Ilari ‘Ziigmund’ Sahamies talks about super high stakes cash games and his battles with the big names in poker

The outspoken Finn, Ilari ‘Ziigmund’ Sahamies, talks about life at the top of the online cash scene and battling with the latest pretender, Isildur1

When Isildur1 burst onto the online high stakes scene in late 2009, there was no shortage of contenders willing to step up and trade million-dollar blows with the unknown Swede. Phil Ivey, Patrik Antonius and durrrr all took their shot – with mixed results – but so far nobody has been willing to talk about what it was like to play against Isildur and what life in the nosebleed $500/$1,000 cash games on Full Tilt is really like.

Step forward Ilari ‘Ziigmund’ Sahamies, the outspoken and brilliant PLO specialist who played nearly 10,000 hands of heads-up PLO with Isildur. In this exclusive interview the extreme stakes veteran opens up to PokerPlayer about Isildur, the controversial Brian Townsend hand histories case, and why, despite winning $3.2m online in 2009, he still isn’t satisfied…

Why did everyone want to play against Isildur so much?

I think everybody thinks they have an edge against him. I can’t think of another reason. I think I have an edge against him but I’m not sure. It might be that if we play long sessions over a year I might lose but I think I have a small edge so I want to play. I want to gamble also. It’s very fun to play against him. The pots are very big all the time so it’s very fun to play. He’s the most aggressive guy I have ever played against.

Was the excitement of the big pots a reason everybody wanted to play him?

Yes, but I think many guys don’t want to gamble so much. They want to take just a $100k buy-in and not take the $200k deep buy-in. Everybody feels they have an edge but they don’t want to risk that much money because the game is so huge. Nobody has the bankroll to play that game but everybody plays still. Maybe Patrik [Antonius] and Phil [Ivey] have the bankroll. I can say only for myself, I don’t have the bankroll but I want to play.

Did you ever play Isildur at Hold’em?

Yeah, I was lucky against him and won about $600k in half an hour. It was my very first time playing him. I was lucky – I think he’s very good at no-limit.

What did you think about Brian Hastings winning $4.2m from Isildur in one day and the subsequent controversy surrounding Brian Townsend and the sharing of hand histories?

I read about it. Everybody speaks about hands all the time – I think it’s okay to talk about hands. I don’t do it, but many guys do. I don’t think it’s cheating.

Do you think Isildur will be back in 2010?

He will come back.

When you play the nosebleed PLO games against Ivey, Antonius, David Benyamine and so on, do you think you have a big edge or is it simply who runs the best?

If I play my A-game then I think I have an edge against them. But if I play at 80% I don’t have an edge. I’m winning a lot on Full Tilt… And I haven’t won that money from people like Guy Laliberté. I won that money from $50/$100, $200/$400 and $500/$1,000 games. I play against everybody and I’m winning, so I’m happy.

Is there anybody you wouldn’t play at high stakes PLO?

Maybe Patrik. I don’t want to play against Patrik, but everybody else I want to play.

Is that because you are friends?

No, I just think he is very good.

What was the story with your regular all-in blind flips with Ivey last year? Some of those pots were worth $400,000.

I went on tilt and every time I tilt I want to flip. If I’m losing $600,000 I want to get it back quickly. I’m so f***ing tilted then that all I want to do is flip.

You’ve played high stakes for such a long time now. Does losing money still mean anything to you?

I don’t think it’s the money. If I play $50/$100 and only lose $40,000 I might be on super tilt. It’s not about money. It’s competition. When I lose $1m in a night I can’t sleep. It does matter.

Do you think the games have got too big online?

For me, absolutely. I shouldn’t play those games but it’s hard to play $100/$200 all the time when you have played higher. It’s hard for me to concentrate playing that now. The games are too big for me but not for Patrik or Cole South or Phil or those guys. You should have at least $10m in your Full Tilt account if you want to play $500/$1,000. If I lose $2m I’ll quit those games and go smaller, but while I’m winning I guess the games are fine.

You were up $3.2m for the year on Full Tilt Poker. Are you happy with that?

Actually, no. If I’d been a little bit sharper I could be up about $7m. I played very tired, and sometimes I tilted and just pushed my money away. But, of course, it’s okay to win $3.2m in a year. It was an okay year. 

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