When you finish second in the World Series of Poker Main Event, it's a life-changing event no matter the payout.
Norwegian Felix Stephensen was lucky and talented enough to pull off the remarkable feat last year and it made him the new #1 on Norway's all-time live tournament money list.
Technically, he cashed for over $5m USD. At least that what it says in the record books. The reality, however, isn't so simple.
But despite his unresolved tax issues with the Norwegian government he's just a keen on playing poker as he ever was.
Poker's Growing in Norway
PokerListings caught up with Stephensen during the first break of Day 1B of the PokerStars and Monte Carlo Casino EPT Grand Final in Monaco this week to find out more.
PokerListings: Congratulations on your amazing tournament run!
Felix Stephensen: Thank you. Which one?
PL: Of course, the €100 flipout tournament that you won here in Monaco two days ago for €940.
FS: I was hoping you would say that! I was still looking for my first live tournament win.
As it’s tough to win one with like 7k entrants, I thought I should try something smaller.
PL: So this is now your only first place in the Hendon Mob database?
FS: Yes, my first ever. These are very exciting times.
PL: Tell us how these tournaments work.
FS: Everybody starts with two chips and you’re always all-in until one guy has all the chips.
They do that on several tables and when you have six winners you play an SnG for the prize pool.
PL: So it’s a very strategic game.
FS: (smiles) It is, it is. I’m a pretty good flipper.
You have to flip well to win tournaments and I’m getting some practice here. It went very well.
PL: What was your regular game before your WSOP success?
FS: I used to play $5/$10 to $25/$50 PLO cash games online. But now I’m transitioning into live poker and live tournaments.
I’m trying to get back into No-Limit Hold’em, which means I’m re-learning it, trying to figure out what happened in the last couple of years.
It’s pretty exciting, almost like learning a new game. It gives me a lot of new drive and I’d say I’ve never been as motivated as I am now.
WSOP runner-up just his third live cash.
PL: You’re wearing a Betsafe patch. Did you get a sponsorship before or after the WSOP main event?
FS: During. I got it between July and November.
PL: But it surely was because of your success.
FS: Either that or the good looks, I don’t remember.
PL: You only had two live results before the WSOP Main Event last year.
FS: Yes, I really didn’t like live poker. There’s a lot of traveling involved and you don’t get to play a lot of hands.
And you might play for six hours, bust out and then go home again without anything. It’s much more convenient to just get out of bed and jump into the office.
PL: One of the most pressing issues in European poker is taxation. The Norwegian laws are particularly strict.
FS: I really don’t want to talk about the taxation issue.
PL: You’re based in London and not in Norway. Doesn’t that change your status as a tax payer?
Good signs for Norway's strong poker fan base.
FS: The thing is it’s still an ongoing process. We haven’t found a way to settle this with the Norwegian government, but at the moment I’m optimistic that it’ll work out.
PL: Generally the poker situation seems to be getting better in Norway. They lifted the ban on live poker.
FS: Yes, we’ll actually have the Norwegian Poker Championships in Norway this year for the first time ever, so that’s exciting times.
We used to have it in different places all over Europe but now it’s coming home.
PL: It’s weird that the government is making it so hard for your players as you have so many of them.
FS: True, poker’s been growing a lot in Norway. There are new players popping up every day, and we have a very healthy growth.
There are more good signs. For example, there is a Norwegian TV station that’s streaming live here from Monaco.
Poker has been on Norwegian TV for years so this is definitely a step in the right direction.