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Ilari Sahamies Stars at The Festival Bratislava!

Ilari Sahamies Stars at The Festival Bratislava!

Ilari "Ziigmund" Sahamies is a colorful character familiar to the entire poker world. The Finnish poker legend will soon be at The Festival Series Bratislava at Banco Casino from Oct. 10-16.

Ilari sat down with PokerListings for a chat before his battle on the tables begins.

Poker Wasn’t Ilari’s First Hobby

"My first serious hobby was billiards,” Ilari shared. “There was a "Ripan Sali" in Tikkurila's Urheilutalo, where you could hit the ball. I got so good that I got two junior championship medals," says Ilari. "Even though I played billiards enthusiastically in the 1990s, unfortunately, I never got to play against the late Vesa-Matti Loir."

Ilari learned a lot about poker even before he turned 18.

"Patrik Antonius was the Primus engine of our home games, he usually got the ring together", remembers Ilari. “The poker fly bite from those games then remained in Ilari's life, permanently. When I turned 18, I immediately had to get to Casino Ray in Eteläinelle Hesperiankatu, to try live games. Finland's first gaming casino, located next to Hotel President, was very atmospheric, I liked playing there a lot. By the way, you could still smoke in the casino at that time, although no longer at the tables, but in the immediate vicinity of the tables. This resulted in us coming home every morning with our clothes smelling like cigarettes. In the beginning, success there was very varying. You didn't really win every time, but playing live was definitely developing and I was able to learn the tricks of the opponents quite quickly.”

“I remember one Bad Beat Jackpot from those days,” Ilari shared. “My four fives were lost to the Dutch opponent's four tens. I got a nice 30,000 marks for that losing hand in 2001. At that time, it was really big money for me.”

Ilari Discovers Online Poker

At the same time, Ilari and his friends also found their way to online poker.

"ParadisePoker was probably the first site I opened an account on,” Ilari mentioned. “At first, playing online seemed really difficult and I thought I wouldn't be able to do it. However, I persevered and my playing skills started to improve. When I switched to playing on PokerStars, partypoker, and 24hPoker, success began. 24hPoker's games were very important in a way, since that is where I gained a lot more self-confidence, due to me winning much more often than I lost.",

The development was fast after that and in the years 2007-2010 Ilari was a regularly seen in the biggest games online against Patrik Antonius, David Benyamine, and Tom "durrrr" Dwan, among others.

“My obvious weakness was that I only played, I didn't study the game in any other way. When the games got tougher, I should have understood that it would be impossible to survive with that strategy," admits Ilari. “Nowadays I play online poker on a couple of sites, but the biggest games are behind me. I'm clearly a better player today than I was then, but who wouldn't be. For example, against Eelis Pärss, Pauli Äyrä, Joni Jouhmai and other tough guys, I wouldn't have any chance these days."

Exactly 10 years ago, Ilari received the biggest live score of his life when he came second in EPT Barcelona. That tournament final has remained forever in the history of Finnish poker. Ilari and Joni Jouhkimainen were both at the final table, but the biggest reason for the todays memories are the funny borsalino-style hats bought from a street vendor. There were three hats; gold, silver and blue. The hats rotated on the guys' heads alternately, and enjoying refreshments was not avoided when changing hats.

Unfortunately, Mikalai Pobal from Belarus ruined Ilari and Joni's hat party and won the tournament, so Ilari finished second and Joni third.

"That €629,000 is the biggest live score of my life, and it might stay that way, hopefully one day I'll win a bigger amount from a live tournament at once", hopes Ilari.

So today Ilari plays medium limits on a couple of websites and participates in live tournaments as often as possible. Family is important to Ilar, his partner Elina and 7-year-old son Oliver bring joy to the poker icon's life.

"Oliver went to school last month, it's really great to watch the young gentleman's learning," admires Ilari.

Ilari shared about other hobbies outside of poker and billiards. Ilari is a member of the Finnish Sauna Society, and regularly visits the club's sauna in Vattuniemi, Lauttasaari.

"HIFK and Chelsea are my clubs in football and ice hockey, I won't change them,” Ilari said. “My favorite hobby is sauna and open swimming, they keep me in good shape.”

Ilari Excited about The Festival Series Bratislava

"It's really great to go to The Festival tournament week for the first time in my life,” Ilari shared. “When Martin "Franke" von Zweigbergk asked me to go, I was immediately excited. I've known Franke for more then 10 years and I've spent many fun moments with him.

I have never been to Bratislava before, and I am very interested in the city itself. I hope to find a couple of nice places to eat there since I'm unlikely to have much time left to explore the rest of the city because of all the playing," laments Ilari. "I'm going with all my heart, without a doubt, the goal is to make it in the main tournament, I'm aiming to make it to the end," plans Ilari.

This is an english translation. The original article was written by: Juhani "AdMinisteri" Tyrisevä