WCOOP 2014: Sami "Lrslzk" Kelopuro. Still here and still winning

For years now the username "Lars Luzak" has been a familiar one to poker players, both live and online, often being a source of irritation too, the cause of a sudden demise, or the catalyst of a "good" beat story. It belongs to Finnish pro Sami Kelopuro, who since taking to the game professionally some eight years ago, has repeatedly demonstrated an enduring talent, a perennial knack for outlasted many of his peers. By such players history is made.

Proof of that of that longevity, were it ever needed, came this week, when Kelopuro, as "Lrslzk" on PokerStars, won his first WCOOP title (another overdue accolade?), to sit alongside two already won in the Spring Championship of Online Poker, which included most famously, winning the SCOOP Main Event in 2011. Now Mr Luzak is making headlines once more, winning Event #20 on Sunday.

sami_kelopuro_ept_interview_16sept14.jpgSami "Lrslzk" Kelopuro

Kelopuro talked to the PokerStars Blog about the final table a day later, talking about what it was like from his point of view. He also spoke about the changes in both the game and his career since he started playing seriously in 2006, changes that keep him in the game today.

If you watch the highlights of the final table for yourself -- which are now available on PokerStars.tv - you get an idea of the type of contest this was, with plenty of action from all directions. You also get the overwhelming sense that Kelopuro knew what he was doing from the very start.

Q. You knocked out six players at the final - were you doing something right or were they doing something wrong?

A. Hopefully at least the first one of those options. I was pretty fortunate with the cards, I picked up a few nice spots that played themselves - for example: a pre-flop raise, a call, 3-bet shove and I wake up with pocket aces in the big blind. Doesn't take much skill to play that, and it doesn't mean anyone is doing anything wrong either.

Overall I'm happy with the way I played and I did see spot some mistakes by other players. But to be honest, knocking out so many players was partly just being lucky and running good - as it always is when you go deep in any tournament.

Q. What did you think about exactly as you knocked each of those players out?

A. Always feels good when the hands hold, and as a bonus in this tournament I got a lot of bounty dollars for knocking out so many players. I was either ahead or flipping every time too, so I didn't need to suck out on anyone either. And more importantly, not once I was in risk of busting myself. Except for in the very last hand in which it would've been close, but I did get lucky in that one. But overall, it doesn't get much better than this was.

Q. Is dominating a table something that comes naturally to you or does it depend on circumstances? Could you talk a little about how you approached the final table?

A. I don't think you should plan too much ahead or decide that much on an approach. The game flow evolves all the time.

But I do think you should dominate a table every time when it's possible. But someone else might get that idea too, and then you probably have to respond by slowing down your own game a bit. Basically, I just try to play every as good as I can.

sami_kelopuro_interview_16sept15.jpgKelopuro in action on the European Poker Tour

Switch gears as the game goes on, and respond to everything that's going on without thinking too much ahead. There are too many variables in poker to have a plan for the whole final table beforehand.

Q. You've spent the past seven or eight years in the game professionally. Lots of players drop out of the game over that time frame, or struggle to compete as new players arrive. How do you explain your ability to stay on top of the game?

A. I've managed to be successful and stay in the game for a long time, but it doesn't mean I haven't struggled some too. It does take a lot work to keep up with the game. The overall skill level has gone miles up in the eight years or so I've been around.

I do play smaller stakes than I used to and I actually have much more professional approach to the game than in the beginning. I used to just play without even selecting the games. I do select the games better now, I talk some strategy with other pros, I try to take advantage of the programs and tools out there. I used to play just NL cash, and it took some effort to learn how to play tournaments and PLO. Even though I'm still doing good it's definitely not easy anymore, and it's no wonder a lot pro's don't make it for so long.

Q. Are you focusing more on online poker rather than live? Any plans to return to the European Poker Tour for instance?

A. I've always been focusing more on online poker, and even more so lately. It's been awhile since I've played live, but I'll definitely return back to that at some point when I feel like it.

Q. Does winning a WCOOP come with any prestige? As a professional is it a significant achievement or are you simply looking to play big tournaments with the intention of winning, regardless of the tournament's name?

A. It's not such a big deal to win one of them, there is so many people with a single title like that. But if I win for example a TCOOP on top of my WCOOP and SCOOP wins it'll start to have a bigger meaning. And overall, when the amounts of the victories compete amongst the top tournament players, the titles are worth something.

But in case having just one of something that hundreds of mostly forgotten one-time-winners have, it's pretty much just about the nice payday.

Q. Lastly -- and I expect you've been asked this a lot before -- where did "Lars Luzak" come from?

A. It has in fact been asked a lot - the last time was earlier today. But that's all right, at least I don't have to struggle to come up with an answer.

It's basically just a funny name me and my friends picked up years before even playing my first hand of poker. I think it originated from a movie, although it was probably spelled a bit
differently. At some point I just started to use that as a poker nick, it seemed like perfect for that job and it has served me well.

More than well. Click here to read the full report on Kelopuro's win in Event #20 of WCOOP earlir this week. For all other details about WCOOP 2014, including tournaments, satellites, and current leader board standings (Kelopuro is currently 22nd) go to the WCOOP website.

Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.

Stephen Bartley
@StephenBartley in WCOOP