EPT9 Monaco Day 1A: Seconds out, round three in Hellner and Northug's personal duel

As a general rule, it is wrong to stereotype. But I make an exception for those blue-eyed, blonde-haired, hurdy-gurdy-spouting dingbats from Scandinavia for two reasons: firstly because they bloody love it and can take a joke (at least they do when they're not too busy listening to death metal, playing air guitar and relishing their one-hour of sunlight per day), and secondly because the stereotypes are so darn accurate.

They really are all stunningly good looking with cheekbones you could crack a bottle on, smile all the time regardless of circumstances, and speak a load of old gibberish. That chef from the Muppets was no pastiche, it was a documentary.

Today in Monaco, a small corner of the Salle des Etoiles became the latest outpost of the nation of Scandinavia as two of their most celebrated contemporary sportsmen played out the third in a long series of head-to-head duels.

There was hurdy gurdy aplenty, and the most brightly-coloured rail of the week, as the Olympic skiing champions Petter Northug and Marcus Hellner went heads up in a 20,000 Swedish kroner (about $3,000) encounter.


Marcus Hellner, left, and Petter Northug: at home away from the snow

Northug and Hellner are two of the best cross-country skiers in the world, and they also happen to come from neighbouring countries. Northug, who is from Norway, has two Olympic golds and nine World Championship gold medals; Hellner, who is Swedish, is also a two-time Olympic champion.

They see one another all the time during the winter months (are there any other kind in Scandinavia?) but ever since they raced one another on roller-skis around the parking lot of the Palms in Las Vegas during the 2009 World Series of Poker (half-way down here), they have also been fiercely engaged in competition away from the snow and around the felt.

That contest in Vegas was one leg of a triple header, which also included a last-longer in the Main Event. In Barcelona last year, they played tennis with Boris Becker before taking on one another. They then played the EPT.

Here in Monaco, it was out onto the Mediterranean this morning for a jet-ski race. They then contested a simple heads-up game, starting with 5,000 chips and ending when Northug's A♥2♥ went runner-runner to fill the flush and end it for Hellner. Northug had also triumphed in the jet-ski race, so it means Hellner is actually drawing dead when they have another last longer in tomorrow's main event here.

The $3,000, paid by the loser of course, goes to a charitable organisation in the winner's country for the promotion of young skiers. It will be the Norwegians buying the extra lycra suits this time around.


Hellner and Northug: round three

Today's action also took place in front of the cameras of the Viasat television channel in Sweden, which broadcasts most of the major sporting events. Viasat is filming the skiers in the run up to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

In typical Scandi fashion, the television crew was dressed in some very bright primary colours: green and orange trainers, red and green trousers and the like. They were also being watched by Messiah Hallberg a Swedish journalist and comedian, whose get up was a joy to behold.

Hallberg was wearing a pink blazer, red socks and an indigo scarf, and carrying a cane. Northug and Hellner were relatively conservative in their white short-sleeved shirt (Northug) and all blue (Hellner), each with matching Converse All Star canvas boots.

Off they went after the event wrapped, hurdy-gurdying into the night. They'll be back tomorrow for that last longer, and you can get your fill of that nonsense with our Scandi host Lina Olofsson on www.PokerStarsBlog.HurdyGurdy.

A quick note on how to follow our coverage of the PokerStars and Monte-Carlo® Casino European Poker Tour Grand Final. Head to the main EPT Monaco page, where you will find hand-by-hand coverage from the tables in the panel at the top of the page, which also includes current chip counts.

Our feature coverage can be found below the panel, including the latest from the side events.