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Ilari “Ziigmund” Sahamies

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September 29, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Professional High Stakes Poker Player Ilari SahamiesIlari “Ziigmund” Sahamies is a cash-game pro working the online high-stakes high wire, where given the massive swings, one day you can lose $600,000 and the next win $500,000. Lately, Sahamies has been winning.

As September slides into October, the Finnish native has won almost a million dollars from Tom “durrrr” Dwan in games between the two high-stakes regulars at the nosebleed limits on Full Tilt Poker.

Add this to the $800,000 he picked up last week playing in $500-$1,000 pot-limit Omaha games, also on Tilt, and it all adds up to a very good month indeed.

The twenty-seven year old was born in Helsinki, Finland in 1983, and saw his first success not at poker but at billiards, earning two Finnish junior championships while still in his teens.

He began playing poker at fifteen, having the good fortune to meet up with another soon to be well-known Finnish poker pro, Patrik Antonius, at a local billiard hall. The two became fast friends and together poker became their new obsession. Sahamies has stated that Antonius has been a very important person in his life who has helped him a lot.

By the time he was 18, he moved on to a casino in Helsinki, where he became established as a pro within two years. He has said of these days that there were big swings and that he went broke many times, but knew he would eventually prevail if his bankroll grew big enough. His game was Omaha, and he knew he was better than mostly everyone else.

Around 2003, he began playing online, and here is where the cult of “Ziigmund” was born. His style was something like Andy Kaufman channeling John Belushi and Keith Moon, and his drunken antics, outrageous chatbox insults and dizzying play fascinated rail birds.

Some claim his behavior is due to a high intake of alcohol, and he readily admits that during a four-year period, he played mostly drunk, losing close to $3 million, $700,000 on one hand alone. These days when he loses big, he attributes it to being hungover, and that he only has a few beers while he’s playing.

One example of his reckless style, videotaped when he still let his hair grow, has received close to 200,000 views on youtube. In it, Ziigmund snorts a line of salt, squirts lime in both eyes, then downs a shot of tequila. It is positively painful to watch.

In another clip of Poker After Dark, he is shown cracking up a table of pros by mimicking Phil Ivey right to his face. Ivey, to his credit, just laughs off the impersonation.

It was when he made his debut at Full Tilt around 2006 that he rose up to play at the highest online stakes. He was truly an enigma, seemingly showing up out of nowhere to challenge the best of the best in PLO games, haranguing and harassing all in equal measure, talking trash, being childishly insulting, all the while displaying a kind of dizzying brilliance in his game. He kept people guessing, and he kept on winning.

Here is a quote from Ziigmund himself that sums up his attitude, “Playing it safe will never get you to the top. More important is that you have the balls to bet at the right time. If you want to succeed you need to have a gamblers attitude.”

Update 04/04/2011

After finishing 2010 down over $2 million, Finland’s second most popular player (after Team Full Tilt pro Patrik Antonius) continues on a massive downswing online. In September, 2010 Ziigmund was up over $1 million; since then, his cooler has caused him to drop more than $3 million. Sahamies’ luck hasn’t improved in the first three months of 2011; he is down another $300,000 over that period of time.

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