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Peter La Terra: “I don’t need good luck – I just don’t need the bad luck”

As today’s Skype adventure I am speaking to one of Swedish poker’s finest, Peter La Terra, who is patiently waiting out the plague at home in Stockholm. How has his year been? “Same same - working as little as possible, playing poker. But the last year - not so much poker.”

“I’ve been doing really good the last 18 years”

La Terra has a day job at a company that manufactures merchandise, and they’ve had a pretty good year, despite the lack of live events. In non-plague times they manufacture a lot of merch for poker tours, though - if you’ve attended a poker festival in Europe in the last few years, chances are you’ve got at least one of their hoodies in your possession right now.

Back to poker, though. “I’ve been doing really good the last 18 years,” La Terra tells me. Presumably barring the last year or so, he means, since all the casinos have been closed.

“I really don’t like online,” he goes on. “I stopped playing online about 10 years ago. The first 10 years were really nice, really good, when we had the Americans, and drunk Londoners,” - this sounds rather pointed to your London-based reporter, but I operate on the principle that  The Interviewee Is Always Right and ignore it. “But if I play now, I will play live. And especially Sviten Special, and something that we call Super Dealer’s Choice - anything you can explain, goes.” I seem to recall drunkenly playing something similar back when I was at college.

I tell La Terra that I have been reliably informed that he is the world’s greatest Sviten Special player. “I don’t know about that,” he says, “But I am currently the world champion.” This sounds suspicious. Where was that, exactly, I ask? “In Tallinn,” he says - this is now sounding more and more suspect. “OK I don’t know if you can call it a world championship, but yeah, since nobody else make us play, and Mauritz [Altikardes - The Festival Series’ own social media tsar] made a world champion Sviten event, so yeah, I guess it is.”

He really likes to play roulette, and he plays hard

I’ve seen La Terra at so many poker festivals over the years, I’d just assumed that he would be playing the €550 Main Event, but it turns out that he’s actually not that into tournaments - aside from obviously the Sviten Special event, he’s coming to The Festival in Tallinn largely for the cash games. Could he not be tempted by the roulette and blackjack events as well? “Not at all,” he says emphatically. “They’re a waste of money.” Coming from a poker background I am largely inclined to agree, but I point out that actually that’s not necessarily the case in a tournament format where you’re playing against other players rather than against the casino. “Ah, it’s still a game of luck,” La Terra insists, ever the bullish poker player - before adding, “But I’ll probably try it.”

“Sometimes when we’ve had one or two beers too many, me and a friend, one of the owners of Cash Game Festival,” - *cough* Franke *cough* - “He really likes to play roulette, and he plays hard. Really hard. So I just join him sometimes and play rough. I’ve actually had some luck!” Methinks the lady doth protest too much re. that roulette tournament.

“Yeah, I do have fun. You know, I’m not a stiff guy at the tables, sit with my headphones and my shades on - I’m talking to everybody, having a beer or two. But Franke is… a gambling guy. He likes those games.”

"At times when I’ve had nothing to write about"

I mention that Franke, mastermind behind The Festival Series, is absolute gold for me as a live reporter - at times when I’ve had nothing to write about, standing at Franke’s table for five minutes is a guaranteed source of material.

“Yeah and you don’t even have to look for him,” La Terra agrees, “You can hear where he is from his laughter.”

I strongly suspect that people who have to share a table with Franke like him rather less than those who find him entertaining from afar. “Yeah, but they like his money so he’s welcome,” La Terra quips. “He doesn’t win so much. He’s a good friend though!” he adds quickly.

Like everyone else I’ve spoken to, La Terra is enthusiastic about Tallinn as a location for a live event. “It’s really good, especially for us in northern Europe. Meet all the guys, see all the nice restaurants… Pretty much that. And especially the spa, if we’re going to Tallinn. I’m there every day. I don’t sleep so much, I don’t know why. I sleep for about five hours, and then I wake up and I go to the spa and I wait for everyone to wake up two hours, and then we’re back on it.”

Also it doesn’t hurt that Tallinn was the venue for his glorious world championship Sviten performance. “I actually won a Sviten tournament the other day,” he says, rather too casually. “Well, we’re going to have a final on Thursday. It was a league, and the 14 top players get to the final. And guess who won again.” Guess La Terra’s feeling confident about The Festival in Tallinn then? “Yeah I always do, but you need to have some luck, or you need not to be unlucky. Usually when people say good luck, I used to tell them I don’t need that so much - I just don’t need the bad luck.” Isn’t that always the way.

/Dana the Explorer