In the course of only a few weeks, one name has captured the attention of the online poker world - Isildur1. The real name behind the online poker moniker has yet to be revealed, though it has been determined that he plays from a computer in Sweden. And he plays at the highest stakes the online poker world has ever seen, competing with players like Phil Ivey and Patrik Antonius for millions of dollars and setting records for the biggest pots ever played.
Isildur1 began making waves in the high stakes online poker world in October, where he seemed to emerge from nowhere and sought to take on any player for any price at the tables of Full Tilt Poker. But it wasn’t until the beginning of the second week in November that his action was deemed newsworthy by the poker media. It was then that Isildur1 tangled with Tom “durrrr” Dwan in several long sessions at stakes that don’t often find players to sit at their tables. November 8 saw a match between the two that resulted in Dwan being down more than $1.2 million to the newcomer and another $600K the following day, all at $500/$1,000 no-limit hold’em tables. Subsequent sessions between the two on November 10 and 11 brought more success to the unknown player, as Dwan handed over approximately $1.2 million more.
In the days that followed, more players took to the felt with Isildur1, including Phil Galfond, Brian Townsend, Phil Ivey, Ilari Sahamies, David Benyamine, and Patrik Antonius. Townsend and Benyamine came out ahead, but Isildur1 seemed to handle most of the pros in the same fashion as Dwan.
But the tide turned for Isildur1 on November 16 when he lost $2.7 million to Antonius. That night, the biggest hand in the history of online poker was played, and Antonius took down the nearly $878,958.50 pot in PLO when he moved all-in on the board with against the of Isildur1. The river card showed an , which gave Antonius his straight and the win.
It only took a few days to break that pot record. It happened during another round of $500/$1,000 pot-limit Omaha between Antonius and Isildur1, and the action started with a flop. Antonius opted to push all-in with for the flopped straight, and Isildur1 called all-in holding for the draw. The came on the turn and the hit on the river, and Antonius’ hand held up to give him the $1,356,946.50 pot.
The high stakes poker continued over the next days, and games seem to be running almost every day with Isildur1 looking to take on some of the best players in the world.
It has yet to be determined that the games and the unknown number - very possibly in the thousands - of railbirds that log on to Full Tilt to see the action will have on any aspect of poker. The attraction of the audience for the games likely translates into some extra deposits to Full Tilt, possibly some new customers looking to mimic the play of high stakes players like Isildur1, but it is safe to say that no one is stepping up to the high limit tables to take part in the action other than the established pros already mentioned.
The effects of poker action involving amounts of money that most people cannot even comprehend or imagine holding in one account are likely undetectable, simply because those sums of money simply don’t exist for most people. Will this type of action entice people to play at higher levels than their bankroll dictates? Not in most cases. Players may adjust their play according to lessons learned from pots played by the high rollers, but most will probably not dump their bankrolls onto a table that could bankrupt them in a matter of minutes.
Most people understand that players like Antonius and Ivey have funds to plop down at the tables because of much more than mere poker successes; these players are reportedly paid millions of dollars to represent Team Full Tilt. While no one has been able to confirm specific sponsorship amounts, it is conjectured that several of the Full Tilt Pros make in excess of $1 million per month. That type of income allows them to lead the extravagant lifestyles - private jets, homes in Monaco, etc. - and push all-in for $1 million in a cash poker game. Thus, most people understand that they will never be Ivey or Antonius and don’t even pretend to believe they can reach that level of play.
The type of action being exhibited by players like Isildur1 is rare and comes along very rarely. People are allowed to witness the high stakes action from afar, and it makes for interesting poker when so much money is riding on each pot. But the money clearly means little to these players, and the vast majority of railbirds and poker fans see the reckless abandon with which the high rollers play. The fact that a player will risk more than $1 million on a draw is proof positive.
Many wonder if these games are good for poker or may do some damage to young players or the reputation of the game, but there is no way to measure data to confirm or deny any assumptions. The games must be taken at face value with respect for the players involved, their lifestyles and incomes, and their disregard for almost everything but the action-high and notoriety gained from playing at the aforementioned levels.
The bigger question remains about Isildur1’s identity. There have been guesses and even unconfirmed assertions by many in the poker industry, ranging from the same identity as another yet-unidentified player “martonas” to well-known players like Todd Brunson hiding under an alias. Several players have pegged him as a young Swedish player named Victor Blom; Shaun Deeb recently declared this to be so during an interview with French reporter Benjamin Gallen. Deeb not only asserted that Isildur1 is Blom but that he lives next to “martonas” and discussed hands and strategies before jumping into the games against players like Dwan. TonyG's Blog is an interesting read on the subject of Isildur1.
Barry Greenstein seemed to have a particularly specific take on Isildur1 that he posted on the PokerRoad forums. “He’s not a publically known player at this time, but he has done very well in big head-up games on European sites. He just started playing on American sites…I have a feeling you will start hearing about in live games and tournaments once he gets a little older, since he likes to play poker all the time.”
When Isildur1 does reveal his identity, he will surely gain the publicity he craves. Playing under a mysterious shroud of secrecy at the highest stakes that online poker has ever seen creates a desire from the public to discover his name and face, and in the meantime, he is the talk of poker media around the world. But he will need to keep up the high stakes action, keep from going broke, and ultimately reveal himself to be someone who can maintain the high stakes life so as not to be caught in the 15-minutes-of-fame and left out of the spotlight in the future.
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