Friday, July 21, 2006

Mr.Six Six .........

The 37th Annual World Series of Poker started on June 25th, event number 31 will start later today. Next Friday will see the start of THE BIG ONE, The No-Limit Texas Hold'em World Championship, with an expected first prize of $10,000,000, it looks more if you include the noughts.

Thought it would be fun to look at the tournament from the inside, so decided to enlist a professional. I have an exclusive interview below with Per Hildebrand, who is founder and President of 24hPoker the biggest European poker network. Despite his youthful good looks, Per, known as Mr.Six Six, has years of experience on the poker circuit and made it down to the final 3 tables at last year's WSOP championship, collecting $304,680 for 27th place.

Hi Per, starting with the obvious, how and when did you start playing poker ?

My father, Alexander, came as a refugee to Sweden from Estonia in 1941. He was very interested in chess and other games and started to make some extra money from playing poker in the 1950's. We always used to play games at home like chess, checkers, preference, bridge and other card games for fun, sometimes the adults played these games for small stakes.

In the mid 70's my father became captain of the Swedish national chess team, as a child ( born in 1962) , I sometimes followed him to tournaments and we would play bridge against the chess players, usually taking their money. All games interested me, but after a while chess got boring, my father was much better than me and I was much better than all my friends in the small village where we lived, so we started playing poker instead.

We were using comic books as currency, as all young boys had loads at that time. Eventually someone went "broke" and money was introduced to buy back magazines to continue the game. Later the comic books were removed and we used cash instead.

I started to study law at the University of Uppsala in 1980, at the same time I started playing at higher levels, living in a larger city it was easier to find gambling friends. Infact, I even "inherited" some of my fathers old poker pals who were still around. After completing law school in 1987, my poker had reached a higher level and I was already arranging my own tournaments, it was now that I decided to move on as a professional poker player.

When did you first realise the potential of online poker ?

In the fall of 1999 Paradise Poker started growing and online poker was discovered by many of us "pros". It took a few more years before the break through to a bigger audience. Me and my poker playing friends thought it was great to play poker on the computer.

What made you decide to start your own company ?

Having seen that Paradise were growing very quickly, I founded 24hPoker in 2000 and started building our own poker software. Making my own estimations of PP's revenue, I could see that this was a very profitable business. At the time they had 600 cash players at peak hours and 200 off peak, nothing like today's numbers, but enough for maybe 20-30 teams around the world, to start working on the software. Not everyone succeeded as the technical platform is extremely complex.

Maybe in your wildest dreams you hoped poker would become HUGE, but did you ever think that there would be $600k pots online ? Have you watched any of these games ? Some are viewed by hundreds of people.

Sometimes I have viewed the huge games and they are very exciting. It is hard to believe that they are playing for real money. Many years ago I was considered a high stakes player, but the biggest pot won or lost was $35,000. Amazing to think that many of these guys are only 20 years old and have never shuffled a deck of cards themselves.

How many years have you played in the WSOP ?

I started to go to Vegas in 1987 and have been there maybe 20 times for various tournaments. However, I didn't play the main event every year as Swedish players were taxed in the US 30% on winnings then. Nowadays there is no tax in the US for Swedish citizens, but we are supposed to pay 30% in Sweden instead. As I now look at poker tournaments as entertainment, even though I still do well, the tax is not a major concern.

What are the differences between The Rio and The Horseshoe ?

The Horseshoe has the tradition, but the premies are lousy, so no one really misses it. In recent years we play all the bigger cash games at the Bellagio anyway. The Rio is fine and hopefully they have ironed out some of last years problems.

Do you play cash games outside of the tournaments and if so, what is your game of choice ?

I used to play cash games, often round the clock in the old days, but now, just for a few hours here and there. I prefer 2-7 NL , but that is hardly played any more, Omaha 8 or better and PL Omaha.

Is there time for much socialising, must be a lot of people there you have not seen for a while, or is it just play and sleep ?

No, if you have played poker for many years, you make many friends, we have great dinners, sometimes watch a show, just hang out together. This is probably the best part of having been around the scene a while. One of my best friends is 2 times bracelet winner Chris Bjorin, he is great company, we make a lot of jokes and tell very old stories.

Last year must have been a great thrill, 6-7 days of intense play though, how physically demanding was it ?

Yes it was, I lasted about a week and it was very tough, as play lasted from noon till 2-3 am, every day. Fortunately I had my wife Linda with me and she took care of me and all practical matters (Team Hildebrand). Maybe thats why I did so well, before she had always claimed to be unlucky for my game.

