“Poker still gives me a thrill from time to time. All deep runs, even if it’s a small tournament, like $3,000 for first, the competition of getting to the final table gives me a thrill even though it’s something I do every day.”
For professional online poker pro Jonatan ‘Pot4teUS’ Hellman, his life and the grind are intertwined. Despite everything that he’s gone through in the past two years – a marriage, a divorce, a move from the country to the city – Hellman has continued to maintain his focus and keep the grind alive.
Hellman has been a PocketFiver for over five years and a poker pro for even longer. He has amassed over $3.5 million since 2016, more than doubling his lifetime earnings to a massive $6.6 million. He did this with the confidence and support of one of the toughest, tight-knit online poker communities – the Swedes. It’s no secret that many of the top-tier online pros hail from Sweden, with 12 of the top 100 ranked player in the world coming from the Kingdom, including the #1-ranked player in the world ‘lena900.’
“Yea, I know all of them,” Hellman said. “A lot of us are really tight and hang out a lot, talk on Skype and talk hands. A big group stays in Gothenburg which is the second biggest city in Sweden. It’s me, Mr. Andrew (‘r4ndomr4gs’) and Lena (‘lena900’), ‘Sheater’, ‘eisenhower1’, ‘inhoo’…there’s a lot of guys staying in the same city so we go out a lot.”
As prolific as Hellman and #TeamSWE are, it’s a marvel that the crew has any time to spare for a night out at all.
“We usually go to nice dinners, go out partying and stuff. That’s basically it. But not that often anymore. Everyone wants to stay home and grind, especially ‘Lena’ – he’s the most boring one by far,” Hellman laughs. “That’s why he’s number one. Like on a Friday, when we usually have a day off we go out to a nice restaurant, have some beers and a nice dinner. He gets there, has one Coke then he gets home to grind. That’s why he’s the best.”
The reputation of the Swedish contingency precedes itself. Legendary tales of wildly aggressive play and maniacal moves.
“We used to be crazy,” Hellman laughs. “I think people play pretty much the same now, except the South American players, especially the guys from Uruguay. ‘SixthSenSe19’ (Fabrizio Gonzalez) and his crew, they have their own style.”
“(The reputation) was more of a thing a few years ago. But like the Brazilians, there are so many of them, there are going to be a lot of different styles. It’s the same with the Swedes. It’s not like everyone plays like ‘Isildur1’ in 2008. Obviously, if we talk poker with each other some tendencies are going to be the same but there’s still going to be different styles.”
It’s clear that there is a camaraderie and healthy competition among Hellman and his countrymen. Hellman, who is currently the #4-ranked player in the country, more than holds his own. A former top-5 ranked player in the world, Hellman has been rising back up the rankings, currently sitting at #21 thanks in part to his first PokerStars WCOOP title this fall.
“I had a terrible WCOOP, I just lost every day,” Hellman recalls. “Then the last day was a $1K Turbo Bounty and I shipped that. It was cool.”
To hear Hellman talk about it, he’s happy with it but not overly so. He keeps an even keel about notching his new career-high cash of over $84,000 first place plus another $78,000 in bounties.
That’s all in a day’s work for a man who has just recently surpassed 7,000 total recorded online cashes. His work ethic had awarded him with what would be roughly four cashes a day, every day, for the past five years. He’s simply played so many tournaments, so many sessions he couldn’t even tell you how many tournaments he plays in a session.
“I have no idea,” he said. “I play around twelve tables at a time. I’m guessing I’m playing maybe forty or fifty tournaments in a session. On a Sunday maybe more.
“I basically play everything between $50 and, on a normal day, the biggest ones are $1K. During a series, I’ll usually play (up to) the $5K Main. But I’ll play most of the $2K’s and below. So really a grind for me can be varied buy-ins. Sometimes I’ll get $20 buy-ins in as well.”
The pursuit of online perfection has taken Hellman away from playing live poker as much as he used to. Approaching $500,000 in live earnings, Hellman will make the occasional appearance at a European Poker Tour event but prefers the action right where he is.
“I used to play more live a few years ago but I tired of it basically. The traveling, the long hours and only being able to one table live, it’s not really for me. I mean, live deep runs is the most fun you can ever have in a poker tournament but the two or three days before that is so boring.
“One of my first live tournaments was the WSOP Main Event in 2012 and I finished 28th in that, so that was really huge for me. It’s really funny because I was a terrible MTT player back then, I played only cash games. I think about it all the time because nowadays I’m super serious about pay jumps. Like in the (PokerStars) Hot $55, if I have five big blinds I’m going to stall because I want to make the extra $20. But back then, the pay jump between 28th and 27th was $60K and that was basically my net worth when I went to Vegas that year and I had no idea there was a pay jump.”
The more times change for Hellman, the more they stay the same. His life in Gothenburg is surrounded by friends all focused on the grind. Up next for Hellman, appears to be more of the same. Perhaps even there’s a return to the top 10 in his future.
“I think (the PocketFives rankings) are a fun element but the problem now is they have added so many super buy-in tournaments, like $25Ks. They have so many tournaments which I don’t play so it makes it kind of hard to ever be able to compete with, for example, ‘lena’ and ‘Darwin’ who play everything,” Hellman said. “It’s still fun. Maybe to become the best Swede outside of ‘lena’ and ‘Darwin’, that’s my goal.”
You can follow Jonatan Hellman’s poker journey via Twitter: @Jonatan_Hellman