Rising Finnish Pro Joni Jouhkimainen Breaking Through

Joni Jouhkimainen
Joni Jouhkimainen

Despite a relatively small population, Finland has produced some of the most elite poker players in the world.

Patrik Antonius, Ilari “Ziigmund” Sahamies and Jens “Jeans89” Kyllonen are formidable opponents at any cash game table in the world.

Young poker pro Joni Jouhkimainen is starting to generate buzz of his own on the European poker circuit as one of the up-and-coming stars of the Finnish poker scene.

“It’s been good,” said Jouhkimainen about his last two years on the circuit. “I’ve learned a lot from players like Patrik, Ilari and Juha Helppi.”

Jouhkimainen has already made seven final tables in various European tournaments this year and made the biggest score of his career last August when he finished third at EPT Barcelona for $496,437.

The 21-year-old Finn started learning poker when he was just 15 in Helsinki. He saw a few streams of World Poker Tour events and was hooked on the game.

“I started playing with my friends. When I turned 18 I just walked into a casino in Helsinki and started playing PLO. Since then I’ve been winning every year.”

Jouhkimainen Eyes Tournaments Over Cash Games

Joni Jouhkimainen
Joni Jouhkimainen

Primarily a PLO specialist, Jouhkimainen puts a lot of his focus on tournaments, unlike contemporaries Antonius and Sahamies who prefer the cash-game tables.

“I think there’s a good value in PLO tournaments,” explained Jouhkimainen. “It’s mostly tournaments online. When I play live I’ll also play PLO cash games though.”

Jouhkimainen made some major adjustments to his game over the last couple years and the results speak for themselves.

“I’ve needed to tighten up my game up,” he said.  “Everybody sees me as a 20-year-old Scandi and assumes I must play super aggro. That’s why I need to play tighter these days. I get called a lot.

“I just need to know my image and play with that in mind. When I was 18 I was just bluffing all the time and getting called.”

Considering all the success Finnish poker players have had over the years it’s easy to forget the country still has a relatively small but close-knit poker community.

“There are not too many Finnish pros that travel to the EPTs, WPT and WSOP,” he said. “Maybe five to 10 players.”

Finnish Poker Community Tight-Knit, Supports Each Other

Jens Kyllonen
Joni Jouhkimainen is close friends with Jens Kyllonen.

When asked why Finland produces such talented poker players, Jouhkimainen had trouble putting his finger on it.

“I have no idea why they are so good,” he said. “Some people say we have nothing else to do but stay indoors and play online poker because of the weather. That might be part of the reason.”

It helps that they support each other, according to Joukimainen.

“Everybody knows each other and we talk to each other,” he said.

“Especially in PLO. Ilari and Jeans89 are good friends of mine and we discuss hands. Scandi’s are all pretty good. There are a lot of good Swedes and Norwegians.”

Although this is his first WSOP, Joukimainen already has a final table to his name. He finished eight for $37,529 in the $3,000 PLO event. It was just the second WSOP event he’d ever played.

Winning a WSOP bracelet would be a massive achievement to Joukimainen.

“I can’t even imagine what that would be like,” he said. “I’ve been watching all the streams. I’ve just been dreaming about it. I would go crazy if I won a bracelet.”

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