Viktor Blom - Isildur1

August 2011 cover

01 August 2011

Towards the end of October 2009, a mysterious force of nature known as Isildur1 ambushed the high stakes tables at Full Tilt, scattering the regs in his wake. His target seemed to be durrrr whom he proceeded to demolish in a matter of days, taking $5 million from the then undisputed king of heads up NLH and leaving the online poker community in shock. Isildur1’s style was hyper-aggressive.

Relentlessly barrelling and over-betting with a perfect balance of bluffs and value bets, he seemed to be redefining the game of poker as he went along. He looked to be unstoppable, but his fall was as tragic as his rise had been meteoric. A combination of ubris, tilt and PLO eventually ended Isildur’s run, and it drove us mad, because we still didn’t know who he was. Now, having emerged from the shadows, Viktor Blom, for the very first time in an English-speaking magazine, talks to us about the rise and fall of Isildur1.

How did you first discover poker, Viktor? How did you go from being just some online player to being one of the best in the world?

Through my friends, and just by playing the game and always trying to improve. No books or forums or discussions. I always felt I was good and have always wanted to improve, so I just held on to that all the time.

You started out as Blom90 on the iPoker network. Tell us the story of the Blom90 bankroll. What stakes were you playing? How long did it take you to build it up, until you could take a shot at the nosebleeds on Full Tilt?

I deposited $2k.This was really my only money. If I lost this I would have to go and do something else. After I got the money and deposited, I went out to a chill place and sat down for an hour and thought how it had to be done, what I had to do, which stakes and so on. I chose multi-tabling NLHU. I just played every regular that gave multi-tabling action.

After two to three weeks I smashed every level and now I had a bankroll of $2M and I was playing $100-$200 daily. A standard day around that time could be 15 hours, doing nothing else besides playing. I was in the zone. When I’m really in the zone I like to play a lot, and when I’m not playing a lot, I like to just chill and do other things I enjoy in life. A while after that, I was the biggest winner at four different European sites that year.

Do you remember a moment where you thought, “I can be the best in the world at this game?”

About that time I was tired and sitting and waiting for action, so I deposited a lot on FTP, where I had been told I would find quite a bit of action and regulars needed to be sent broke. At this point I was certain I was the best NLHU player on this planet. $200-$400 had been the highest stakes, so it felt kind of cool to be playing $300-$600 and $500-$1,000. I felt it really was high, and I’d never played that high before, but still that was just good and I managed to play even more focused, and most of the regs played very nitty and it was easy barreling. I felt I had an advantage against every opponent in NLHU.

Tell us what you remember of the initial massive session with durrr. You won $3m in three days. What do recall about that session? How long were you playing, etc.

Yes, we played some intensive marathon sessions. I remember one was 18 hours, then you get some sleep and then you continue. It was a battlefield. I felt he had some game and that he had played a ton of
hands, but he played too passive sometimes, and probably thinks he’s some kind of god when he calls a 4-bet from me with 10-5 suited! But I admire his game and it was the one of the toughest sessions I ever played.

It’s obviously not about the money for you. You didn’t have to play against Tom Dwan and Phil Ivey – you could have made lots of money playing at lower stakes against worse players. Is it just about proving you’re the best?

I will always try to play against the toughest opponents. I always want to improve my game and I like the thrill and the challenge in a really tough game.

Why did you decide to multi-table Ivey, Dwan and Antonius at the same time? Surely that’s not plus-EV…

Because I knew I was better at NLHU and I was in the zone. I thought it was maybe more profitable playing one at time, but still profitable to play them together, and I liked the challenge. Since Ivey and Antonius wouldn’t play as many tables as durrr and I didn’t know how much durrr had online, I took the decision that this would be the best game.

Were you amused by the speculation about your identity? Did you enjoy it?

No, I wasn’t. I was young and I felt I didn’t need it and I hated media.

Why did you choose to stay anonymous for so long? And why did you decide to “come out” and join Team PokerStars?

My life was good. I had a million-dollar flat that was amazing and I could hang out with my childhood friends and girlfriend. Life was just good at that time and I couldn’t ask for anything more. But I decided to join Team PokerStars because I felt I needed a new challenge. I wanted to improve my live game. Things had changed and people weren’t willing to play NL HU on the internet as much as before. I just felt right doing this and it has always being a dream for me signing with Team PokerStars. They are the best site by far.

To what do you attribute your first downfall? Running bad? Bankroll management?

Pot Limit Omaha. I played my very first hand just one year before and I only played against two regs before at $100-$200 blinds and they were better than me. After maybe 1,000 hands I started playing Omaha at $100-$200 because I needed some action when regs wouldn’t play me at NL. There were still was only two regs that would play me and that was quite strange. I guess they didn’t know I was a fish in that game or maybe not so many of them played Omaha back then, I don’t know.

I also was in bad shape. A few years before I was playing soccer, going to the gym – everything – but I’d been too lazy and, at that time, I wasn’t doing any sport regularly and I didn’t eat healthy food or sleep much. I regret that a lot. I felt it had something to do with my tilt sometimes.

How does it feel to lose $5million?

Not good the way it went down, but I still felt OK and could do some other things in life that I enjoyed, and after a little while I didn’t think about it much.

Describe your relationship with money. Do you value money?

I do, but every good player has to risk his bankroll though to improve.

As someone who remained in the shadows for so long, how do you feel about your celebrity / notoriety? Do you shy away from it? Is there anything you enjoy about it?

Mostly people recognise me at poker tournaments and I haven’t been playing too many, so it’s fine, but I’m a private person so I’m not always going to want to chat to strangers. Where I live now, in London, people don’t recognise me at all, and I really like that.