Sign Up For Card Player's Newsletter And Free Bi-Monthly Online Magazine


Poker Training

Newsletter and Magazine

Sign Up

Find Your Local

Card Room


Capture The Flag -- Jens Kyllönen

by Rebecca McAdam |  Published: Sep 19, 2012


Jens KyllonenOver the last two years, Jens Kyllönen has been one of the most dominant high-stakes cash game pros online. During his run, the Finnish pro from Helsinki racked up a reported $3 million in profit, which explains why he had no problem putting up the full $1 million buy-in to compete in this summer’s WSOP Big One For One Drop event.

The 22-year-old superstar has come a long way since his EPT Scandinavian Open in 2009, where he earned a hefty payday of €878,057, but was clearly just happy to be in the spotlight for a bit. Nowadays, he’s in the spotlight full time, following in the footsteps of other nosebleed players from Finland such as Ilari Sahamies, Patrik Antonius, Jani Vilmunen and Sami Kelopuro.

His everyday life may not feel any different, but it’s obvious from speaking to the Finn how much he has been through poker-wise in such a short time. When Card Player last spoke to him, following his EPT victory, he was hoping to “run really good” again, buy an apartment in Helsinki, and beef up his live experience. Kyllönen got that apartment, traveled the world playing events of his choosing, and carved out his own niche among the best poker professionals the high stakes world has to offer. Now, when he speaks, he appears to have it all sorted; grown in both maturity and experience.

“Online tourneys aren’t big enough and live tourneys with all the flights, hotels etcetera, give a pretty bad hourly salary. I still do a few live tournament trips a year nowadays but more to chill out with poker friends and enjoy other stuff.”

From Texas To Omaha

At the time of his first live win, Kyllönen was switching over to playing pot-limit Omaha online. This was obviously a very successful move as the baby-faced assassin has fast become a threat of the highest degree on the online battleground. Speaking about the years since the switch, Jens, known online as “Jeans89”, has only good things to say.

He glows, “They have been incredible, I never expected this kind of success and being able to play with the best in the world.” In saying that, the Finn has been in this business since high school and built up quite a profile online early on, although purely in Texas hold’em at that point, and largely in cash games.

Gamble Of A Lifetime

Of his key successful moments, he names winning a million in a day on Full Tilt last year. “At least money wise,” he adds. “Another one that I come to think of is the winning the ECOOP [European Championship of Online Poker] main event for $315,000, I was 18 back then living at home and that was more than my bankroll at the time, I’ll never forget the feeling.” But since then the stakes have got higher for Kyllönen and the push for bigger and better is clearly a draw. This was evident when he bought himself in to The Big One for One Drop event at the World Series of Poker for $1 million in cash. Speaking about this decision, the Finn explained, “I didn’t really think of the tournament as a poker investment, more of a one-time gamble/experience I was willing to pay the price for. I knew if I bust it’ll suck but it won’t be that bad, but if I were to win that tournament I could’ve died happy right there.

“It was really an amazing experience, such a historical tournament with the best players and some very successful businessmen. You could feel the tension at the beginning and finally I was enjoying playing a Texas hold’em tournament again,” says the player who once had a monogamous relationship with no-limit hold’em.

When asked if he prefers playing pros as in, more or less, this kind of event, or if open fields are more his bag, the all-rounder is quick to the point, “The non-pros, people who say anything else are lying or do not play the game for the money. The worse the player is the more money you make.”

Survival Of The Fittest

Pros or non-pros, it wasn’t to be for Kyllönen this WSOP, and he waved goodbye to his hard-earned million plus the potential to multiply it 18 times. “It was my second WSOP, I had to wait for a few years but finally was the age to be able to play last year. This year nothing else really mattered considering the size of the $1 million tournament, which I didn’t cash in so it didn’t go too well, but I was prepared for it so it wasn’t that bad.” When asked if the loss left a dent in his bankroll or if he had factored in not making the money, he simply replied, “I’ll survive.”

Without sticking to a specific routine, the pro says he plays when he has the time, motivation, and games are running. “Which is very often,” he adds smiling. “I’m always striving to get better and I’ve played a ton of hands every year. But nowadays that’s what you have to do if you want to stay at the higher stakes… I almost only play €25-€50 plus pot-limit Omaha.” A lot has happened during the pro’s nosebleed stake success, but it seems Black Friday has not done anything to damage his online play. The one thing he has found however is that nowadays you need to be one of the biggest, baddest sharks in the tank to survive the onslaught. In the months following directly after April 15, Kyllönen says the games got better but then his mettle was tested. “They just kept on with the trend of getting tougher and at this point I think the games are tougher than they’ve ever been before,” he says.

Action Addict

Living in Helsinki and toning down the travel, playing online and holding his own, Kyllönen once looked forward to playing more live hometown events, particularly the high stakes side of things. Now when asked about the local live action, he responds, “There isn’t too much action here, twice a year there is a tournament series with a main event of €2,000. During that time there are some higher cash games but usually max €40-€40 blinds. Other than that it’s very rare to see a bigger game than €20-€20.”

Hedging Bets

Although it appears that he is living the dream, Kyllönen has been outspoken in the past about branching out from the game and not purely focusing on playing but keeping an eye on other areas of the industry. He recently wrote how limiting oneself to just playing poker is a recipe for big swings, financially and otherwise, so to avoid certain downfalls like government decisions on poker, a bad run, and so on, it’s good not to put all one’s eggs, or indeed one’s chips, in one basket. Ways around this include coaching, writing, network, commentating, and so on, and it has become a noticeable move for many players these days. Speaking on this subject again, Kyllönen is honest, “I’ve been very lazy with that sort of stuff, there are things you could do on the side like strategy videos and coaching but I haven’t done that too much. I’ve got different kinds of investments outside poker, some stocks and bonds for example.”

Dream Come True

It doesn’t look like the youngster is going anywhere for the time being, but when it comes to the foreseeable future, perhaps the emotional stakes are just too high, even for a cool and calm customer like Jens Kyllönen. He sees himself in poker for a few years at least but “hopefully not in 10 years.” The reason being, “It’s just such a brutal stressing game.”

The stress was most likely not foreseen when a 17-year-old Jens watched some World Poker Tour final tables on TV and started playing with play money online. Although the kind of money now passing in and out of his hands was probably just a dream then too. After high school, the Finn jumped straight into professional poker full time and hasn’t looked back since. His future goals are simple – in poker; “just try to play well and make money” and outside poker; “stay happy.” For Kyllönen, both of these things would have been aided by doing well in the One Drop, but there are always future gambles and, in the meantime, plenty of shark fights to keep him entertained. ♠