Whilst most of the world woke up on 1 January 2019 with a hangover and wondering which New Year’s resolutions would be broken first, Swedish poker enthusiasts were taking advantage of new legislation which meant they were able to play online poker on international platforms against international players without having to use the state run Svenska Spel. The monopoly of Svenska Spel had just ended and ushered in international online poker operators, much to the delight of poker players throughout the country. Poker has always been a very popular game for sports-mad Swedes, although yet to eclipse long-term favourites such as bandy, football, ice hockey and handball. So as this is undoubtedly an exciting time for the poker market in Sweden, let’s take a closer look at the scene as whole.
Unsurprisingly the opening up of the online poker market saw a sprint to the start-line for the international online operators. In November 2018, the gambling regulator received 55 online gambling license applications. Many of the big names are now fully functioning in the country such as 888poker Sweden offering the range of games you would expect to see like Texas Hold’Em, 7 Card Stud, Blast and Snap. Even if you’re in Stockholm on holiday you can access all of your favourite online poker games; just make sure you are fully up to speed on how many Krona you can get for your (local) money.
For any sector to flourish you need to have your marketable stars with their all-conquering rags to riches stories and subsequent global domination. So who is the Lewis Hamilton, Claire Foy or Serena Williams of the Swedish poker markets?
Leading the field in terms of dollars banked is the only Swede to win the World Series of Poker Main Event – Martin Jacobson. In 2014 he walked away with the title and a $10 million cheque in the process. This wasn’t a one-off for Martin as he has amassed over $16 million in prize money over his career including two EPT side events and one WPT side event. Currently 259th on the Global Poker Index rankings with a high of 8th, Martin was born in Stockholm in 1987 and is a member of Raising for Effective Giving, a group of mainly poker players and financial investors who pledge to donate a percentage of their income to selected charities.
The current highest ranked Swede on the GPI is Anton Wigg, who sits at 224. Another who was born and bred in Stockholm but who has travelled the world from Prague to Nottingham then Vegas to the Bahamas in the second half of 2018 alone, showing his love for and skills at poker tournaments. However, all roads lead back to Stockholm where he remains a resident.
For a roller coaster ride of a narrative, look no further than Viktor Blom who burst onto the online poker scene in 2009 losing $1 million before bouncing back to a $6 million profit in less than 2 months. Gothenburg-born Viktor was introduced to poker by his brother at just 14 and now sits in 7th place on the all-time Swedish Poker Money List whilst living in London.
As the capital, Stockholm is the main epicentre of the Swedish poker industry, but as expected you can find poker games at casinos across the country particularly in other large cities such as Gothenburg and Malmo. You can also find large tournaments, for example, the Poker Super Weekend in Gothenburg coming up from the 8-9 June and the Ace of Diamonds event in Malmo will take place on the 15-16 June. Physically travelling from Stockholm to these other cities is relatively smooth by train but the introduction of the new legislation will undoubtedly bring the online sector closer together and see an influx of international players alongside the international operators.
So if you’re coming to Stockholm for one of the big tournaments or just for your weekend poker fix, make sure you take advantage of everything else there is on offer. Step back in time and head over to the island with a visit to the old town – Gamla stan. Or if you want to go back 300 years then make a trip to the Vasa Maritime Museum to see the well-preserved warship Vasa that sank on her maiden voyage in 1628. When the weather is pleasant head to Skansen, the open-air museum.
You won’t be short of things to do when visiting Stockholm and the introduction of the international online poker operators has only increased the options at hand. The poker scene in Sweden already has its big name stars, world renowned tournaments and most importantly, large winnings to play for. The foundations are well and truly in place for the poker scene in Sweden to go from strength to strength.