Text and photos by: Anette Broteng Christiansen, ThorNews
Between March 24th and April 1st, more than a thousand Norwegian poker players are gathered at the Citywest Hotel in Dublin, Ireland.
Under Norwegian gambling laws, poker is illegal in Norway. The consequence is that the players have to travel abroad to play tournaments.
Recently, ThorNews met several players on a plane from Oslo to Dublin and got an exclusive interview with a professional player. The young man will not risk his freedom and therefore has to keep his identity secret, – but let us call him ‘Martin Martinsen’.
Our ‘poker playing friend’ appears as a 25-year-old, bright man. His attitude is a bit shy, but according to Norwegian legislation, he is a criminal. That is why he and many other poker enthusiasts travel abroad to participate in tournaments: To avoid Norwegian police. The Norwegian Poker Championship 2011 was held in Riga. This year, it is held in Dublin.
Because poker is banned by Norwegians authorities, the whole Norwegian poker community is provoked due to the Governmental double moral: State-controlled betting on football, horses and lotteries is totally legal.
‘I think it is totally hopeless that poker is banned in Norway when state controlled betting on football and horses are legal. Primarily, poker is a social game based on tactics, mathematic skills and experience. Statistically, the best players always win in the long run. A professional poker player develops his/her gaming skills over time, but occasionally, ‘a lucky hand’ can win the whole pot.’Martin Martinsen is a professional full-time player. His mother and father support his talent and are eager fans – despite the fact that their son is ‘a criminal’, under Norwegian law.
‘My parents are really supportive. They know that poker is my passion and not something I just have stumbled into. In school, I had excellent grades in math, and I have always had an interest for numbers, figures and logical thinking. And that is what poker is all about.’
Most Norwegian poker players have to play online. According to ‘Martin’, this takes away much of the thrill of playing since psychology is a very important poker skill.
‘The term ‘poker face’ is never present when you play online, and you are not able to psych out your opponents by just looking at them. Championships abroad are the only way to meet other players face to face legally. Many of us have played against each other on the Internet, but the real thrill of playing is so much better when you actually face your opponents. ’
Martin Martinsen is a real professional – and he really has a poker face: He does not smile or change his facial expression during the whole interview with ThorNews.
When we ask him how he celebrates when he wins a poker tournament, he answers: ‘I go back to my hotel room and shout ‘Yes’ or ‘Hooray’… when no one can hear me..’
‘The way poker challenge my intellect is the main reason why I am playing. I used to play chess – which requires much of the same knowledge, psychology and logical thinking. But I ask myself: Why is chess considered an intelligent game, when poker isn’t? In addition, betting on horses, football and lotteries – why is that legal? I don’t understand it. I’m really sorry that poker has such a bad reputation..’
Norwegian poker players are very frustrated about Norwegian gambling laws. Some players are open about their profession, but they have to be careful to avoid being fined.