EPT9 London Day 4: Theo Jorgensen's brilliant return

No poker player in his right mind wants to see Theo Jorgensen coming to sit at his table. The Team PokerStars Pro from Denmark is one of the original aggro Scandis, who has been tormenting the European Poker Tour since its earliest seasons.

However, only someone entirely devoid of emotion would not have welcomed Jorgensen into the Vic card-room in London this week.

In case you hadn't heard, Jorgensen was recently the victim of a robbery in which he was shot twice in the leg. In early December, three men invaded his home in Greve, Denmark, in which his wife and two young children were also present. Jorgensen can consider himself lucky to have escaped with his life--and we are all mightily thankful that he did.

For these fairly obvious reasons, Jorgensen took some time away from poker after the robbery, missing the PCA and EPT Deauville. He spent a long period in hospital while he had his wounds treated, but as his typically assertive performance in London can attest, Jorgensen is back on the road to full health.

"Everything is fine," Jorgensen told PokerStars Blog in an exclusive interview on day four, a matter of three months since the incident. "On the first day after the operation, they were very concerned about whether I could feel anything down here, on the shin. And when I could, they weren't really that concerned anymore. They were very optimistic and I have made a full recovery."


Theo Jorgensen, on day three in London

Jorgensen confessed that the leg is still a little weak, but said that he is now working intensively with a personal trainer to minimise the build up of scar tissue and to get back fighting fit. Indeed, "fighting fit" is an appropriate phrase: his trainer is the man who also looks after the Danish super middleweight boxing champion Mikkel Kessler, who is a friend of Jorgensen's. He is hardly going easy on his poker-playing charge.

"One of the wounds got an infection, so I couldn't move the leg for 14 days, three weeks, and that created a lot of scar tissue that I'm now having a lot of trouble with," Jorgensen said, grimacing as he then mimicked the robust treatment he was enduring. "That's extremely painful when they have to massage that out."

(Note: He used a version of the word "extremely" that began with "f".)

After such an incident, though, often the physical wounds are the easiest to heal. Mercifully few people will ever know the terror of staring down the barrel of a gun, which can only be made worse by the knowledge that your two children, aged four and seven, were also not far away. But Jorgensen and his family took some time away in Thailand, and have spoken things through with professionals, and now feel confident of returning to a normal life.

"Everybody is pretty much recovered as much as we can," Jorgensen said. "My wife is very strong mentally and she's recovering very well. The kids it hasn't had any effect on at all...We still have some issues when it's dark outside, and we may feel a little more insecure whether people are following us, and we're maybe a little bit more paranoid than the normal bloke on the street. But besides that everything's fine."

The trip to London was the first time Jorgensen had been away from his family since the incident, and he admitted that as darkness fell on London in the early stages of the tournament, he couldn't help his mind wandering elsewhere.

"Obviously I've been a little concerned about how they are coping with me away, whether my wife is OK or not," he said. "She keeps on saying things are fine, but obviously my thoughts have been back home more than they normally are.

"I'm concerned with getting home as soon as possible, when I can. That definitely had an influence in the beginning. I played poorly on day one. I made some mistakes I shouldn't have done, but I got through and then the concentration got better. This has my undivided attention now."


Jorgensen wearing the game face on day two

A focused Jorgensen is a daunting prospect. His first recorded poker score is from 2004 and his first final table on the EPT was during season two, when he finished fourth behind Mats Iremark in Deauville. He won the WPT event in Paris in May 2010 (for nearly $850,000) and almost won it again last year, only being pipped heads up by Matt Salsburg. He also returned to an EPT final table in Copenhagen in January 2007, recording another fourth place finish.

But that is by no means all. Jorgensen won his first World Series bracelet in London in a £5,000 pot-limit Omaha tournament in 2008, and PLO is his standard game when he's playing online. Change the tournament filter to show only the very highest buy-in ring games and that's where you'll usually find Jorgensen, mixing it at the top.

Jorgensen's longevity is even more remarkable when viewed in the context of the ever-evolving modern game, which has grown spectacularly more volatile over the ten years he has been playing.

"You really have to adapt," he said. "I don't know if it's because I'm a Scandinavian, because I'm a Team Pro, or because they know me, but everybody is convinced I don't have anything, ever. Even if I come in with a three or a four bet. So I really have to adapt and play tighter. I can only try. But we all have to adapt.

"The game has changed. In a situation where you would normally say, well, with the stack I have, there's no way I can bust out in the next day, that has changed. I'm aware of the fact that there are three or four people on my table that cannot make me lay down a pair of queens, and I can go bust to a pair of aces or kings, pre-flop in a five or six betted pot.

"I'm going to be extremely disappointed if I bust out now, because I'm close. But I'm aware of the fact that there's a fairly big chance that it can happen. As long as you are aware of the fact that it can be over in seconds, then it's fine."


Jorgensen back among the poker stars

Jorgensen's apparent coolness belies a hunger to win that has only increased as he has grown older. And it has to be the No 1 spot these days; anything else doesn't really cut if. If he took the title in London, he would become a triple crown winner, still one of the most elusive accolades in the game.

"I'm not really concerned whether I get to be number nine or number eight," he said. "I really don't give a rat's arse about that. I'm concerned about winning. Winning an EPT title would be great. The £700,000 would be very nice as well, but it would mean a lot to win the EPT title."

For many spectators, Jorgensen just making the final table would represent a win. If that happens, another Jorgensen will be jetting into London. Theo's father is his son's biggest fan and shows up, as if by magic, whenever Theo makes it to a major final.

From the rail, he then supports his son in the way that only a father can: throwing in the occasional rub-down along the way. For instance, after Theo managed to bluff away a chip lead to John Tabatabai at a World Series of Poker final table a few years ago, his father could barely disguise his glee that he could now make the last flight home to Copenhagen.

(It's worth listening to Theo tell the story himself, as he did to WCOOP Radio from last year - starting about 1hr in.)

With Theo now among the last 15 in London, Jorgensen Snr. is primed. "He's already texting me about this," Theo said. "He's already letting me know that he *is* ready."

We are all ready, Theo. Good luck.


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Howard Swains
@howardswains in European Poker Tour