Ville Wahlbeck is fifth on Finland’s all-time live tournament money list, and unquestionably one of the greatest mixed-game players the country has ever produced.
He’s cashed at the WSOP 12 times, including winning the $10,000 8-Game Championship in 2009.
He also once told us he was quitting the pro poker grind. As of late Wahlbeck has been focusing on cash games but he told us he’s itching to get back on the live tournament scene.
We spoke to him about prop bets, tournament plans and the changing landscape of online poker in Finland in our latest Q&A.
PokerListings.com: What’s the biggest prop bet you’ve ever made and did you win it?
Ville Wahlbeck: Overall I think I am a small winner in my golf bets. And other prop bets also.
I did win a good one two years ago when I bet quite big that I would make more than 33 out of 100 three-point throws (European lines). I got a nice extra from everything over 33.
I was far from certain if I'd make it since it had been years since I had touched a basketball and I never actually played the game. I only liked to shoot some baskets every now and then.
But it wasn't even close because I scored 46. The joy of winning was increased by the fact I collected from Juha Helppi, and it's always nice to see Juha's face after he loses a bet.
I also have a funny prop bet in football, where Theo Jorgensen and Johnny Lodden both have to make at least 6 out of 10 penalties against a national level goalie. I'd say Theo has a small chance and Johnny is close to drawing dead, so I'm expecting to collect that one too.
Who are a few young Finnish up-and-comers, who we might not know but who you think will be big poker stars?
There are many young Finnish players trying to work their way up. I'm a bit hesitant to name any because I don't really know if they would like it, so I leave it in secret.
Why does Finland keep producing some of the world’s best high-stakes players, even though it’s a relatively small player pool?
I agree that there are loads of Finnish players in high-stakes games at the moment. But I would say the main reason for this is that PLO has taken over NL as the usual high-stakes game.
And in Finland PLO has a long tradition, and obviously it is much easier to develop your game when you’re playing against good opponents.
Is there something different about the Finnish playing style compared to other Nordic countries?
Not much. There are some spots where I occasionally notice differences, but it is nothing major. I would say the difference is in experience.
Most of the Finns that are playing in high-stakes PLO games these days play hundreds of thousands of hands each year. They don’t have many leaks in their game. They have good game selection and they don't tilt.
Some might play only heads-up or three-handed and some focus on six-handed games. Some like to play with full buy-in and some prefer to shortstack. Everyone seems to be playing according to their strengths.
Have the fields changed much in big buy-in tournaments in games like HORSE and 2-7 since 2009 when you had so much success at WSOP?
I'd certainly like to play more big buy-in tournaments in HORSE or 8GAME, but unfortunately it is not possible. They play them only during WSOP. So I can't really say much about how the fields are since I can only play them once a year.
What games still offer good players the biggest edge in bigger live tournaments like the WSOP?
This is a good question. For a good all-around player in WSOP I think by far the best value is to play less known poker variations with a slightly smaller buy-ins like $1,000-$2,000 dollars, like 10-Game tournament, Razz or a Omaha Hi/Lo tourney.
They have a relatively big number of participants, but more than half the field is clueless and a solid player has a great chance to make a deep run.
The same goes with smaller NL tourneys in general. It is much easier to make a score in a $1,000 dollar EPT side event than in the main event.
What are you focusing on in your poker game these days?
Mostly cash games, but I'd like to start playing a bit more tournaments.
What are the biggest goals you still want to accomplish in poker?
Another bracelet or a win in an EPT main event would do fine :)
What kind of image does poker have in mainstream Finnish culture? What do people in Finland say when you tell them you’re a poker pro?
Being a poker pro is more "normal" than what it used to few be years ago. But I still think poker pros’ images to the mainstream are more glorified than it actually is. People don't understand how much practice and dedication playing poker professionally really takes.
What are your thoughts about PokerStars.eu and what impact it will have for Finland?
It is simply great. I expect more Finnish players to move their action to PokerStars now that it is working under EU license.