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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

Where Are They Now – Ilari “Zigmund” Sahamies

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Where are They Now is a series of an in depth look at all poker players - not just the pros - as they travel through one long game. Some of the players profiled are deceased but not forgotten.

The first time I saw Ilari “Zigmund” Sahamies was during the Game Show Networks “High Stakes Poker.”  Shortly after that I also saw him on NBC’s “Poker After Dark.”  Two things came to my mind when I first saw him.  The first was that I had never heard of him, mainly because he’s known for being a cash game player, but still, I was a bit embarrassed, as he obviously already had a pretty devoted following once I did some research on him.  The second thing I thought was that he looked like a monk.  He had a completely shaven head, and was wearing a hooded sweatshirt that sat on his shiny dome like a frock.  

What I quickly realized though is that he surely didn’t have the mouth of a monk.  It seems that most of the time when a group of well known professionals get together to swap millions of dollars over a high stakes poker game they usually have a common respect for each other.  Sahamies on the other hand seems to enjoy the trash talking, some say too much, but it has worked in his favor more times than not.  Over the last couple of months he has been in the news quite a bit for his chat box shenanigans.  What he says is a joke, has ruffled the feathers of his fellow-pros.  However, as you will see there is much more to Sahamies than his mouth.

Ilari Sahamies was born in Helsinki, Finland in 1983.  As a young child he was not only interested in sports, but good at a number of them.  He was very big for his age when he was in his early teens, and that helped him to excel in basketball.  On top of playing basketball, he also enjoyed wrestling, soccer, and diving.  When he got to be a teenager he still enjoyed doing these things, but he found he was less interested in sports and more interested in the local pool hall.  

During this time Sahamies interest in school began to wane, because the prospect of making a few dollars hustling pool games appealed to him more than studying.  When he was around 15, he was playing pool one day and a guy a few years older than him (that was shooting pool with him) asked Sahamies to join him for a home poker game.  That older teen was none other than Patrik Antonius.

After being introduced to the game of poker, he took to it immediately, and as soon as he was old enough he began going to Casino Helsinki, following the same path as his mentor Antonius.  At first Sahamies was in awe of the table games, and sometimes before he even sat down at a poker game, which was his intention, he would lose all of his money playing Roulette, Blackjack, or Craps.  When Sahamies did find his way to the poker table he would have success, and eventually it dawned on him that if he could stay away from the table games he could do pretty well.  

Sahamies took an immediate liking to the game of Pot Limit Omaha. For starters he believed that during that particular era of the game, most people playing it were very bad.  He also liked the excitement of the game.  The swings were so dramatic, and because of his desire for action, he wouldn’t want it any other way.  During this time period he was suffering at school, so much so he was threatened with expulsion, which meant he wouldn’t graduate high school.  Even though Sahamies had no desire to attend college, he thought it would be smart to buckle down the last few weeks before graduation.  He passed by the skin of his teeth.

About a year or two after graduating, Sahamies sole source of income was from live poker games.  In 2002 he began to deposit money into a number of poker websites, but because he had no sense of bankroll management, his online accounts would go busto time and time again.  Much like he had to cut table games out in his early casino days, he now had to learn to use something resembling bankroll management.  To this day he admits that he has never really stuck to bankroll management by the true definition, but if he wanted to move up in limits one day, he realized he should try to implement some kind of control, and move up he did.

“Zigmund” first showed up on Full Tilt in 2006, where he quickly moved up to the highest stakes, while at the same time becoming one of the most sought after targets for “railbirds.”  Not only did online spectators enjoy watching his fearless playing style, but they also got a chuckle from his banter in the chat box.  Here was a then-mysterious figure, playing in the highest PLO games online against the likes of Antonius, Phil Ivey, and Gus Hansen, and not backing down one bit, and even talking trash.  One of Sahamies favorite targets has been Hansen.  Recently asked in an interview if he regrets anything he ever said, and he said yes in regards to something he said to Hansen.  He was indeed so embarrassed by his comments that he asked his interviewer not to print them.  If you really want to find those comments, among other not so kind remarks he has made against his opponents, they are widely available on various internet forums.  

Sahamies says that he does the chat just for fun, and that he never means anything by it.  However, his chat seems to coincide with when he is tilting, which of course makes sense.  In a number of epic sessions over the years Sahamies has lost over one million dollars in a matter of minutes.  Another reason he has said he’s lost so much in so little time was because he used to play a number of sessions drunk or hung over.  Again he says he doesn’t play online anymore while he’s drunk, but he will still drink while playing live because he sees that as more of a social event, as most of his time is now spent playing online.  At the same time he won a million dollars in a matter of minutes.  In October 2008, playing against Hansen and Ivey, he won $1.7 million, which at the time was one of the largest amounts to ever change hands in one session.

Just recently Sahamies began playing in tournaments on a regular basis.  In 2009 he had two big scores.  In January of 2009 Sahamies finished second in a tournament in his native Helsinki that saw him walk away with $170,434.  In September of 2009 he made a final table appearance at the High Roller Event on the European Poker Tour in London, winning $117,804.  Despite these successes at No Limit Poker, and appearing on various episodes of “Poker After Dark” and “High Stakes Poker,” Sahamies insists that he’s a fish in these games.  When he was talking about one of his appearances on “High Stakes Poker” he told the interviewer that he was “by far the worst player at the table.”  Fans of his disagree, saying not only is he one of the best PLO players in the world, but that he is also one of the better NL Hold’em Players as well.

Sahamies, along with fellow Finnish poker professional Sami Kelopuro, run the poker website CoinFlip.com.  Sahamies loves the poker equivalent of a coin flip, or putting all your money on the line in a hand before you even get your cards, once getting Ivey to agree to $80,000 coin flips.  Sahamies is also a sponsored professional at PowerPoker, but can still be seen on Full-Tilt regularly, playing the highest stakes games available.  

*Read Billy Monroe's Blog*

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