Who the f$$k is Isildur1?
Tuesday, 12 January 2010
Towards the end of October, a mysterious entity known as “Isildur1” ambushed the Full Tilt tables and sent shockwaves through the online poker community. Within the space of a few days, he was playing some of the biggest names at the highest stakes available, often seated with the max and playing up to eight tables simultaneously.
Armed with an unrelenting, super-aggressive style, his target seemed to be durrrr, whom he proceeded to demolish in a matter of days, before turning his attention, amongst others, to Phil Ivey, Ilari Sahamies and Patrik Antonius.
Table selection and bankroll management seemed alien to him, and, by mid-November, just a couple of weeks after storming the scene, Isildur was showing a profit of $5,455,477 and had already played more hands in November than Ivey, LarsLuzak and Ziigmund had accumulated throughout the entire year. This was being touted as “the greatest rush in history” and Isildur was the “sickest player ever to have graced the virtual felt”. Yet we knew nothing about him other than that he was a Lord of the Rings fan with a Swedish IP address. Just who was this masked man?
As to the initial appearance of Isildur on FullTilt, sometime in mid-September, we are indebted to the blog of high stakes player Haseeb "DogIsHead" Qureshi:
Isildur first showed up on Full Tilt around 25/50 NLHE. I don’t know who the first person he played was, but I remember hearing about him from some 25/50 grinders who had played him or had seen him around. The word was that Isildur was the new semi-reg on the block. Supposedly, he was hyperaggro, barreled like a monkey, and was really easy to get to stick his stacks in.
About a week later I was sitting at tables without any action when Isildur showed up at one of my 25/50 NL tables… As the match progressed, all of what I’d heard about him being hyperaggro and barrelly (sic) checked out, but as I watched the lines he took to bluff, value bet, and the way he reacted to my betting patterns, he seemed uncannily perceptive. Nevertheless, within the first hour or so I had won about 30k and was feeling pretty confident. He sat out on all of the tables and I assumed that the match was over and was about to check out. But about a minute later he said “brb,” and so I decided to wait for him and continue the match.
From that point, I started losing…
Isildur took around $500k from Qureshi and moved higher. As the chatter surrounding Isildur grew, Partrik Antonius reportedly stepped up to the plate and sent the young upstart shot-taker scuttling, but soon Isildur was back, jostling with the likes of Cole South, Brian Hastings and Brian Townsend in both PLO and NL. During that time, he took around $700k off South and lost small amounts to Hastings and Townsend. But what amazed the high stakes regs. was how quickly Isildur was learning and adjusting to them, becoming a better player before their very eyes.
And then durrrr entered the fray.
The railbirds scented blood. The King of Online Poker had arrived to silence the Young Pretender. Soon, the natural order of the things would be restored. Except that wasn’t quite the case.
Thousands of onlookers watched on FullTilt as, in the course of a few days, and over thousands and thousands of hands, Isildur tore Dwan apart. The two players began six-tabling at 300/600NL, then at $500/$1,000. In a four-day session, Isildur won more than $3 million from Dwan, and ended $5.2 million up in total from their entire confrontation, which resumed a few days later. The poker world was reeling.
And Isildur was ready for anything.
None of us “rail-tards” can really understand how good a player Isildur1 is. So much of what we’re seeing takes place on a level of stratospheric of meta-thinking beyond our comprehension. Patrik Antonius, however, who knows a thing or two about stratospheric meta-thinking, takes up the story: “He’s taken the game to a new level, in the way that Dwan did. He’s playing six tables and super-aggressively on all, putting you to huge decisions. He’s so talented and he’s adjusted so much since I first played him.”
In the FullTilt webcast from which we pinched the quote, Patrik also hints that never before, not even during his mammoth sessions with durrrr, had he felt the need to print off and study his hand histories – until he met Isildur1. This was how much Isuldur was shaking the boat.
To Haseeb Qureshi, though, Isildur was much more – he was a Promethean figure, stealing fire from the gods.
I began to realize that durrrr represented something else to me in this match. He represented more than just a vicarious avenger. In fact, he was more than just Tom Dwan, more than just a single poker player, who one can choose to like or dislike. Durrrr represents something else, something much larger… to me, durrrr represents my generation. He represents my hierarchy. He represents the entire empire of the Western poker world.
Qureshi was in shock; his illusions were shattered, his hero destroyed, his world turned upside-down.
