Baltic Festival: A sporting chance

Baltic-blog.pngThe debate as to whether tournament poker qualifies as a sport is one that will continue to rumble as long as cards are shuffled. But one thing not up for discussion is the appeal this most competitive pursuits holds for established stars of more familiar sports. There has been a steady stream of footballers, tennis players, basketball players, hockey players, snooker players, etc., etc., migrating to the poker tables, most waiting until their careers are over - but not always.

Here in Tallinn is no exception. The main draw today is the Team PokerStars Pro SportStar Mats Sundin, an undisputed legend of the hockey rink, who has recently hung up his skates on one of the most decorated careers in the NHL.

After being a first round draft pick for the Quebec Nordiques in 1989, Sundin's 18-year NHL career took him most famously to the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he became the all-time leading point-scorer and goal-scorer of the franchise, as well as holding the record for the longest home scoring streak: 15 games in 2007. He also has the league record for most overtime goals and is 25th on the list of all-time league point-scorers. Phew.

Sundin spent 10 years as captain - he is referred to habitually as "Captain" Mats Sundin - and was picked for the NHL All Star team on nine occasions. There are more accolades too numerous to mention.


Mats Sundin

Although he missed out on a Stanley Cup winner's ring, he has the not-insignificant compensation of an Olympic gold medal, won with Sweden in Turin in 2006, and three World Championships. In all, he played 65 times for his country and scored 77 points. As if that's not enough to be impressed by, he's also going to donate any money he makes from poker to charity. What's not to love?

Watch Pokerstars Baltic Festival: Mats Sundin in Tallinn to Play Poker on

Also in today's field, although sadly departed in the early levels, was the "Flying Finn" aka the world Formula 1 Powerboat champion Sami Selio. Selio talked to our video blog team yesterday, and it's always good to hear the details from the horse's mouth, so tune in below.

Watch PokerStars Baltic Festival: Sami Selio in Tallinn on

For those watching in text alone, here's the rundown: Seli is one of the biggest names in the high-octane world of powerboat racing, where vessels fly across the water at more than 150mph. He won the world title in 2007, the first person from Finland ever to do so, but obviously doesn't find even that ride thrilling enough, which means he's taken to the poker tables.


Sami Selio

His debut in the Baltics didn't last too long, unfortunately, and he was seen powering back to the lakes within the first couple of hours. But remember the name and avoid the jetstream. He'll be back.

Also once in the field but now on the rail was the Lithuanian canoeist Alvydas Duonėla, who has three World Championship medals in the K-2 class. He stopped by long enough to have his photo taken, but again his stay around the tables was brief.


Alvydas Duonėla

We're not done for sports stars though. Kenneth Carlsen is the best tennis player Denmark has produced in the modern era, breaking into the top 50 for a good portion of his career and winning three ATP titles between 1998 and 2005. Those successes tend to be overlooked by another record, however. From 46 appearances at Grand Slam events, he was knocked out in the first round 30 times, which is a record for any player. Full marks for longevity, even if that's not really a statistic that most player would like to remember.


Kenneth Carlsen

Will Carlsen have the last laugh, though? Of all the former sport stars playing today, he has the most chips. As he went for his dinner break at the end of level three, Carlsen left behind 12,000 chips, which is 5,000 more than Sundin has at present, and 12,000 more than all the others.

Tournament housekeeping: Today's larger field meant the dinner break had to be staggered. The first half of the field went for their nourishment about 20 minutes ago, at the end of level three, and the second half will tag-team them when they return. There are 139 players still in, from a starting field of 177 today, the larger portion of a two-day total of 309. That produced a prize pool of €309,000, and how it will be allocated is now being decided by the tournament officials.

Notable names missing: Jeff Sarwer is missing, presumed out. And we're not even totally sure that Tony G played because his participation was so brief. He'll be hanging around for the High Roller event, no doubt, but his Main Event was done in the blink of an eye.

Selected approximate chip counts are on the chip counts page. As ever.

Howard Swains
@howardswains in Baltic Poker Festival