EPT12 Barcelona: Norwegians take over Saturday Stack event for Vi Menn Open

We were remarking earlier this week about Spaniards winning their fair share of silver spades, the sort of thing one expects the host country of a European Poker Tour stop to do. Spaniards have been well represented in all of the events, although interestingly nearby France put the most players in the EPT Barcelona Main Event this year with 162 participants out of the record-smashing field of 1,694.

Looking at lists of those registered for today's events, there's one in particular -- the €200 "Saturday Superstack" (Event #63) -- for which the nationalities breakdown presents something a little out of the ordinary.

There were 344 signed up for this one, and after they just returned from a break a little over 100 of them are still with chips. Just over 60 of those on the original list of participants were Spaniards, and France was well represented again with 36.

But what's this? The most represented nation in the event -- by far -- is... Norway?!? With 106 players!

No, it's not some freakish anomaly, but the second "Vi Menn Open" in which Norwegian players select a particular EPT event to enter, creating a unique opportunity to come together in a reunion-like atmosphere to enjoy each other's company and the game which for them creates a common bond.

Named for one of Norway's most popular magazines, the first Vi Menn Open took place at EPT London last season, where a £200 deepstack NL event was chosen. The total field for that one comprised 238 entrants, with about 85 Norwegians taking part and three making the final table -- Ronny Reppe (who finished fourth), Bjorge Storflor (fifth), and Anders Mora (ninth).

Both Reppe and Storflor were back for today's Vi Menn Open. 2014 WSOP runner-up Felix Stephensen had planned to play, but was still in the High Roller. Several other notable Norwegians did, though, including 2012 WSOP Main Event 11th-place finisher Elisabeth Hille, Team PokerStars Pro Johnny Lodden (fresh off his 111st-place finish in the EPT Main Event) and his father Odd Lodden, famous singer Tone Damli Aaberge, current Norwegian champion Jonathan Spaeren, and the "Godfather" of Norwegian poker, two-time WSOP bracelet winner Thor Hansen.


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Thor Hansen

The gathering is somewhat analogous to the ever-itinerant Norwegian Championships that interestingly takes place outside of Norway each year. As Lodden wrote about in a blog post last year titled "Norwegian Family Reunion," poker players in Norway can play online but in fact cannot play live, which necessitates traveling elsewhere to stage their poker championships. Since 2008, the Norwegian Championships have been held in England, Latvia, and for the last four years in Dublin, Ireland.

That will be changing this fall, however, as after a great deal of effort a special three-year license has been obtained from the government in Norway for the Norwegian Championships to be hosted in Oslo. Starting this October there will be five qualifier events in Norway, all feeding into the events of the Norwegian Championships that will be held November 18-24. It's an exciting prospect for Norwegian players, as Lodden spelled out in his post.


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Team PokerStars Pro Johnny Lodden

Last night many of the group convened at the Coconut Club located right next to the casino to enjoy themselves. Mats Ulshagen, digital editor of Vi Menn, was on hand.

"This is fantastic," said Ulshagen of the turnout and excitement surrounding the event. "It shows how big Norwegian interest in poker is. We'll be back doing this in Barca every year."

We'll keep watch on the Saturday Stack to see how many Norwegians are able to make it through to this Vi Menn Open final table. However they do, the plan is for the party to continue tomorrow with a big group of them planning to go jetskiing and further enjoy Barcelona.

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Martin Harris is Freelance Contributor to the PokerStars Blog.