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Johnny Lodden: “10 Years Ago Nobody Had Heard of Aggressive Poker”
Now a long-time poker vet, Johnny Lodden remains one of the iconic members of the online revolution in the mid 2000s.
There were numerous players who grinded out serious cash playing online tournaments but Lodden was one of the first players to truly elevate online cash games into the stratosphere.
The Norwegian played under the famous screen name bad_ip and, for a period of time, was the biggest online winner in the world.
Then he went on a downswing that saw him eventually abandon the bad_ip handle and start from scratch.
These days Lodden is a Team PokerStars Pro and while he doesn’t play the biggest games available he does have a unique perspective on how the online poker industry has changed.
By Dirk Oetzmann and Christian Henkel.
PokerListings: Tell us a little bit about how your online career started.
Johnny Lodden: I started playing when I was about 16. At that time, it was a dream. Easy and fast money. Now it’s just hard work and it’s often impossible to win.
It feels like there’s just robots sitting there, machines winning. I don’t mean real machines, of course, but a lot of the players play like machines.
PL: Back in the days, how high did you actually play?
JL: I played the highest there was. 200/400 for most of the time.
PL: You were an immediate threat for the established players when you started out. You faced some of the big names without showing any respect.
JL: That’s because I wasn’t that much into poker that I would even know who these guys were. I just wanted to play poker and make a lot of money.
I started travelling with a group of five or six players. We were also winning a lot online, and our style was new for the older guys.
PL: Would you say you were one of the inventors of the Scandinavian power poker?
JL: Ha, I guess you can say that. Ten years ago, nobody had heard about aggressive poker. Everybody was playing old style, you weren’t allowed to 3-bet with anything less than kings, you know.
It was super fun. I remember how I won my first live tournament. It was in St. Maarten, and I also had a couple of drinks.
I made it to the heads-up, and I was playing an old school guy. My friends had gone out, so I wanted to finish quickly. I raised every hand, and my opponent kept on folding like he was sitting at a full ring table.
When I was in the small blind, I said “raise” while the dealer was still shuffling, when I was in the big blind, he limped in and I raised. Eventually he sat there with just one big blind left.
My friends and I won like four out of seven tournaments in St. Maarten. Serious money. Everyone else just hated us. It was great.
Then, in 2005/2006, online poker exploded, and guys like me and my buddies made a bunch of money.
A couple of years later, there were videos and books around and everything, so people got better and better. Now it’s almost impossible to win.
PL: When did you first think that the heydays are over, and you might never earn the money again that you did in the old days?
JL: Not sure, maybe in 2008. That’s when the games started becoming very professional.
Before that I was one of the few to play the higher stakes with the new style, along with Patrik Antonius and durrrr.
There was a kind of agreement between us that we wouldn’t play each other.
So each of us would sit at a separate table and wait, and if there was some fish sitting down, whichever of us he chose got to play him.
PL: However, you’re also known for some huge crashes. Did you ever come to a point where you thought you wouldn’t survive?
JL: I never seriously thought about quitting then. I went broke in 2009, I think, but there were always some friends who would back me up.
Everybody knew that I was good enough to win, so the community never let me down. Someone close to me would be winning and help me out until I came back.
PL: So there was never a plan B? A “what do I do if I can’t play anymore?”
JL: No, there wasn’t. Actually, I have been thinking about this a lot more in the recent past than I used to at that time.
I’ve been playing so long, and I’d like to try something new. At the moment I have the passion again, but two years ago I was very close to quitting.
I was thinking of maybe getting a teacher’s job, some form of real job, just to test it out. I wanted to see if I had the passion for it.
I was thinking that maybe if I worked outside the poker industry for half a year or a year, it would ignite my passion for poker again, because then I would have seen … you know (laughs) … that’s how it is to work.
I guess it’s pretty normal that if you do the same thing for ten years, you get bored or worn out a little.
Also, I had a kid, and that changes a lot, too.
PL: How has being a team pro changed over the years?
JL: Well, at the time I signed, it was something special to be a team pro. There were only thirty in the world.
Then suddenly there were 200, at least over a 150. Sometimes we had meetings, and I didn’t know half of the people.
That didn’t feel very good, but it changed again after they kicked out a bunch of them.
I’m one of the more experienced guys now, so I might have a stronger position than others who came and went after me.
PL: It’s kind of funny to look at your career, regarding you come from a country where poker is almost completely forbidden.
JL: Norway is really ridiculous for its legislation. But actually, we have a new governor now, who is a little bit into poker.
It is possible that from next year, we might at least be able to hold the Norwegian championship in Norway.
However, it’ll still not feel the same as before to play in our championship, because you’ll probably not be allowed to drink alcohol, you won’t be allowed to play cash games, you won’t be allowed to play more than three tournaments a year, stuff like that.
It’s funny that the Norwegian championship is still this very secret thing, although it’s been running in different countries like Ireland, England, Sweden, and Estonia for about 14 years now.
I was there this year, in Dublin. They had 1300 players, and it’s been the biggest tournament in Europe two years in a row. It’s ridiculous.
PL: There have been signs that there could be changes in the Norwegian legislation though.
JL: Yes. One of our most important politicians really tries to legalize it. He actually came to Dublin and played in the tournament.
There was a lot of hassle about this, but he’s one of the few who doesn’t give a shit about what other people think.
He looks at poker as a game of skill, whereas Norway looks at it as if it was like playing slots.