Sunday, January 9, 2011



Who is Isildur1, Where Did He Come From, and How Did He Get Here?

Much has been typed, spoke, and cursed or praised about the online phenom known simply as "Isildur1" since his explosion onto the online felt in September of 2009. It was then that Isildur1 took his first shots at the nosebleed high stakes games on Full Tilt Poker. He had been constantly building his bankroll since early 2009, and had finally accumulated a roll he deemed worthy enough to take a shot at the likes of Phil Ivey, Tom Dwan, and Patrik Antonius. Antonius had said in an interview with Full Tilt that Isildur1 had built his bankroll up to $1.4 million in September 2009, from $2,000 in early 2009, which was what he started with when he first played on Full Tilt against Haseeb Qureshi at the $100/$200 stakes.

During a roughly 24 hour session, Isildur1 had accumulated a profit of a staggering half million dollars, putting up a ridiculous 2,500 big blinds or 12.5 buy-ins at one of the higher stakes no limit games on the Internet. After this initial crushing of Qureshi, Isildur laid low for a month, participating in no games until playing the trio of Patrik Antonius, Brian Townsend, and Cole South at stakes ranging from $200/$400 to $500/$1,000 no limit hold'em. Unfortunately for Isildur1, the second session did not go as well as the first, and by the time he had finally cashed out, he had dropped more than a million dollars to the trio. His super aggressive style had backfired on him, and some of the leading high stakes analysts on the web doubted the techniques that had rushed him up to his million dollar bankroll; his aggression was actually a determent to him against similarly aggressive, creative players such as Townsend and Antonius, who were able to combat his aggression with calculated plays and even more furious aggression.

In the waning days of October, Isildur1 took another crack at Townsend and South at the same stakes, and came out ahead this time; way ahead. He made back $2 million in those sessions, pulling his overall profit on the site up to a tidy and even one million dollars. Spurred by this windfall, he sat at 6 $500/$1,000 tables simultaneously, issuing an open challenge to anyone that wanted to spar with him.

Someone did; Tom "Durrrr" Dwan played six tables with Isildur1 for over a week, with over a million dollars sitting on the tables multiple times throughout the course of the sessions, but in the end, the online bet was crushed to the tune of $5 million. Dwan wanted another shot at Isildur1, but instead, Antonius had his chance, and he too felt the sting of Isildur1, dropping $1.6 million in a single day, putting Isildur1's profits at a remarkable $5.98 million over the course of three months; a spectacular windfall by anyone's standards.

Isildur1 was at the top of the nosebleed cash game world in November, 2009; he had completely destroyed two of the top cash game players in the world, Patrik Antonius and Tom Dwan, and had accumulated a profit of almost $6 million dollars on Full Tilt Poker over a period of three months; it seemed as though the wild and aggressive Isildur1 was meant to change the game and crush all comers at Full Tilt Poker. But, tides can turn, and luck can change, and players began to figure out the aggressive style that Isildur1 employed, which came back to quickly haunt the online enigma.

The next player that Isildur1 chose to challenge was none other than the new legend of poker himself, Phil Ivey. He chose to play Ivey at three tables of heads up $500/$1,000 no limit hold'em, while still playing some of the other top pros at side games while in the matches with Ivey. The Ivey challenge proved to be a terrible disaster for Isildur1, as he ended up dropping a total of $3.2 million dollars over the course of the week, wiping out half of the profits he had made in a single week. In later interviews, Isildur1 stated (while keeping his identity a secret) that Phil Ivey was the toughest of any of the prior opponents he had played, which was certainly evident in the large chunk of change he had dropped to Mr. Ivey.

The big loss certainly made an impact in the willingness of other high stakes pros to play Isildur1 again. After Ivey's dominant performance, Antonius agreed to play Isildur1 in omaha, a game that Isildur1 had not played a large amount of, and as such, turned out to be another terrible financial decision for Isildur, as he set a record for the biggest single day loss in online poker history, dropping a staggering $3 million in just 24 hours. In retrospect, the decision to play omaha was probably one born out of tilt and his previous big wins against Antonius, fueling his intent to crush him at any game, which opened the door for Antonius to let his experience at omaha take him to the big win.

The following day, Isildur1 agreed to play Antonius in a rematch, again in omaha. This time, Isildur1 got the better of Antonius, winning back $2 million of the $3 million he had lost the day before. The two day loss for the mystery pro was still over a million, dropping Isildur1's profits on Full Tilt Poker back down to just $2 million dollars from the peak of $6 million a few months earlier. This continued to stay at the same watermark until December of 2009, when Isildur1 decided to take on Brian Hastings in a 5 hour session that would set off one of the biggest firestorms and the biggest single day loss in online poker history.

