The country that brought us IKEA, Volvo wagons and the smorgasbord is exporting a new commodity: top notch poker players. With just 27 remaining rounders left in the main event, close to a third hail from overseas, and half are from Sweden. It‚Äôs a trend that‚Äôs been in the making since 2004 when Stockholm‚Äôs Martin de Knijff took the WPT Championship and its 2.7 million dollar prize and ‚ÄúScreaming Swede‚Äù Mattias Andersson woke up the WSOP main event with his earsplitting shrieks and 8th place finish.
Stepping into Knijff ‚Äòs and Andersson‚Äôs shoes here are Daniel Bergdorf ($2,550,000), Oskar Silow ($1,440,000), Per Hildebrand ($645,000) and Ayhan Alsancak ($225,000). While Hildebrand and Alsancak will need miracles to stay in much longer, especially since they‚Äôre sharing a table with Phil Ivey and Greg Raymer today, Silow is miraculously still in with a workable stack after doubling up from Ivey on Day Five. Bergdorf (pictured with Ivey) though is the Swede to watch as he sits around the chip average going into today but he‚Äôs no average player with a good read on the field and changing gears from solidly tight to Viking-like aggression.
While the Swede‚Äôs are here in numbers at the tables, it‚Äôs the Aussies who are the force to reckon with in the stands, as a dozen or more from Down Under cheer loudly for current national hero Joe Hachem. Hachem‚Äôs a top tournament player at home in Melbourne with final table appearances at the Crown Victorian Championship and Australasian Championship, and he‚Äôs been making noise at the feature table with a double up here and there that sends his crew into a roar, chanting ‚ÄúAussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi! Oi! Oi!‚Äù
The nationalist pride from the Swedes and the Aussies is giving this World Series an Olympic like feel. You can even sense the generally reserved British media in the room quietly rooting for their country mates Tiffany Williamson ($1,000,000) and John McGrane ($600,000) as they attempt to do what no other Brit has done before, win the main event at the WSOP.
Rounding out the players from abroad is the former monk Andrew Black, who‚Äôs broken his vow of silence to amass $2,350,000 going into Day Six. Practicing the Golden Rule of ‚Äúdo onto other as you would have them do on to you,‚Äù Black exhibited uncommon sportsmanship on Day Five when he refused to play while Bing Wang wasn‚Äôt at the table. The short-stacked Wang had mistakenly thought it was a dinner break instead of a regular break and was being blinded and anted off much to Black‚Äôs chagrin. Almost in tears and standing away from the table, Black objected to playing until Wing returned, which he did moments later after someone tracked him down.
It was the sign of a true gentleman, in a game not always known for such, but with 7.5 million dollars now closer in sight, Black will likely toss aside empathy for a shot at victory in the biggest game of all.