PROJECT POKER: From piste to poker

For those who might not know me, I’m a 28-year-old cross-country skier. I’ve been skiing all my life, starting out not-so-good and eventually becoming quite successful, being part of the cross-country team here in Sweden for seven years now and winning a couple of gold medals in Vancouver in 2010 and a gold and silver in Sochi this year.
I’m pretty used to this life by now, with constant competitions, training, and traveling. Poker is a game I really enjoy in between all of my other obligations.
In Vancouver in 2010, my colleague from Norway, Petter Northug, asked me if I’d like to come play some poker in Las Vegas at the World Series while also competing against him there in a roller skiing competition. I did and liked it, and soon I became involved with PokerStars and have been playing on the EPT and online when I can.
I’ve played at Monaco a couple of times and would like to go to Barcelona this fall, although it’s tricky to fit in those trips with my training. Also, I became a father in April, which was why I didn’t go to the Grand Final this year. The family is doing well and our daughter is fine. Perhaps if I do go to Barcelona I can talk to Jake Cody about diapers and everything else as he just had his first daughter right about the same time we did.
I like playing with friends and in training camps sometimes, and I like playing online as well. It takes my mind off skiing and lets me relax a little bit while also giving me a mental challenge. It’s a true skill game, and playing helps keep my mind active. It also satisfies my love of competition.
Even though poker doesn’t have the physical element that skiing does, there’s a lot in common as far as nerves and the mental side of the game is concerned. There’s also a similarity when it comes to endurance and keeping your focus for a long period of time. Cross-country skiing competitions take a while, and the training and everything else takes a long time, too, and so to be able to compete successfully means developing the ability to sustain your concentration for lengthy periods.
When I’m playing a poker tournament, then, I have no problem sitting and waiting for cards. My patience is great, but the challenge comes when I do play hands and have to make decisions about how best to play them. I do like tournaments better than cash games, because I think they suit me and my game better. It’s fun to play for a big first-place prize, too, and it’s also nice to know you are only going to lose so much — the buy-in — in a tournament.
I’m getting better, but I know there’s always work to do to improve. It’s like when I started out as a skier — it took a lot of work and patience to learn and eventually to compete successfully.

Marcus Hellner
Categories Business