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Steven “BlindGuy789” Iglesias talks Tallinn, Twitch & His Trusty Assistant Daniel

Steven “BlindGuy789” Iglesias talks Tallinn, Twitch & His Trusty Assistant Daniel

With satellites for The Festival in Tallinn now running every Sunday, Franke obviously has been streaming his own highlights - but, as entertaining as his efforts are, if you’re looking for something truly remarkable, you need to check out Steven “BlindGuy789” Iglesias’ stream over on Twitch.

Just your average young Norwegian poker pro

Through the early 2010s, Steven was just your average young Norwegian poker pro, making a pretty decent living as an online cash game specialist. However, in 2014 a rare genetic disorder caused him to lose his sight - and also, for a while, his career. “I had a professional poker career when I had eyesight,” Steven tells me, “So when I lost my eyesight I stopped playing for almost two years - before I met Daniel, my friend that I am streaming together with. And that’s when I started to play poker again, around 2015 or 2016.” Daniel also travels with Steven to live poker festivals around the world, and with his assistance Steven has racked up an impressive collection of tournament cashes over the past few years, which has worked out well for both of them - Daniel gets 20% of Steven’s winnings as payment for his assistance.

A fortuitous sequence of events brought Daniel and Steven together. “I met Daniel through my ex-girlfriend, actually!” Steven volunteers cheerfully - indeed, he’s so good-natured, it’s hard to imagine there’s any rancour there. “I met the sister of my ex-girlfriend in the gym when I was working out after losing my eyesight for the first time - I became friends with her and then I met my ex, and through my ex I met Daniel.” The romantic relationship ultimately didn’t last, but more than five years on, Steven and Daniel’s unusual poker partnership is still going strong.

Daniel is my eyes

Daniel and Steven at the poker table
Daniel and Steven at the poker table

So how does poker actually work when the player can’t see the cards? “So when we play,” Steven explains, “Daniel is an assistant that tells me what’s going on at the tables - he’s my eyes, basically. So I’m the brain, he’s the eyes - he’s telling me what’s going on, he’s telling me all the information I need to make decisions. So he’s not impacting the game in any sense. I’m the one doing every decision.”

Daniel’s job is to provide Steven with sufficient information to make those decisions.  “First of all,” he says, “We label all the players with colour labels - so I know if it’s a good player, or, um, let’s say, a recreational player, who plays for fun.” His language is diplomatic, but Steven’s not messing around. “So the way we do it,” he continues, “Is Daniel tells me, ‘OK, a regular,’ - so that’s a good player - ‘Is opening in first position, and it’s folded to you on the button and you have AK offsuit.’ And then we continue, so he says, ‘Small blind fold, big blind fold; OK - heads up. And then he tells me the board, and then the action again: ‘He checks to you - option?’ And then I tell him what to do again. And if there’s any questions, I always have to ask, because it’s very important to get all the information out.” It translates into an amazingly detailed, informative and entertaining Twitch stream.

I don’t remember everything

I am interested to know how much information Steven mentally keeps track of while playing - does he keep a running tally of stack sizes around his table, for example? “Er, no,” he laughs, “I’m not that crazy! I don’t remember everything - I have to ask Daniel. Especially when it comes to stack sizes - he’s always telling me the stack sizes, because it’s very important, and it’s changing all the time in tournaments. And we also play up to seven tournaments at the same time - so it’s impossible for me to remember everything, and he has to constantly tell me all the information there is.” Daniel, on top of being Steven’s eyes, often plays several tables of his own on the side while they’re streaming. ‘So I’ll maybe be playing five tables, and he’s got another two on the side. That’s very impressive actually,” Steven says approvingly.

Steven and Daniel while they stream together
Steven and Daniel while they stream together

Daniel also needs to maintain a poker face

There are a lot more restrictions on Daniel at live events, naturally. “So when we play live, he’s basically telling the action on the table - what people are doing. It’s very uncomfortable if Daniel is telling me, like, yeah now he’s shaking and he’s nervous…” Steven chuckles. “...Yeah, those type of things are not allowed.” Daniel also needs to maintain a poker face, which I imagine is tricky if Steven’s picked up a big hand or is on an outrageous bluff. Has Daniel ever accidentally given information away?  “No! It’s very surprising that it hasn’t,” says Steven. “You would think that there’d be a couple times when Daniel did something he’s not supposed to - but no, he’s been very good at this job. It’s very impressive.”

Back in 2007 when Hal Lubarsky became the first blind player to compete in the WSOP, he had to fight for an exemption to the one-player-to-a-hand rule. Pleasingly, it sounds like access has improved since then. “We get the best seat, next to the dealer, and usually there’s no problem,” Steven says. “The assistant has rules to follow, of course - they have to just tell the action and is not allowed to influence the game. Yeah,” he sums up, “I would say it’s pretty smooth sailing. Particularly in Vegas, and in Tallinn. I play in Tallinn a lot actually - it’s pretty nice there.” He doesn’t mention it, but Steven has racked up some decent cashes in Tallinn, including the Coolbet Open, MPNPT High Roller and Kings of Tallinn Main Event.

Steven’s Sundays are sorted for the next few months - he’ll be trying to satellite his way to a €1,600 full package to The Festival in Tallinn: “So far I’ve played one, but the plan is to play 19 more Sundays, so yeah - a lot of opportunities to win a package.” If you fancy trying your skills against Steven - with Daniel’s expert assistance, of course - join him online every Sunday at 19:00 CET on Coolbet, Paf or Guts.

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