Talking with Swedish Poker Powerhouse Mikael Norinder

Mikael Norinder
Mikael Norinder, EPT Prague - Day 2, European Poker Tour

On Day 2 of the PokerStars EPT Prague it wasn't Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier or Katja Thater who took center stage. Instead it was Swedish player Mikael Norinder who stole the show.

Norinder's chip stack changed dramatically over the course of the day but his endless, sometimes abrasive, table chatter seemed to have every player entranced. Norinder was almost impossible to put on a hand. One hand he would bluff a player off a $20,000 pot with 5-2 off-suit but on the very next hand he would calmly check trip nines on the flop.

PokerListings.com caught up with the unusual player right after Day 2 ended.

So Micke, if you don't mind, tell us how your day was.

It was very up and down. I start with $67,000 chips and right away I busted four or five guys so I had a lot of chips right from the beginning. I was up to $270,000 then I made two bad bluffs and it was basically back to square one. I had to start all over again. I made four really, really bad plays today.

My last hand was pretty good though. It was a $200,000 pot and I called my opponent with ace-high and I won the pot. He mucked his cards.

Did you have a good read on him?

I always play by my feelings and I could tell something was up with him. I thought he was empty. I don't know. You win some, you lose some.

Mikael Norinder
No one like Norinder.

Is that your style? Is your game usually so up and down?

Yeah. I think I'm quite famous for that in Sweden. It's like a joke there but I'm starting to improve my game. I'm more patient and there isn't as much variance in my game these days. I think that because people think I'm such a loose player I get a lot more action than my competition. I can still bluff people though.

I saw you run a massive bluff on another player with nothing but 5-2 off-suit. You showed the player your hand. Is that something you usually do?

Yeah [it is] but I like to switch my game up after that. Next time they call I will have something. That's the nicest way to win a pot though - when you bluff. Sometimes you can't get paid for it but I've been having a good couple of weeks. It's been nice.

I noticed you talk a lot at the table. Is that a big part of your game?

Yeah. I mean we are sitting at the table for 10 hours a day so we have to be social. You can't just sit there quiet. I love poker, I work with poker and I play poker so why not have fun at the table. Some guys don't want to talk at all but there are some people I meet on the road that appreciate me just because I'm talking. I make new friends every tournament I play.

Bertrand Grospellier
ElkY: one of the few players Norinder was worried about.

How were your tables today?

I played on four of them and the second was probably the toughest. It included ElkY [Grospellier] and some other good players. It started great but then I lost about $150,000. It took a huge hand at my third table to get off the tilt I was feeling from the ElkY table. I called the big blind with 9-8 and the flop came A-9-9 so I checked, he bet, I called. I knew that whatever came on the turn he was going all-in and he did. I called and he had A-4 so I raked about $100,000. My last table was the best. I was finally starting to get good hands. I got aces three times! I didn't get much for them but I still moved up.

Although you're very well-known in Sweden we are just getting to know you in North America. How long have you been playing?

Mikael Norinder
You just folded and I have 5-2!

I've been playing professionally for about four years. My wife and I have a couple businesses at home including a clothing one and a home style one. I've been working all my life but I've also always been playing poker. At one point an online site contacted me about being sponsored. At about the same time I had a daughter who was very sick and she ended up dying. It was at that time I realized there was more to life than working so then I said to myself, "Let's play poker."

Are you enjoying it?

Yes I am. On Oct. 1 I signed onboard with Unibet. They had never sponsored a pro before me. I'm actually going to be traveling with them and coaching other players at events like EPT Copenhagen. I actually contacted them when I realized how much it cost to play professionally and they didn't want to at first. Instead they asked me to come listen to a conference they were holding. I came and I listened for about 30 minutes but then I talked for about three hours and they decided they wanted to sponsor me.

Have you played at the WSOP yet?

Yeah. I have played two times but I've never made it past the first day. I'll be going back this summer to play and coach.

Do you have a strategy heading into Day 3 of this tournament?

I'm going to play my game. I'm not afraid of putting chips into the middle and I'm not here to just make the money. I'm here to win.

Although Norinder's unusual style sometimes makes enemies there is no doubt that when he's playing well he is almost unstoppable. One of the most unpredictable players around, Norinder is always forcing his opponents to make important decisions and after awhile they realize they just don't trust the Swede much, which usually leads to mistakes. Keep your eyes open at the 2008 WSOP where Norinder might finally break into the North American poker scene.

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