Jani Sointula and Finnish Poker Legends

When Jani Sointula lifted €320,300 for his 4th place finish in the €25k HighRoller last week, it was a far cry from his old haunting ground of the Casino Helsinki in his Finnish homeland.

The 40-year old, who cashed 3 more times at EPT Barcelona, now finds himself in 3rd spot in the All Time money winner’s list in Finland – trailing only the legendary names of Patrick Antonius and Juha Helpii.

Known online as ‘Hellraiser’, the instantly recognisable pro with flowing long blonde locks could often be found traversing the waters between Casino Helsinki and the Estonian tournaments regularly held in Tallin’s Olympic Casino. Cashing out for a few thousand euro every so often, Sointula was just another decent Scandinavian pro among thousands, grinding live and online at places like www.casinoservice.org.

It wasn’t until he turned up at the Monte Carlo Millions final table in 2004 that his obvious talent came to the attention of the wider poker public. With Phil Ivey going out in 3rd place, it was left to Sointula and his fellow-Finn – the afore-mentioned national number two, Juha Helpii – to fight it out heads-up. When Sointula eventually took the victory, he was $400,000 and one title wealthier.

One year later, while Phil Ivey took down the Millions event, Sointula who was again cashing big in Monte Carlo, this time finishing 9th at the inaugural EPT Grand Final– picking up €40,000 on the final table bubble. When he took down 2nd spot at the €10K WPT in Paris a year later for a huge €356,250 ($453,533) he had become a name to be reckoned with among the tournament high-rollers.

Although cashing at the 2007 WSOP in PLO, and the following year at the WSOP Europe, it was a quiet time for the Finn. It wasn’t until further big High-Roller cashes at EPT London 2010 (2nd spot in the £10K event for £350,000) and the Prague Poker Festival (the €10K PLO event for €132,300) that Sointula was back among the big boys. Numerous other cashes around the world, have since taken Sointula’s Live Career earnings to a whopping $2,792,308.

Sointula’s 3rd place on the Finnish all-time earnings list might be a hard position to improve on.

Juha Helpii’s 2nd spot earnings of $5,771,994 have been accrued with a remarkable consistency across the live tournament circuit in Europe. His biggest single win may have come back in 2007 ($331,144 for coming second at the WSOP $1K NLHE event) but he has regularly picked up $150K+cashes in the years since.

Out in front, of course, is the Finnish legend Patrick Antonius. When he finished 1st in the Ladbrokes Scandinavian Poker Championships back in 2005, it started a remarkable run of big cashes and title wins.

A 3rd at the EPT season 2 in Barcelona was quickly followed by winning the EPT Baden main event and, barely 2 months later, he scored his first live $1million win when he narrowly lost out on the title at the WPT Five Diamond Classic in Las Vegas. Antonius’ confirmed his position as leading all-time Finn when he finished 2nd at the Aussie Millions in 2012 and has since pulled in another $2million in live play.