EPT12 Malta: Two very different Finns, one table

What makes Finnish people so good at poker? They only have a population of 5.5 million but can boast some of the best high stakes cash games players in the world. They have a few useful tournament players knocking around as well.

Patrik Antonius, Juha Helppi, Jani Sointula, Kimmo Kurko, Joni Jouhkimainen, Ilari Sahamies, Ville Wahlbeck, Jen Kyllonen, Mika Paasonen and Thoams Wahlroos make up the top-ten (in that order) on Finland's all-time money list. They've all been around for years and all (except Wahlroos, who prefers jumping out of planes to calling the clocks on opponents these days) remain relevant today.

For many years, the same has been said about Finnish motor racing drivers. They have more Formula One and World Rally Champions per capita than any other country and that fact spawns the discussion. An anonymous person on the internet wrote, "Some have said that the Finnish male character suits rally driving well: cool head, willingness to take calculated risks and a genetic disposition towards careering through country roads at 200 km/h."

Replace the last part of this sentence with, 'and a genetic disposition to play really big pots worth lots of money' and you could be writing about Finnish poker players.

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Sahmaies standing for his bustout hand

Jouhkimainen, Sahamies and Helppi were all in the High Roller Day 2 field and the latter two found themselves at the same table for a while. Sahamies made his name tearing up nose bleed cash games online, whereas Helppi has always been known as a live tournament player. Both have reputations as very different characters as well: Sahamies comes with a reputation for being unpredictable, with Helppi calm and considered.

Day 2 of the High Roller has seen them act a little out of character, or so it seemed from the rail. Sahamies calm and smiling, whereas Helppi went about needling a dangerous opponent in the shape of Martin Finger.

Even when Sahamies busted, everything felt serene. A Finnish colleague of ours told us that he is expecting a Christmas-time baby with his fiancé and is trying to calm his life down from his renowned partying, and accepted a "no drinking" prop bet that he's two months into. "For Ilari not to have a drink for two months is something remarkable!" he added.

His final hand came when he moved all in for around 33 big blinds with Q♣Q♠ after an under-the-gun raise and call. The action folded to Mikita Badziakouski in the big blind who paused to assess the situation. By that point, Sahamies was out of his seat and the intermittent smile across his face suggested he was enjoying the moment as if he really was living. Badziakouski shoved for a few extra big blinds and was soon heads-up and at showdown with the Finn. His K♥K♠ survived the 3♠7♠7♣2♥T♦ board and Sahamies left without saying a word and with a smile still fixed in place.


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Either side of his exit, Helppi tangled with Martin Finger in two pots and verbally needled him after each of them.

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Finger (left) & Helppi tangle

Finger was on the button and called a raise from the cutoff as did Helppi in the big blind. The flop came down 2♠K♣A♥ and Finger called a c-bet from the aggressor before Helppi check-raised. Finger was the only caller but he tank-folded after Helppi led the 2♦ turn. Helppi slid his sunglasses on to the top of his head, peered around the dealer to Finger and said, "Maybe one day you'll win a pot!"

A short while after, Finger raised from mid position and was called by Helppi on the button and the big blind. Finger continued on a A♥K♣9♣ flop and was called by both players before the T♣2♣ turn and river were checked down. Finder opened A♣9♦ for the nut flush and the dealer started pushing the pot Finger's way.

"Wait!" said Helppi, "I have clubs."

Both the dealer and Finger paused but Helppi admitted he was joking and showed A♠J♥, then added with a sarcastic tone, "Now, you won that time. Big pot!"

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The battle continues

Finger looked as if he was trying not to rise to his opponent's antics when he responded with, "Now the turnaround."

He stepped away from the table after this and we quietly asked him who was winning the mental battle. "Him! But I don't want to admit it. I'm results oriented," he answered.

Finger should take Helppi's tactics as a compliment. Have you ever heard football fans inside a stadium go after an opposition's journeyman right back? No, because they know he's never going to be a threat to their team winning.

Both players are still in with the money bubble fast approaching, details of which will be coming up on the blog.

You can watch #EPTLive coverage here, whilst everything about EPT Malta is on the main EPT Malta page. More specifically, all the side event coverage can be found here.

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Marc Convey
@The_Conv in European Poker Tour