 17 cents) at a time, learning the nuances of the game. Soon, they were organizing tournaments with their friends, getting as many as 25 people to play for buy-ins as high as 50 kronor.
If you ask Blom now about his development as a player, he admits that he never bothered to seek out a mentor to help him with his game. “I never spoke strategy with anyone,” he said. “I’ve never read any books on poker, either. I just learned the game by playing.”
While the rest of his friends were competing in sports, playing football, tennis, and hockey, Blom was spending his days and nights honing his poker skills online, where he had deposited $100 with his brother. After some initial success, he started playing on his own, and quickly built up a substantial bankroll. With no buy-in rules and the compulsion to put sizable chunks of his cash in play, Blom soon found himself with nearly $300,000 online. Incredibly, he was doing this at the age of 15 when not attending classes.

“At first, my mother said I couldn’t play poker after a certain time at night, but I didn’t really abide by that rule,” said Blom.

After a couple of years of playing high-stakes sit-and-gos, Blom went on a massive downswing and saw his entire bankroll erased. Although he now claims that he can handle the swings, the initial shock of losing his first real bankroll weighed heavily in the pit of his stomach. The morning after losing it all, Blom admitted to feeling ashamed, and even questioned whether or not he had picked up a gambling addiction.

With poor grades and no shot at going to college, the then 18-year-old Blom reached out to his parents for help. They agreed on a budget to help him with food and rent, on the condition that he didn’t play poker again. Blom agreed, but it wasn’t long before he was back in action.

“I deposited $2,000 on a site,” he recalled. “It was the only money I had at the time, so I knew I couldn’t afford to lose. I knew that my strongest game was heads-up cash games, so I started chasing regulars at the 50¢-$1 level, playing as many as six tables at a time. I played for about 15 hours each day, and quickly moved up in limits, cashing out good chunks of money from time to time. After three weeks, I had moved all the way up to $100-$200 and had won about $2 million from the initial stake.”

Blom wasn’t done, however, and rode his hot streak to a new site, where he deposited the maximum allowable amount of $2,500. “I went straight into the $25-$50 games and managed to build up to about $45,000,” he said. “A couple of regulars on the site thought I was playing badly and challenged me to play heads up. I started playing against one of them regularly on six tables, and by the time I was done with him, I had picked up about $100,000. After three weeks on that site, I had around $500,000 to work with.”

Play With the Pros

Riding a hot streak and equipped with a substantial bankroll, Blom set his sights on the deadly lineup of pros at Full Tilt Poker. He made his first appearance in September of 2009, playing $25-$50 while getting a feel for the site. It wasn’t until November that railbirds began to notice the unknown who was taking on all comers at stakes as high as $500-$1,000.

The online community quickly began to speculate on the newcomer’s identity, all the while swarming to his tables to watch his matches with nosebleed-stakes players such as Tom Dwan, Phil Ivey, Brian Townsend, Cole South, and Patrik Antonius. After a couple of weeks, nobody had seemed to figure out the hyperaggressive player’s game, and Blom sat with a cool $5 million in profit.

Blom had a lot of money online, but not even the most reckless players would say that he was properly bankrolled for such high stakes and against such stiff competition. “I don’t play with any bankroll rules,” admitted Blom. “I’m not worried about going broke. I always play with what I’m willing to lose. When I’m in the middle of an upswing, I try to play a lot, because I think it’s good to play when you are winning. That being said, I need to work on handling downswings a bit better.”

It’s a lesson that Blom still hasn’t learned. In December, he sat down for a match with Brian Hastings, and the two played pot-limit Omaha for approximately five hours. During the match, Blom lost roughly $4.2 million to the young American pro, prompting many to speculate that Blom had finally found an opponent who could properly counter his all-or-nothing aggressive approach to the game.

It wasn’t until a few days later that it was discovered that Hastings, Townsend, and South had allegedly shared a database of more than 30,000 hands, enabling the trio to break down the Swede’s game and look for patterns and leaks to exploit. The loss completely stopped Blom’s momentum, and his propensity to chase losses ended up costing him another few million. By mid-December, just one month after peaking at the $5 million in profit, Blom was in the red for $2 million.

PokerStars Nabs a Superstar

Amazingly, Blom’s collapse proved to be just as entertaining as his rise to prominence in the high-stakes world. With no fear and the impulse to take on the best, Blom was a hot commodity in online poker. Known for its excellent tournaments, PokerStars signed Blom in an effort to grow its brand in the cash-game arena.

“I think PokerStars is doing a good job of bringing new players to the site, because right now, it’s the best place to get action,” said Blom. “I think there will be some really great games now that the stakes are getting higher and higher.”

Although everyone had suspected that Blom was behind the account, it wasn’t until the 2011 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure that he finally owned up to his true identity. When asked why he kept the secret for so long, even after being “outed” by others in the online community, Blom explained that he has never been comfortable in the spotlight.

“I saw no reason to tell people who I was,” he said. “I was living a good life in Sweden. I had many friends and was happy with my life. I was having fun and making the most of being young, so I felt that I didn’t need any more attention.”

To publicize its new pro, PokerStars set up a series of heads-up matches against Blom, calling them the Superstar Showdown. The competition is played across four tables of no-limit hold’em or pot-limit Omaha at stakes no lower than $50-$100. The player who shows a profit after 2,500 hands is declared the winner.

So far, Blom has taken on the likes of Isaac Haxton, Tony G, Daniel “Jungleman12” Cates, Eugene Katchalov, Scott “URnotINdanger2” Palmer, and even fellow Team PokerStars pro Daniel Negreanu, who trained for several months before taking on the challenge. Negreanu lost his entire match bankroll the first time around, but rebounded to book a small win in the rematch, becoming just the second person, along with Haxton, to defeat the Swede.

When asked to compare the younger players to the older veterans of the game, Blom mentioned Negreanu and gave him props for his ability to make adjustments. “I think the younger players are maybe a little more aggressive than the more experienced ones. My second match against Daniel in the Showdown was much harder. I think that he was one of my toughest opponents so far in the matches.”

In addition to all of the publicity it has generated, the Showdown series also has served as a good way for Blom to get some action. In seven matches, he has racked up over $350,000 in winnings. Although he’s gotten the best of his opponents, the young pro realizes that it’s becoming harder to be a consistent winner in cash games.

“The cash games have become much tougher,” he said. “A couple of years ago, it was really easy to win, and these days, it’s quite different. I’ve found that I have to work much harder to win.”

Moving forward, Blom hopes to plug his leaks and continue to capitalize on his strengths. “I believe my biggest strength is my stamina at the table,” he said. “I don’t quit easily. That’s probably why I really respect the other players who can play for high stakes on many tables without quitting, whether they are winning or losing. That being said, I know that I can tilt when I’m deep sometimes and don’t know when to stop.”

There’s no doubt that Blom is one of the most electric and talented players in the world. That is why PokerStars handpicked him to help invigorate the site’s high-stakes cash-game action. But to date, his collective results have been disappointing. While this stems from his willingness to play anyone at any time for any stakes, only time will tell if better game selection, maturity, and acting as a de facto poker ambassador will improve his chances of having a long poker career. ♠