It's Not the System That's Created All the Good Swedish Poker Players

Riksdaghuset: Sweden's Parliament House

It was the WSOP 2012 and I was off to a promising start.

That meant long days and I needed a break, but it was the first low-buy-in No-Limit event.

That event usually means the softest field in the whole WSOP.

You know, before the fish run out of fresh water.

Still +EV When You Include Dinner

It was a re-entry event with two starting days.

Chris Bjorin
Björin: Chances good he'll both cash and pick up the check.

I only needed one bullet to make it to the second day with a playable stack, which meant that I finally got the much-needed day off.

My two friends Chris Björin and Per Hildebrand did the same so we got a nice dinner together on the rest day.

I suggested that we swap a percentage for fun. I had the most chips so I didn't feel embarrassed to ask.

It was still +EV for me as I didn't even got a look at the check, as usual when involved with those two.

Björin doesn't like to swap percentages, which is quite reasonable given his resume. But he agreed this time.

We swapped 5% three ways.

If Mike Sexton Lived in Sweden ...

As long as players put up the buy in themselves they should be entitled to any deals they want. As long as it is fully transparent and no soft-playing takes place, that is.

It makes a lot of sense to try to cut down the variance in tournaments -- especially when there are 3,404 runners.

I was part of a team of Swedes that were sponsored back in the glory days. We were eight players in the team and everybody had 2% of each other.

Mike Sexton
Big One would have been much smaller.

I had 40% of myself and the rest was the backer's cut. I won a tournament at Bellagio and $245,000.

In Sweden you have to pay 30% tax on your gross winnings outside of the European Union.

Playing the $1m Big One for One Drop was surely fun for Mike Sexton in 2012.

If he had lived in Sweden he would have paid 30% tax on his 9th-place prize money of $1,109,333. Not so fun with a buy in of $1m.

Buy the Ticket, Pay the Taxes

As most famous player in Sweden, honor is his.

In Sweden poker is considered a game of chance. Hence, a poker tournament is a lottery.

I declared my winnings but the tax authorities wanted an example to go up the judicial ladder as a kind of precedent.

Since I was the most famous poker player in Sweden I got the dubious honor.

They claimed that since I bought the lottery ticket I had to pay taxes for the whole amount.

I could prove that it was actually the backer who had bought the lottery ticket (the buy in).

They changed their claim and now said that since I was the one holding the lottery ticket in my hand (since I was the one playing) when it won I should pay tax for the whole amount.

The Supreme Court of Sweden had already constituted that people gambling together should be considered as a specific legal form - sort of like a joint venture over a certain predefined time period.

As such the individuals were individually responsible for their own taxes.

It's Better to Not Give a Shit About Logical and Right

It wasn’t like I was trying to not pay the tax. The backer and all the other players on the team were all residents of Sweden and tax subjects.

They all confirmed the percentage deal and took responsibility as a tax subject. Three showed up in court and testified.

Ken Lennaard
And he shall pay all the taxes himself.

The rest signed a written and witnessed declaration. It didn't matter. I lost.

The judge reasoned something like this:

Well, you know, we understand that this is exactly what happened, but if we allow this everybody and anybody can claim the same thing.

That could mean that taxes can be avoided, and we absolutely can't have that. No fucking way, ever!

Therefore we think it's better to not give a shit about what is logical and right, what the law says and what has been decided and declared by the Supreme Court.

Therefore Ken Lennaárd should pay all the taxes himself.

If You Couldn't Get Laid You Played Online Poker

888poker screen shot
it's the Internet, ldo.

This is just one example of Swedish Democracy. If you're not Swedish maybe you thought better of that country.

Now you know it's socialistic. Most Swedes don't (think about it), which means there's really no hope of enlightenment and improvement for the sinking ship.

By the way it's not the system that has created all the good Swedish poker players.

It's the early development of Internet infrastructure and therefore the usage of Internet.

And of course the nine-month long winters with nothing else to do but drink and shag.

If you couldn’t get laid, you played online poker.

Anyway ... I busted in the tournament and so did Björin, but Hildebrand fought his way to 27th out of 3,404 players and a $22,885 payday -- minus 5% to Björin, 5% to me and 30% to the Swedish IRS.

An extra 3% tax that is, since he couldn't deduct the 10% to his friends.

About Ken Lennaárd:

Sweden's most controversial poker blogger Ken Lennaárd has been around the professional poker circuit for almost 20 years. Among his numerous accomplishments are Swedish Championships both live and online, three WSOP final tables and over $1.5m in live earnings. He's now bringing his singular poker voice to the English world via Look for new posts every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Note: Opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not represent the views of

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