Finland: The Home of Open-Face Chinese Poker
Visitors to Finland are attracted by the laid-back lifestyle that exists in this winter paradise. It is also a great place for those who are into rock and heavy metal, because although heavy metal is counter culture everywhere else, in Finland it is mainstream. There are more heavy metal bands here per capita than anywhere else in the world and this form of music regularly tops the charts. Finland also drink more coffee per person than any other country in the world, making this an ideal place for lovers of the energising beverage.
Finland is a friendly and very well educated country. It has fantastic healthcare and an unbeatable educational system, both of which are often voted as the best in the world. It is also a country of great natural beauty, and one that is very firmly established in the modern world. But all of that aside, its the gambling and the poker that we’re interested in, so let’s take a look at what makes Finland such a gambler’s paradise.
Gambling in Finland
Although not renowned as a gambling hotspot, the Finnish love to gamble and Finland is home to one of the most unique casinos in the world. Located in the capital, the Grand Casino Helsinki looks just like any casino. It has a few hundred slot machines that create a buzz on the casino floor, table games (including blackjack and craps) to attract the professional players and the high rollers, and a poker room where the locals can play they favourite game, but the difference here is that all of the profits generated by the casino go straight to charity. Once the casino pays its staff and other costs, it gives the rest of the money away. This generosity makes losing all of your money at the tables feel like a charitable act.
Ironically, a lot of the proceeds go towards treating and caring for those with gambling addictions, but they also invest in community care schemes and pensioner care schemes. The Grand Casino Helsinki is the only official casino in Finland, but the organisation that run it and provide licenses for other such venues have given permission for nearly 300 restaurants and other establishments to operate table games. There is also a casino on the Åland Islands, a very small region that comes under the jurisdiction of Finland.
Another unique aspect of the Grand Casino Helsinki is the introduction of Open-Face Chinese Poker in the poker room, which is one of the post popular games at the casino. There are also games of Hold’em and Stud, and there is a Bad beat Jackpot. This is also where the Finnish Poker championships are held, when the best of the best in Finland compete to be crowned champions.
Gambling on the whole in Finland is something that creates a lot of money for local charities, in fact a vast majority of nonprofit funds in the country come from gambling, with everything from the Grand Casino Helsinki to sports books and online operations getting involved. Lotteries and bingo are also popular here and they also contribute to nonprofit organisations.
As for online gambling, there are close to 500 operations that list their base in the country, all of which have been given official permission by RAY, the organisation that run the Grand Casino Helsinki and control gambling in the country. The Finnish people can also use many of the top sports books and online casino that operate throughout Europe, and some of the bigger ones (including Ladbrokes, Unibet and Swedish-owned Bettson) even support the Finnish language.
Poker in Finland
Poker in Finland, like everywhere else in the world, has really exploded in the past two decades, but unlike the US or the UK, you’ll struggle to find anyone who played poker at all just twenty years ago. The boom in popularity very much dragged poker from complete obscurity and placed in in homes and card rooms across the country.
The most famous Finnish poker player today is Patrik Antonius, the first and currently the only celebrity Finnish poker player. Patrik has played with the likes of Tony G, Phil Ivey and Phil Helmuth. He is revered throughout the poker world as a consistent, stone-faced played who makes big moves and takes big risks. He is also known to be one of the most successful players ever when it comes to high-stakes cash games, an area in which he has excelled over the last decade or so.
Patrik has been a member of Team Full Tilt for a number of years, and was with them before the Black Friday incident. As well as his cash games, which he plays offline and online, he has amassed just shy of $5 million in live tournament earnings and has picked up ITM finishes in all of the major tours and series, including the Word Series of Poker, the European Poker Tour and the World Poker Tour.
In the last few years more Finnish poker players have been following Patrik’s lead. These include high stakes cash player Sami Kelopuro; live tournament grinder Juha Helppi; and Pot-Limit Omaha maestro Ilari Sahamies.
Live poker does exist in Finland but it is online where most of the Finnish players ply their trade. Online poker is very popular here and on sites like Pokerstars, Party Poker and Full Tilt poker there is a large population of Finnish poker players. There are also a number of home games, played in small communities among big fans of the game, and it is through these games that Open-Face Chinese Poker was invented.
Whether it’s because of the weather and the dark nights — which makes people want to stay at home for extended periods of time — or because of something cultural, the Finnish poker community has exploded in recent years and the game is now huge. Cash games are also big and the Finnish are some the biggest high rollers in online and offline poker, which is why Open-Face Chinese Poker caught on so quickly. Any game that is conducive to small table cash games was always going to be accepted by the Fins, and when you add in the speed and the thrill that Open-Face Chinese Poker brings, it’s no surprise that it became as big as it did.
After that, the game was quick to move into Russia, who love their poker and their cash games just as much as the Finnish do. And once the rest of the world heard about this new and exciting game they were equally quick to accept it.
The rest, as they say, is history. But that history wouldn’t exist if not for the resilient, poker-loving Finnish who shared their love of high stakes cash games with the world and gave all of us a new revolution in poker.