Norwegian poker pro Andreas Hoivold has been through some good - and some pretty tough - times in his life.
And when we say "tough," that's understating the matter by a lot.
Hoivold has been through trials most of us could barely imagine but, much like his fellow Norwegian Thor Hansen, giving up - or losing his optimism - isn't an option.
Lately, thankfully, he’s been doing pretty well.
At the recent Norwegian Championships of Poker in Dublin he was both introduced into the Norwegian Poker Hall of Fame and voted “player of the tournament." He’s also found a new sponsor in Videoslots.com.
Having made the move from Las Vegas back to Norway, Hoivold is playing the EPT Grand Final for the first time in six years. When we spoke to him he'd just managed to lose the minimum after flopping top set with queens against a flopped nut straight with A-K on a Q-J-T board, so he was in a pretty good mood.
But, truthfully, he’s almost always like this.
Andreas Hoivold: I don’t like long-distance travelling very much so I haven’t been to Monaco since 2010. But now I’ve made up my mind, I sold my condo in Vegas, I’m playing in Europe again.
I’ll play the WSOP but that’s going to be about it in the US.
PL: The Norwegian Championships in Oslo was one of the largest tournaments in Europe last year and is on the shortlist for low buy-in event of the year at the European Poker Awards. Do you think it’ll win?
AH: Yes, I think so. I know, the Battle of Malta is there, too…
PL: The event that won the award last year.
AH: Yes, which is why I don't think it’ll win again this year. Also, a national championship that draws almost 3,000 players is unique. The main event had almost 2,000 players, that’s a ridiculous number.
PL: It was even shown on national TV, although almost everything concerning poker is illegal in Norway.
AH: Yes, but that shows how popular it is. The law that poker is gambling is very old, but now the authorities have done some research and found out it isn’t.
There is now a three-year test period. If the next two championships go as well as the last one there is no way they won’t allow it on a general level.
PL: So, the jurisdiction is going to open up towards poker?
AH: I think so. They’re also going to allow more tournaments and higher buy-ins, as now there’s only the national championship.
PL: EPT Oslo sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
AH: It does sound good, and I’m really sure it’s possible. But Norway has a very slow bureaucracy.
For example, we also have the world’s best female boxer, Cecilia Brækhus, and she’s not allowed to box in Norway as it’s considered too violent.
PL: Talking about gambling, many people would say that video slots are gambling ...
AH: (tries to keep a straight face)No, that’s a pure skill game.
PL: We’re bringing this up because you’re now sponsored by a company of that name.
AH: Well, their country manager for Norway Allan Aasterud – who I’ve known for a long time - called me and asked if I was interested.
I told him to send me more details and soon after we had an agreement.
PL: You must be getting a lot of criticism from the poker industry for supporting a slots game.
AH: To some degree, yes, I do.
PL: How do you respond?
AH: There are a couple of things. For one, I donate 20% of my winnings to charity and that’s always a good thing.
The second thing is that money has been coming in to poker in the past from poker sites, and from poker sites only.
It’s good to bring money into poker from any other place, even if it’s slots games. I mean, slots will be there no matter what, and they’re legal, too.
I know some poker players don’t like it because slots are not a skill game, and I understand that, but I don’t have any issue with doing this.
As long as they sponsor me for tournaments there will be money going into poker.
PL: Twitch live streaming is the new thing. Are you going to be playing on Twitch, then?
AH: I was in Malta recently where I met up with a couple of Swedish friends. One of them is on Twitch so we had a session playing video slots.
I don’t have my own channel yet, but it’s likely I’m going to start one. I’ve done pretty good on TV, and I’m reasonably good at talking, and at talking bull…
PL: (very quickly) So, if the Norwegian Championship loses to the Battle of Malta at the EPA, will you still come back to play the next one?
AH: Yes, I will probably come back every year. It’s such a fun tournament. I would say it’s almost like the Norwegian Championships.
The players are very similar people, there is always a lot of partying and happy people, and let’s face it the weather is far better than in Oslo.
So, it’s like the Norwegian Championships but without the rain and cold outside.
PL: There are plenty of open apartments in Malta, in case you’d like to stay longer.
AH: I’ve considered that but it’s too dangerous. There are too many bars and too many people who want to go to bars.
Hanging out in these places with nice weather above is just too tempting, and they have that weather in Malta eight months a year.
PL: Not moving to Malta is a form of self-protection for you?
AH: Yes, correct.