You are a very laid back guy ( see the photo), sure that helps you, do you wear headphones/ read a book, any tips for getting through the early stages, when you have to stay focused for 12-14 hours ?

Usually I try to study my opponents and watch the game. From a spectators point of view
10-12 hours is a very long time, but sat at the table you are in another world, time passes much quicker. I think some music is relaxing though and for the first time ever I wore shades last year and felt more comfortable.

Down to 3 tables, you were sat with Ivey, Raymer and Andrew Black who led for quite sometime, late in the tournament and the eventual winner, Joe Hachem. That was some table, was there anyway you saw the Aussie as the winner at that stage ?

Actually, Hachem only moved to my table after I was eliminated. However, I saw a great play from Black, Ivey raised his blind, so the Irishman reraised, then Phil reraised again and Andy, after some thinking went all-in with a massive stack risking his tournament life. Ivey mucked and Black showed A2 . I later heard that the American also had a poor hand, something like K8 .

After that I thought Andrew Black could be the winner, complete disregard for his big name opponent. Phil faded away after that earning the same prize money as me, despite starting that day with a stack of 4.65m chips, I had only 645k.

Which events are you going to play this year ?

I will probably play

Fri, Jul. 21 - Sun, Jul. 23
No-Limit Hold'em Rebuy Status: No Rebuys
$2000+ $0

Sat, Jul. 22 - Sun, Jul. 23 Seven Card Razz Rebuy Status: No Rebuys
$1,500 + $0

Sun, Jul. 23 - Tue, Jul. 25 No-Limit Hold'em Rebuy Status: Multiple Rebuys
$1,000 + $1,000

Mon, Jul. 24 - Wed, Jul. 26 Limit Hold'em Shootout Rebuy Status: No Rebuys
$1,500 + $0

Tue, Jul. 25 - Wed, Jul. 26
No-Limit 2-7 Draw Lowball Rebuy Status: Multiple Rebuys
$5,000 + $5,000

Fri, Jul. 28 - Thu, Aug. 10
No-Limit Hold'em Championship Rebuy Status: No Rebuys
$10,000 + $0

What do you think about the HORSE event, were you not tempted to play ? The final table was sensational, could this become the real World Championship ?

I would have played if my schedule had allowed, the fewer players, the greater the chance to win a bracelet. It seems to me too many of the new players only focus on Texas Hold'em, the greatest players need to be able to play several games at high stakes level. This will not become the World Championship though, that will remain the $10k nl event.

There have been discussions about raising the entry fee but I feel $10k is enough and that the internet sites will not send many players if it is increased to $25k or $50k.

Any advice for readers going to the WSOP for the first time ?

Enjoy Las Vegas. It is a great place and there are so many cool and spectacular things to do. Unfortunately it is no longer a budget vacation venue and soon the hotels will make more money from accomodation and food than from gambling. If you want a shot at the big one, play some super satellites, entry is only $200 and there are many "funny" players.

Heard that it was a scramble for the bathrooms last year at The Rio, you must be relieved that three trailers with extra facilities have been added ?

Yes, your chips can be anted away while you wait in line. Going to the bathroom and losing a couple of thousand of hard earned chips is not encouraging. Still, here I have an edge, after 20 years experience of long sessions and not drinking too much when I play.

There will be a large Swedish entry in the main event, saw that you are listed amongst the 14-1
co-favourites, in the Top Swede market, what do you think about those flattering odds. Any other Swedish players that might go well ?

It is a very bad price, last year there were over 200 Swedish players, I was 27th, a great achievement, but was still beaten by three Swedes. USA aside, we were the best overall country. You can keep an eye out for Bo Sehlstedt, he is doing very well on the internet, you may hear more of him.

Finally, Mr Six Six, where does that come from ?

I was in a tournament with maybe 150 players left and a big pot developed. I raised from two spots off the BB with 44 and was called by a loose Danish player in the big blind. We both had pretty big stacks - I hade maybe 250K and he had something like 350K. He called and the flop came 457 rainbow. He checks and I bet something like 20K - he raises me with approximately 80K and I move all in after some thinking.

He then considers for a few minutes and finally makes a terrible call. He has got 7d8d in his hand (there is also the 4d on the board). Looking good - he can now only beat me with a 6 or two running cars 7 and 8. Oops - the turn card is the 6d - the ABSOLUTE disaster. The guys makes his straight and also blocks the 5d as a winning card for me. After being almost a sure winner I am suddenly a huge underdog. However, the last card is another 6 and I make my full house to win the pot. Mr 6-6...

Thank you very much Per and good luck.

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Trina said...
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