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Best of Ryan McLane
This year's World Series of Poker Main Event had a little GPWA flair to it.
Magnus Karlsson, the general manager of GPWA sponsor PokerHost, was one of the 6,358 players who bought a seat in the WSOP Main Event this month to vie for the second largest prize in poker history.
The experienced poker player from Sweden plopped down his $10,000 entry fee on Day 1B in hopes of turning it into a cool $8.25 million.
He never actually expected to win the tournament, having only booked his hotel room long enough to play one day, but he battled hard, survived the opening round and was able to secure lodging in order to compete on Day Two.
His 2007 WSOP story ended there, however, as a wave of frozen cards busted Karlsson and kept him from taking down the tournament. Still, he represented the GPWA well.
"My goal on Day One was simple - make it to Day Two," Karlsson said.
Karlsson became enamored with poker before the rest of the world. His career started 12 years ago in the Swedish underground card room scene, a semi-circuit he affectionately called "the circus."
Recounting a tale of a gambling friend who had bullet holes in his apartment hallway (origin never explained to him) and telling stories of card rooms that were a frequent targets for robbers, Karlsson said he avoided the "pitfalls" of the circus, but was still able to pick up the finer points of Scandavian-style poker.
He believes his countrymen play very aggressive and have a higher knowledge of the game that allows them to play "any two."
"We put a lot of pressure on our opponents," Karlsson said. "We're not afraid to push, push, push."
Erik Friberg and William Thorson highlight Karlsson's extended poker friend group. Friberg made the 2006 Main Event final table and Thorson finished 13th in the same event. The two combined for more than $3 million in winnings, a big year for Swedish players.
"That was a real source of pride for us," Karlsson said.
Cash games were Karlsson's first passion. Omaha was his first love, but he fondly recalled playing games of Suki, a five-card draw game where a player gets one card in the hole and four cards to a flush beats one pair. The game induces a boatload of bluffing - a good practice field for an aggressive breed of players.
Tournaments are now Karlsson's main interest. He prefers No Limit Hold'em tournaments over volatile contests like Omaha and Low ball events.
Karlsson lives in Costa Rica now and has a hard time finding time for a consistent game thanks to his responsibilities at PokerHost and a few changes in his free-time pursuits. Golf near Costa Rica's beautiful beaches has replaced the desire to spend hours in a stuffy card room.
"I wish I had more time to play," Karlsson said.
When he finds time to play, it's usually on the tournament, where he is flanked by other members of Team PokerHost. At the 2007 Main Event, Karlsson had six other PokerHost qualifiers playing alongside him.
"The only thing I worry about is having a couple of us at the same table," Karlsson said. "The sparks would really fly."