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Ilari 'Ziigmund' Sahamies

Pot Limit Omaha, Power Poker…and parties, the Ziigmund story

Ilari 'Ziigmund' Sahamies is a colourful character...to say the least.

With his penchant for alcohol, partying and beautiful women, you could say he is an anomaly in a world of more level-headed poker professionals. The temperamental Finn, who began his poker career at the Helsinki Grand Casino, is one of the world's best Pot-Limit Omaha players.

In a game renowned for its volatility, Ziigmund's fearless approach has paid dividends, and just last month he scooped $333k for his efforts. Despite his lack of decorum at the tables (he is regularly seen berating Gus Hansen in Full Tilt chat), Ziigmund's rebellious, 'wild boy' persona is somewhat refreshing.

Ziigmund's other marketing exploits include endorsing his own website, PowerPoker.com, blogging for Coinflip.com, and starring in a rap video. With just $327k in winnings, Ilari's live tournament career is still in its infancy.

But who is Ilari Sahamies

Ziigmund's first passion was pool. By the age of 15, he was winning pool prop-bets at his local games hall. It was there he met close companion and fellow high stakes phenomenon Patrik Antonius.

Poker soon replaced pool as the game of choice, but just how Patrik and Ziigmund became such good friends is anyone's guess. Polite and poised at the tables, Patrick is the antithesis of the abrasive, hot-headed Ziigmund. Whereas Ilari elects for extravagant nights out on the razzle, Antonius is the quiet family man back at his Monte Carlo residence.

Ziigmund spent his final two years of college grinding the €2/€4 euro games at the Helsinki casino, bolstering his bankroll by taking work in construction and telecommunications. It wasn't all plain sailing, as Ilari's degenerate tendencies cost him large sums at the roulette and blackjack tables.

With around $100k behind him, Ziigmund embarked on a prosperous online career. He found joy at the early, $40/$80 highstakes tables on the Prima (now Microgaming) network, where he cites Erick Lindgren as one his preferred opponents.

Ziigmund's rise to eminence and the nosebleed stakes is shrouded in mystery. Until a year or so ago, he was a high stakes enigma, simply known as the tetchy, drunk Finnish pro. Ilari has always been reluctant to leave his native Finland, and that in part explains his lack of tournament cashes. In a candid interview with Bluff magazine, Ziigmund admits he has always struggled with bankroll management and the mental aspect of the game.

He estimates that nights of drunken foolery and then painful hangovers have cost him $3 million. Yet despite his alcohol antics, Ilari ended 2009 with a handsome $3.3 million profit, partly down to hammering Isildur1 in heads-up PLO. Ziigmund is now a regular fixture at the $500/$1000 tables, mixing it up with the likes of Ivey, Antonius, Dwan and Cole South.

Ilari's nemesis is fellow Scandinavian and perceived high stakes fish Gus Hansen. With both players boasting overly aggressive styles, when they clash heads-up fireworks ensue. Some of Ziigmund's more creative tirades include likening Gus to a Romanian, Eurovision song contest entrant. Hansen, meanwhile, criticises Ziigmund for his recklessness, and suggests he gets staked by wealthy Finnish businessmen.

Ilari, rising star

Ilari loves to party with Paris Hilton Over the past 18 months, Ziigmund has come out of his shell, and proved that behind the angry elephant (his Full Tilt avatar), is a man of wit and charisma.

Despite his use of expletives in the Full Tilt chat box, Ilari admits he is not hundred per cent confident communicating in English. Self-promotional opportunities have seen Ziigmund become more media savvy. Along with fellow player Sami 'LarsLuzak' Kelopuro, he founded poker hub and community site Coinflip.com.

He has also endorsed PowerPoker.com on the Cake network, and players have the chance to out-manoeuvre Ziigmund every Sunday at the $0.50/$1 tables. Given his skinhead, clean shaven look and menacing stare, Ziggy could be mistaken for a cold, calculated serial killer. But in interviews, he comes across as honest and insightful.

Sahamies relishes the glitz and glamour that come with being a poker pro, opting to don a rolex watch, custom cut suit, and party three or four nights a week. He recently attended the soccer world cup final, and confessed his love for the gorgeous girls at a local strip joint. Ziigmund paid tribute to his opulent lifestyle by starring in a rap video Pojat on Poikii, with Finnish rappers Elastinen and Skepti. The clip sees Sahamies revel in a night out, gorging on champagne and sexy women.

Ziigmund's carefree attitude has earned him cult status amongst poker circles. He is without doubt a highstakes legend, but to be recognised as one of the game's greats, he needs to prove his live pedigree.

His live television career includes appearances on High Stakes Poker and Poker After Dark. Ziigmund is clearly not at ease playing Hold'em, and all his usual gusto and bravado were missing when he appeared on the former. Ilari blames a lack of sleep in Vegas for his low-key showing. Whatever the next few years bring for Ziigmund, there will always be talking points.

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