Baltic Festival: Stars packed on one table

Baltic-blog.pngWe've said this is a star-studded field today, but we really didn't appreciate just how twinkling it was. I have just handed a list of notable players to our already overwhelmed photographer that dribbled onto two full sides paper.

As the day progresses, we'll do our best to introduce all the runners and riders in what is now confirmed as the biggest poker tournament to be held in these parts. But for the time being, we can just focus on one table, which is an effective microcosm of the nature of this field.

The table in question is number five, and the most instantly-recognisable face there is that of the Team PokerStars Pro Johnny Lodden. Not only is his visage plastered across the banners in the hotel, but it is seared into the consciousness of anyone who has either played or watched poker in Europe over the past few years.


Johnny Lodden

Lodden has a reputation as one of the most fearless and fearsome players, both live and online, and within the first here he has proved why. In less than one level, Lodden took his starting stack of 10,000 up to at least 25,000. All that was required was one ace-king, one set of deuces, and a reputation that makes everyone always think you're bluffing, and Lodden is our early chip leader.

Two of the players to suffer at Lodden's hands are also on our radar of notables. One is the Finnish professional, Fredrik Nygard, who made an EPT final table in Prague last year, and the other is a Norwegian film star and director, named Aksel Hennie, who is gathering accolades across Europe for his screen work on either side of the camera. Little is known of Hennie's poker-playing prowess, but Norwegian newspapers and the film festival circuit has been showering him with awards for several years.

Also on that table is another familiar poker face, and another star of the screen. In the former category, it's the Swedish professional Patric Martenssen, making a welcome return to tournament poker. He was a stalwart of the early EPT seasons, making countless deep runs through some of the toughest fields. Although we haven't seen him in a while, he is still instantly recognisable: towers of chips and wild hair poking from beneath a baseball cap.

The second screen star is the Norwegian comedian Morten Ramm. If Norwegian slapstick is your bag, you could do a whole lot worse than Ramm, who was voted Comedian of the Year in 2008 and is an integral part of the Senkveld i Nydalen show on Norwegian screens. I know you've got the DVD box-set.

That's not a bad little line up. Stay tuned for more.

Tournament housekeeping: We're half way through level two and the tournament board is showing that 179 players joined the fray today. There's still another half an hour for late registrations, but even if that's our final number, it means 309 players played over two days. That, folks, is a record for tournaments in these parts.

In terms of early action, the Team PokerStars Pro Katja Thater had an early escape from a hand that could have turned very nasty. Thater picked up pocket queens on the very first hand of the day, made a standard raise and got two callers.


Katja Thater

The board came 6-6-7 and after one of the callers led out, Thater raised, and the player behind flat called. "Oh oh," thought Thater, especially after the other player and her both called. The turn was a jack and the first two checked. A hefty bet persuaded her that she was now behind and she laid down her ladies, losing 1,500 first hand. It could have been more, however.

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Howard Swains
@howardswains in Baltic Poker Festival