Isildur1 had many swings throughout the course of his play period on Full Tilt Poker, but none were of the extreme nature like his bout with Brian Hastings. On December 8th, 2009, Isildur1 came out of the woodwork to take on Hastings, after dispatching Daniel Cates and Brian Townsend to the tune of nearly $1.2 million. In just five hours, Hastings completely dismantled Isildur1 for a staggering loss of $4.2 million.

It looked as thought Isildur1 had finally made the blowup that everyone had expected, but a closer look at the numbers show that Hastings ran incredibly well during the session, running a total of $3 million above expected value when in all-in situations. Even still, this would still mean that Isildur1 should've lost over a million to Hastings, so obviously something he was doing was going awry; but what, and how did Hastings, a player that hadn't taken many high profile cracks at Isildur1 during his forays online, figure these kinks in the armor out so quickly?

Almost immediately after the win, Hastings had an interview on ESPN in which he thanked Brian Townsend for his help in figuring Isildur1's strategy out. It turned out that the duo, along with Cole South, had compiled a database of 30,000 hands plus 20,000 of his own hands played and used it as a program in beating Isildur1's aggression. The problem? This is clearly a violation of Full Tilt Poker's rules and regulations, and it was a red name pro caught in the middle of the storm. In fact, Townsend had been suspended from his status as a pro once before for multi-accounting, so the latest blow to Townsend's rep was one of a "less serious" nature by FTP's standards, but a far, far more expensive one for Isildur1 to take. Between the three pros, the trio took $5.6 million from Isildur1, effectively crippling him to the point of semi-retirement.

After the torching, Isildur1 made a few interviews voicing his displeasure over the Townsend revelation, and made comments about "seeking repayment" for the money he had lost due to the possible cheating Townsend had performed. Unfortunately, little was released publicly about whether or not he had gotten anything back from FTP, and based on comments from FTP security saying the infraction in question was a "relatively minor" one, it's unlikely that Isildur1 received anything back from them, which may be a reason for his disappearance from the site for an excessive period of time. He had also completely drained his bankroll, and it was unknown if he had backers or anyone rolling him for any of the amount he was playing for, so he may have very well wiped his entire bankroll out in that single 5 hour session with Hastings. In any case, Isildur1 expressed a desire to stay away from FTP until the matter was resolved, and he did just that; staying far away from the site for many months after the incident.

Isildur1 was one of the driving forces in poker news in 2009; pushing the nosebleed poker games on Full Tilt Poker to dizzying heights, swinging millions of dollars from day to day, and even finding himself mired in controversy between himself and another red name pro on Full Tilt, Brian Townsend. All of these things were good for generating buzz behind Isildur1, but not for keeping his bankroll afloat; he had decimated the profits made in the early parts of 2009 and was actually a losing player for the year now on FTP. What was Isildur1 to do in 2010?

Tony G had something to say about Isildur1; he almost outed his persona as none other than Viktor Blom, he of the legendary 3 bet shove with king high in the 2009 WSOPE Main Event, running smack into three aces and quickly nuking off a 200k plus stack in a single hand. Tony G quickly retracted the statement however, and simply said that he would be staking Isildur1 in 2010 in big cash games in the future. It took until February for Isildur1 to revive himself online, playing smaller stakes at first, swinging "only" $100k at a time in both directions. It wasn't until February 16th that Isildur1 regained his form of old, bouncing Justin "ZeeJustin" Bonomo for a half million dollars in a single session. He also tagged Durrrr, Ziigmund, and Brian Hastings in this period, collecting a cool $1.8 million in profits over the two week session, a nice recovery on his prior losses.

Isildur1 doesn't like to give up when he's on a rush, though, and the loss that plagued him his last turnout came up and smacked him again in the form of Bonomo, Hastings, and OMGClayAiken all three throttling him for $1.6 million of the profit he had earned in the previous weeks. At the end of February, Isildur1 had a profit of just $200,000 left; a profit nonetheless, but a extremely small one for a player capable of $5 million dollar swings in a single session. March, therefore, was representative of the Isildur1 style of swings; huge swings. He would win a million off Ziigmund, then donate it back to Hastings, then earn some back from Cole South and Hastings, then dump all of that plus some to OMGClayAiken, and so on, for the entirety of March.

By the time the smoke cleared at the end of the month, Isildur1 was back to even overall since he return; not the kind of result Tony G allegedly hoped for from his young horse, but better than the million dollar plus loss he had incurred earlier in his career. After March, he had just two significant sightings on FTP; both in losing efforts. But the Isildur1 legend was only beginning to manifest itself; it just took a different site, a rebuilt bankroll, and the marathon sessions in the "Durrrr Challenge" as inspiration to spark Isildur1 back in the spotlight months later.

