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Wahlbeck: I'm still quitting
Ville Wahlbeck planned to make this his last World Series of Poker. A bracelet and Player of the Year consideration haven't changed his mind.
"I'm still planning to quit," Wahlbeck told PokerListings.com.
The 33-year-old Finn has had a WSOP for the ages, picking up a first-place finish in the $10,000 Mixed Game World Championship, a second-place in the $10k 2-7 Draw Lowball World Championship and a third in the $10k Seven-Card Stud World Championship.
He also has a 13th-place finish in the $10k Omaha 8 World Championship and a 12th place finish in the $2,500 Razz event.
"It feels really good to be successful in tournaments," he said.
"I've been grinding for years and I feel like I've taken a lot of bad beats and had a lot of tough spots so everything coming together feels really good."
Wahlbeck has been a poker professional for six years and told himself the 2009 World Series of Poker would be his last.
He has racked up nearly $900k in cashes at the WSOP thus far and finds himself second only to Jeffrey Lisandro in the POY race, but that astounding success hasn't dampened his resolve to leave the game.
"I used to play pretty high stakes and a lot of hours per week and I think I won't do that anymore," he said.
The Finn told PokerListings he doesn't see himself giving up poker entirely, but he'll no longer play professionally.
"Maybe I won't quit tournaments entirely, but I'll definitely cut cash games," he said.
Wahlbeck has said that he started playing poker professionally because he started making more money at the tables than at any of his other jobs.
Prior to the WSOP, he'd logged less than $200,000 in lifetime tournament cashes, but it was in the cash games that the Finn really made his living.
"I haven't made billions or millions of dollars, but I've made a good living out of poker," he said.
His WSOP success is particularly impressive given that his cashes have come in the kinds of nontraditional games that have traditionally been the territory of poker's old guard.
But unlike the mixed-game advocates who populate Bobby's Room and other backroom Big Games, Wahlbeck honed his skills online.
"I play almost entirely online," he said. "Mainly cash games and the bigger online tournaments.
"I play a lot of the mixed games and I feel I'm pretty strong in all of them. A lot of players in these [mixed game] tournaments are good in a few games and have others that they're not great in.
"I try to play solid in Pot Limit Omaha and No Limit Hold'em because I think my edge is smallest there."
He credits fellow Finns Patrik Antonius, Ilari Sahamies and Sami Kelopuro with helping him solidify his game.
"We're all very good friends," said Wahlbeck. "I used to play against Antonius and Ziigmund and LarsLuzak, but those guys are all so tough that I really want to avoid playing them."
So what does he make of the surge in Finnish nosebleed-stakes pros?
"It's probably because we all started really early online, like when online poker began," he said. "Most of the guys who were successful then are successful now."
Wahlbeck also suggested that the popularity of Pot Limit Omaha in his native land might be part of the reason players like Antonius and Sahamies are dominating online.
"PLO is more and more popular in Finland," he said. "Three or four years ago, you couldn't go into a casino in Finland and play anything but PLO."
Antonius, Ziigmund and LarsLuzak are household names in the poker world and Wahlbeck's WSOP success could vault him into the same rarified air as his compatriots.
But he remains adamant he's walking away from the game.
What he'll do instead, however, he hasn't yet figured out.
"I've been playing professionally for six years and it's not the best thing to put on your C.V.," he said.
What he won't be doing is going back to either of his former jobs as a substitute teacher and a freelance journalist.
"Teaching is fun but really rough," he said. "And writing is a grind. It's fun, but it doesn't pay nearly as well as poker."
"Maybe if a good business opportunity comes along, I'll take that."
Regardless of where he ends up, the Finn conceded he's definitely in better shape for a fresh start now than a few months ago.
"Life's a lot more fun now, especially since the WSOP has been so good."
Jeffrey Lisandro's third WSOP bracelet win vaulted the Aussie over Wahlbeck in the Player of the Year race, but the Finn still finds himself in second place overall with 13 events to go.
Keep it locked on PokerListings.com to see if Wahlbeck can regain the lead and pull off a swan song of epic proportions.