What You Should Know about Poker in Finland – Past, Present and Future

by , Jun 15, 2021 | 8:50 am

As with other Scandinavian countries, gambling and Finns go hand in hand. Gambling and Poker in Finland is a big part of the Finnish entertainment industry and the country’s economy. 

History of poker in Finland

Gambling machines can be found in many places you would not expect to find a gambling device. It helps stimulate the economy and drive value for establishments that typically would not have gambling on their premises. This is made possible by the state-controlled monopoly, regulated through the Lotteries Act. Other countries have started to dissolve the government monopoly. No change has been made in Finland. The most recent change to their laws was an update in the lotteries act in 2001. This change increased player protection in a step to further minimise the harmful effects of problem gambling.

Poker in Finland largely flew under the radar pre-poker boom. Before the 2000s, poker games would be held in underground establishments or at a personal player’s home, away from the long arm of the law. With the regulations in 2001, poker became even less visible in Finland. But it would only be another two years until the online poker boom, which propelled online poker everywhere, including Finland. It was and still is easy to access poker sites online that was not subject to specific laws in Finland.

In the subsequent years. People across Finland found a new hobby and several professional poker players emerged.

Patrik Antonius needs no introduction in Finland. But he was just the start of top poker players to emerge from Finland. (Image: Danny Maxwell)

Best Finnish Poker Players

Juha Helppi is a humble Finnish poker player that made a name for himself by consistently placing well in tournaments. He started playing tournaments when he was 24 years old, in 2001. He won the first-ever Premier League Poker tournament. He has several other notable wins and has amassed over €7 million in tournament earnings.

Illari Sahamies is another great Finnish poker player. Contrary to Helppi, Sahamies is mainly known for his cash game play – ultra-aggressive. In 2009, he was up almost €7 million in one day during a game at Full Tilt Poker, the best poker site at the time. Or as Sahamies would say in Finnish: “Paras pokerisivusto.” An exact figure on how much money Sahamies has amassed in cash games is unknown. His tournament wins exceed €2 million.

Patrik Antonius needs no introduction. Often featured on the list over all-time greats internationally. Without a doubt, the most recognised and known Finnish poker play. From tournament player, Antonius has won over €8 million. These €8 million is just a fraction of what Antonius has made playing cash game at Full Tilt Poker and other sites. Along with live cash games in Las Vegas and Macau.

Poker in Finland 2021

Online gambling in Finland is not a monopoly. The regulatory authorities in Finland allow pre-approved sites to offer their services, such as online poker in Finland. Two such examples are Betsson and Nordicbet, which are considered to be among the best poker sites in Finland. Besides the legally operate online gambling sites, as the ones mentioned above, there are several sites offering online poker to Finns. The number of sites available online is in the hundreds up to a thousand. The issues from a regulatory perspective are that there is no way to prohibit foreign operators from offering services to Finnish players online. And no laws are stopping Finnish poker players from playing online.

Future of poker in Finland

Having legal online poker sites means that revenues derived from such operations need to be taxed in Finland. So, such activities benefit the economy of Finland. The quote, unquote, illegal online poker sites do not benefit the economy, which is why the government is set to tighten their grip on such foreign operators. The way they hope to achieve this is by putting technical restrictions on online money transactions. These provisions would effectively make it impossible for Finnish players to transfer money, in or out of foreign operators. In reality, such a limitation would make it much more difficult but not impossible for Finnish poker players to play online poker through foreign operators. Sites offering cryptocurrencies as a deposit and withdrawal option would be easy to access and impossible to track.

Another provision is to use IP-blocking. Which again will stop many players from accessing and playing at foreign poker sites. But there are several ways to bypass IP-blocking and still access the sites. While the measures will improve the situation and make foreign poker sites less accessible, they will not eliminate the problem of thousands of Finnish poker players playing at foreign poker sites. Finland could also go the route of Sweden and reform its regulations and laws around gambling to open up the markets for more foreign but licensed and regulated online poker sites in Finland.


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