Early this morning, PokerStars sent out a presser announcing that “online poker phenomenon” Isildur1 had been signed on as the latest Team PokerStars Pro. (Here is the article reporting the news on the PokerStars blog.) Kind of a “hot off the presses” deal here, although the story has already begun to spread quickly onto the usual sites and forums, as well as via Twitter, Facebook, carrier pigeon, etc.
But the signing also seems like a “scoop” in terms of PokerStars having grabbed up a player so directly identified with its nearest competitor, Full Tilt Poker. Wouldn’t you say?
It was a little over a year ago, if you recall, that Isildur1 first grabbed our attention by playing highest-stakes heads-up matches on Full Tilt Poker against the site’s top players -- both the sponsored “red” pros and others. Seemingly having appeared out of nowhere, the then-unknown Isildur1 suddenly appeared playing the likes of Tom “durrrr” Dwan, Phil Ivey, Patrik Antonius, Cole South, Brian Townsend, Ilari “Ziigmund” Sahamies, Brian Hastings, and others on a nightly basis, experiencing mammoth swings of millions of dollars in both directions while driving the railbirds wild.
I recall having railed the games myself one Saturday night in late November 2009, watching as Isildur1 played six tables of $500/$1,000 pot-limit Omaha versus both Ivey and Antonius while also participating in a $25,000 buy-in PLO heads-up tournament on Full Tilt. That was the night of the $1,356,946.50 pot versus Antonius -- the biggest-ever pot in online cash game history -- which you can read further about here.
The “Isildur1 Saga” (as it was often dubbed) only lasted a few short months, actually, fading rapidly as the final days of 2009 came to a close. The saga’s final episodes were marked by controversy after Brian Hastings enjoyed a massive session versus the mysterious Isildur1 in which the college student earned $4.2 million on what was essentially a short break from studying for exams.
Hastings later let it be known that he and Brian Townsend had shared some data with one another regarding Isildur1’s play, perhaps violating the site terms for Full Tilt Poker. I wrote about that here in a post titled “Digging for Gold (Mining Isildur1),” then also about the possibility that Isildur1 might be filing a complaint of some kind with Full Tilt in “Grab Your Popcorn (Isildur1 v. Full Tilt).” (One wonders if perhaps this hubbub might’ve negatively affected the possibility of Isildur1 ever becoming a Full Tilt Poker red pro.)
Isildur1 disappeared from the scene as 2010 began, though we did briefly see “The Return of Isildur1” in late March. Like most sequels, though, it disappointed, though there were some interesting PLO hands between Isildur1 and Phil “OMGClayAiken” Galfond during that stretch.
In April it was announced that Isildur1 would be playing in PartyPoker’s Big Game -- finally acknowledging once and for all his true identity -- though he backed out at the last minute. More recently came rumors that a player on PokerStars from Sweden named “grolongo” might in fact be Isildur1, though such rumors were never ultimately confirmed.
Viktor Blom, the player generally thought to be the mysterious Isildur1, then turned up at the World Series of Poker Europe in September where he battled Phil Ivey for the chip lead in the Main Event during the middle stages of the tournament before finishing 16th.
Speaking of rumors, there had been some buzz lately -- especially during the last couple of weeks -- that Blom/Isildur1 might have signed a deal of some sort with a major site. A few days ago there was an article over on Gutshot noting that within the last couple of months Blom had moved out of his apartment in Sweden, where taxes on gambling winnings are inordinately high -- the primary reason, say most, for all of the intrigue surrounding identifying Isildur1. Reaction to that news included some speculating that the move might have been connected to Blom having signed with an online site.
Most interestingly, the PokerStars press release does not identify Isildur1 definitively, instead noting that his “real identity is set to be unveiled in the near future.” The article on the PokerStars blog suggests that Isildur1 “MAY be revealed” prior to the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in January. Also, there will soon be occurring some scheduled heads-up matches on PokerStars involving Isildur1, a “Super Showdown” series consisting of 2,500-hand sessions at stakes of at least $50/$100. The first match is scheduled for December 19th at 18:00 ET against a yet-to-be-named opponent.
So it sounds like the stakes won’t quite match those of the matches from a year ago -- not at first, anyway. And one imagines the buzz surrounding Isildur1’s play can’t possibly reach the level of last year, either.
But whatever hype does happen, it appears Stars -- and not Full Tilt -- has the scoop.