Meanwhile, feeling invincible, Isildur was multi-tabling Phil Ivey, Patrik Antonius and durrrr at the same time – durrrr on two tables and Ivey and Patrik on three each.
Who the f$$k is Isildur?
To begin with, no one seemed to know, certainly not the high stakes regs. Ziigmund even theorised at one point that he might be some kind of new technological breakthrough bot. But initial rumours suggested “Martonas”, a similarly hyper-aggressive unknown with a Swedish IP address, who had popped up from time to time at the nosebleed stakes, taking a shot before blowing the lot. Then word on the forums began to grow that Isuldur1 was a 20-year-old Swede named Viktor Blom, living in Gothenburg. The name kept popping up, and a trusted source told us that, while he had never met the guy in person, he was 99.9% sure that Isildur was Viktor. There we are, we thought. After all, there’s no smoke without fire. Except that, with Isildur, that isn’t true. With Isildur, smoke is all there is.
Viktor had enjoyed a lot of success six-tabling as Blom90 on the iPoker network and seemed to fit the bill, so we contacted him, offering him a “mystery-man” style interview, assuring him that we’d preserve his anonymity – the Swedish tax laws on gambling winnings are punitive and an obvious reason to remain in the shadows.
“I am not the one you are looking for. Keep searching,” came the teasing reply.
“Do you want to do an interview about how you’re not Isildur?” we asked hopefully.
Viktor didn’t write back.
Then, just to muddy the waters a little more, another source we trusted said that Viktor was not Isildur, but he was, in fact, Martonas, although Viktor did live next door to Isildur. And they’re not from Gotheburg, they’re from Uddevalla. This thing just got weirder. Then someone piped up on a forum that there were two Viktor Bloms in the area and that we had approached the wrong one. This was nonsense, of course, because said poster did not know how and when we approached “our” Viktor, so how could he know which Viktor we approached?
As a magazine in search a man-of-the-moment front cover, it was quickly becoming a searing headache. You could almost imagine that Isildur himself was behind all the whispers, cloaking himself in smoke, taunting us at every turn. It was clearly no coincidence that Isildur’s FullTilt avatar is that of a ninja, face veiled but for a pair of mean eyes staring out arrogantly.
Meanwhile, our colleagues in the States were also on the case but were having better luck. They had approached Isildur through a third party and it looked like he was ready to spill the beans, under the proviso, of course, that he could remain anonymous.
“So it’s not Viktor?”
They didn’t think so.
“Great,” we thought, “we can do a cool cover of a shadowy, hooded figure, or a ninja with Swedish-blue eyes, and the legend ‘Isildur Speaks’ plastered across the front page. That’ll shift some mags!
Then we got the call: “Isildur won’t talk to anyone. He’s broke.”
The trail had gone dead.
Isildur’s hubris, much like that of his Tolkien namesake, had apparently destroyed him. It started with Ivey and Antonius, who took just over $3 million between them, and finished with Ziigmund, who nicked the rest by himself. As quickly as it had started, and as exhilarating as it had been, over the course of a few days, Isildur’s $6 million rampage was at an end. A hold’em genius, he had gorged himself on PLO against the world’s best. Viktor Blom’s mysterious next door neighbour had retreated to his mum’s house in Uppsalla, or maybe Gothburg, to lick his wounds, and the natural poker order had been restored.
Well, at least we had a story now, we thought – with a beginning, a middle and an end – and one with important archetypal themes such as pride and a fall. Could this even be the world’s first online poker story with a moral? (Too much PLO?)
Isildur disappeared on the Friday and stayed away over the weekend, while the forums picked at the bones and pointed at the graphs that detailed how he was now in the red. Is he totally broke, we wondered. Can he pool his resources from other sites to get back in the game? Is he capable of dropping down and building his way back up? How long can you keep down one with so much fight in him?
Two days, apparently. We never got our story with its neat moral ending. On Monday, Isildur was back, five-tabling Brian Hastings and Cole South, and running bad. You could tell from his table-chat, and we were worried for our new hero:
“This is not happening”
"i can promise this is the worst luck anyone had"
"take my last $$ i dont want it".
But that’s the story as far as we can tell it. We have to go to print now. By the time you read this, in the ensuing fortnight between print and publication, Isildur1 may be broke, or he may be on the top of the world. Who knows? We can honestly say at this point that we do not know who Isildur1 is, but his impact on online poker over the last month, for better for worse, has been earth-shattering.