Isildur1 had swung up and down an impressive amount of times throughout his career on Full Tilt Poker, but after getting burned by one of their red pros and running out his entire bankroll to the point of requiring a backer, whispers began sprouting up that Isildur1 was broke, finished, a sad story about what happens when good players get that twinkle in their eye to try to go for broke and win every dollar on the planet, only to have it all go horribly wrong and wind up penniless and out of the big games.

But in December of 2010, the whispers were less about his apparent zeroed out bankroll and more about him leaving FTP for another major poker site. It was revealed that he had signed with an online poker site that wasn’t FTP in the beginning of December, and on December 7th, Isildur1 had announced his new home, and in a shocker, he chose the leading competition to FTP;

This came as shock to many in the high stakes world, who had not found PokerStars to be a big haven for the high stakes realm; the biggest pots in the world were all found on FTP, all of the money that Isildur1 had left on FTP would be tricky to reclaim from players that were contractually bound to stay on FTP, like Phil Ivey and Durrrr. So, a bold move by PS indeed, but what did all of this spell out for the young gun?

The first big shocker of the announcement came when PS announced that, eventually, the identity of the pro would finally be revealed. It had been rumored for a long time that the player behind Isildur1 was none other than Viktor Blom; Tony G had even stated in an interview that Blom was in fact the online phenom. But, the G retracted the statement, and now we’ll have a chance, soon enough, to actually determine the identity of Isildur1 during his stay with PS.

His signing has also sparked up the high stakes cash games on PS. Before, Daniel’s Room and its attempts to bolster the nosebleed cash games on PS were met with little fanfare, as Daniel struggled to make the time to play in the rooms on a regular basis. With Isildur1 joining PS, he has been a constant fixture in the high stakes rooms on PS, winning and losing six figure sums on a regular basis, and attracting the likes of OMGClayAiken (MrSweets28 on PS) and Issac Haxton (luvthewnba on FTP) into playing him at the highest stakes PS offers.

Along with signing up to take over the promotion of High Stakes Poker and buying out the rights to the previous seasons (a move that caused FTP to eliminate allowing players from participating in the game) the Isildur1 signing is a sign that PS has decided to take a crack at being the new place for nosebleed cash games on the Internet. It has worked for FTP before; will it work for PS now?

Now, Isildur1 has made his mark on the online world, and is the headlining talent in the PokerStars line of cash game players; but what are they going to do to roll the young phenom out? To get a better idea of what PS has decided to do with their new star, we have to go back to Full Tilt Poker and Tom Dwan, and his own series of challenges with other high stakes players.

Durrrr has a series of challenges (The “Durrrr Challenge”) in which he plays a single opponent, over 4 tables at a time, in a predetermined stake and for a predetermined amount of time, until the hand limit is reached or the opponent is broke. Dwan also offered a bonus sum of money to an opponent that could beat him, three times the amount that he would win on the side if he won ($1.5 million to $500,000) that would go along with the profits won in the match. The challenges have generated a fair amount of buzz among boards on high stakes forums; and apparently PS has kept an eye on these boards as well, because nearly the same format is used in running the “Superstar Showdown” that PS is using as its primary showcase for Isildur1.

The Superstar Showdown uses some of the elements of this challenge geared more to a single session; each player that choose to play Isildur1 in the challenge will play 4 tables simultaneously of $50/$100 no limit hold’em, until either 2,500 hands or a stop/loss of $150,000 is hit, which ever comes first. There is no bonus for winning the challenge, though the ability to play on a national stage, in front of a load of raving, loud poker geeks is a good way to get some notoriety and publicity that some of the high stakes regulars haven’t earned yet; the first player to accept the challenge, Issac Haxton, has had his opportunities in the PS spotlight with his 2nd place performance in the PCA and a spot on the PS “Big Game” to his credit, but has never really came to the forefront of cash game lore; the Superstar Showdown is his chance to get the recognition and buzz he’s earned after his long journey in cash games and tournaments.

Isildur1 also gets some huge image rebuilding by getting to play on the big stage; even though the stakes are lower than he’s accustomed to at FTP, he’s still the main show here on PS, as far as cash games go, he’s even upstaged the almighty Kid Poker himself as far as generating any sort of buzz over PS cash game is concerned. Isildur1 is the future for the hopes of PS controlling the cash games in the online community. Can he pull off the unthinkable and get PS to the top of the nosebleed cash game sections? Only time will tell.