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A Poker Life -- Chris Bjorin

Bjorin has Been Playing and Cashing in Poker Tournaments for Decades


Chris BjorinUsually in the pages of A Poker Life we give you an introduction to players who lead an interesting life on the felt and away from the table, but those pieces are more of a snapshot. To truly embody the term a poker life, a player must have played the game and won for the majority of their life. It is long-term success that most professionals in the game chase and the achievement of that goal is one of the most highly respected accomplishments amongst them.

Chris Bjorin is exactly that, a player who has supported himself with long-term success by playing poker as a career. In the way you might call a novelist prolific, or an old ballplayer a grizzled veteran, you would refer to Bjorin as a career grinder. He is a player who has seen it all as one of the first to consistently travel from England to play in major poker tournaments in the United States and win while doing it.

The Marathon Man

Bjorin has 10 pages of results on Card Player’s database pages (only a handful of players have longer lists of results than that, Phil Hellmuth for example, has 11 pages), and in those pages you will find $4,364,177 in lifetime earnings and two World Series of Poker gold bracelets. He has won 14 poker tournaments and cashed 203 times spread across the decades of his poker career.

“All my life yeah, I didn’t start playing all of those American games until the late 80’s,” said Bjorin when asked about his lifelong love affair with the game of poker (His first tournament cash on record is from 1989). He also related that even though he started playing the game of poker a long time ago that parents were even more opposed to the profession as a career when he started playing back then in his native Sweden. “I was very young; my father didn’t allow me to play poker so I didn’t play with my family. I would always play poker somewhere where my father wasn’t [laughs].”

Bjorin played a lot of poker and bet on sports a lot during his young career, and he eventually moved to London to better accommodate his main ways of earning a living. “I moved to London just over 20 years ago, but I played a lot before I moved. I bet sports and played poker in Sweden,” said Bjorin.

He spent a short time as a wine merchant but year after year, poker and sports betting have provided him with his bread and butter. “Sports’ betting takes up all the rest of my time. I bet different sports 12 months out of the year. The National Hockey League and Golf are the two biggest games that I bet on,” said Bjorin.

He now talks about the London poker scene as if it is his home, and he has grown a circle of friends in the city where he has chosen to become a regular in the cash games at the Victoria Grosvenor Casino on the West End. “You don’t want to be by yourself when you’re out playing poker. You need friends that you can socialize with, dine with, and be able to play a pot with and forget about the results after the game is over,” said Bjorin of the social circles he has run with during his career.

Chris BjorinThe Traveling Man in a New Age of the Game

Bjorin has won untold sums playing in cash games and through sports betting during his career, and he would like to keep it that way. This is for a few reasons but in this case modesty is the chief reason. One arena where his winnings are a matter of public record is in his career tournament earnings. Considering that he has won just half a million of his career earnings of over $4 million in his home country Bjorin has won most of his live tournament career earnings on the road. He is one of the European pioneers at U.S. events, joining players like Thor Hansen and Marcel Luske as the first Europeans to consistently play the U.S. tournament circuit.

“I play in the World Series, that’s the main thing,” said Bjorin. He continued, “I go to America maybe three other times during the year and I play in whatever events we have in London. Other times I play in cash games here. Lately it has been mixed games, but before that it was pot-limit Omaha.” Even though Bjorin makes it to the United States just a few times per year he makes those hops across the pond count. Bjorin is sixth on the all-time WSOP cash list with 58 cashes scored since 1991. He has also made two dozen final tables at the WSOP.

If you look at a graph of Bjorin’s tournament career the expected ebbs and valleys are present, as they are for all poker players. But just like the life line of a stock exchange the overall average is always growing. In fact, Bjorin has experienced a bit of a renaissance in the last few years.

The reason for the growth is two fold. One, there are more mixed games to chose from on the tournament circuit these days and Bjorin feasts on those events. There are also more
events at home in his native London, and as the sports betting side of Bjorin would be apt to tell you, the winning percentage of a good road team is an even safer bet when they play at home.

His best year came in 2008, when he made $532,161, but Bjorin has made more than $431,716 in each of the last four years playing tournament poker. You would be hard pressed to have him speak directly to why he has scored such an impressive level of consistent high performance during the last few years, but if you ask the right questions he divulges the reasons in his humble way. His preference is for “mixed games and cash games rather than tournaments.” And, he says he does so well in another brand of poker that has caught on lately thanks to his roots in learning the game, “Pot-limit Omaha was the first game for me,” said Bjorin.
Another big change has brought an influx of new money into the game and allowed Bjorin to achieve large results late in his career. “The internet poker is the biggest change. You wouldn’t see many poker players’ under-30 years old when I started playing poker, now 80 percent of the players are under-30 years old. That’s a big difference. There are plusses and minuses, but there is more money in poker now, which is good,” said Bjorin.

The changes have forced him to play a lot more no-limit hold’em. “I played a little bit of hold’em when it first got popular, but mainly in tournaments, not cash games. I still have a lot to learn with no-limit hold’em,” said Bjorin. He continued, “Actually I play much better tournament poker now than I used to. I’m much more concentrated now than I used to be. I guess that is where you get when you get older and have more experience.”

You might say that someone who cashed in no-limit hold’em events 14 times in the past year is getting a grasp of the game, but it is thanks to an appreciation of the journey and learning process in poker that has given him staying power in the game. “That is probably my best strength,” said Bjorin.

He is sure to stick around for many more years, and if he does so he could challenge Men Nguyen and Phil Hellmuth for the most WSOP cashes of all time at some point. You will be able to find him in the major poker tournaments across the world, but don’t look for a player who is outspoken but rather quiet. He is the Englishman from Sweden originally, who is consistently polite at the table and consistently successful on the felt.