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[caption width="640"] Jonatan 'Pot4teUS' Hellman has been able to crush online poker thanks to balanced meals he prepares (photo: Tomas Stacha)[/caption] A number of poker players will tell you that a healthy, balanced diet improves their performance at the tables by leaps and bounds. Eat greasy pizza, a fatty cheeseburger, or a big old hunk of chocolate cake and your ability to call, raise, fold, and read other players effectively will likely go downhill. Eat a grease-free, balanced meal before playing poker and you might find yourself winning the next big tournament you play. Sweden's Jonatan 'Pot4teUS' Hellman takes the mantra "you are what you eat" to heart. On the felt, he has $3 million in lifetime online tournament winnings and has shot up all the way to #4 in the PocketFives Rankings. He's about to break $2 million in winnings on PokerStars under the handle 'TanTanSWE' and makes it a point to master the art of cooking so he can perform at a high level in the poker world. "I cook everything," the Swede said. "In the summer, it's a lot of barbecue stuff, but I like to try out new things all the time." Hellman's parents divorced when he was 12 years old. His mother was primarily the family's chef, so when he stayed with his father, Hellman began to assume the role. "It wasn't really given who was supposed to do the cooking since dad was used to mom always being in the kitchen," Hellman said. "So, I started helping out with simple stuff and got better and better at it. I think the breaking point for being a good cook is when you don't need recipes anymore and you get that fundamental feeling of what flavors work with what. That is when it becomes fun to cook. You take a look in the fridge and randomly improvise to make a nice meal. The feeling when your food gets appreciated by others is truly amazing." His ability to cook an array of foods has led to an uptick in results online. Take Sundays, when Hellman usually begins grinding at 4:00 PM, just before the dinner bell rings. "I need a hearty, filling meal with a lot of slow carbs that's going to give me energy for a lot of hours," he said of what food he usually cooks on poker's biggest tournament day. "It's hard to find the time during the grind to eat something serious, so I think it's important to have a good meal before. Swedish meatballs with potatoes, cream sauce, and lingonberry jam is probably my go-to Sunday grind meal." It's no wonder that by eating a variety of healthy foods, he's been able to dominate the online poker world. Hellman made the top three of the PokerStars Super Tuesday twice last year for $100,000 total. He also took third in a SCOOP $2,100 No Limit Hold'em event earlier this year for $157,000, his largest career score. His gold medals have come in tournaments like the Saturday Super-Knockout, partypoker $200,000 Guarantee, and PokerStars Big $162. [caption width="640"] Sliders three ways, one of Hellman's staple dishes[/caption] "I usually play badly when I'm hungry or am low on energy," he said. "Food also makes me happy. On Sundays, it's nice to have time for a nice meal with the soon-to-be wife since I'm going to be at the computer for 12 hours and only get to talk to her during breaks." Some of his favorite dishes to cook include pasta on grind days and the Christmas turkey, the latter of which takes countless hours to prepare but is well worth the wait. But, despite his aptitude for being able to produce high-quality food, he has no intentions of becoming a full-time chef any time soon. And who can blame him? "I thought about working professionally as a chef, but realized it's too stressful and the hours are not good," he said. Besides, cooking for fun still allows him to produce dishes like his signature fillet of lamb with red wine reduction, potato gratin topped with goat cheese, and a cherry tomato/basil salad. "I love lamb," he said, "and everyone who has tasted that dish goes crazy." Hellman is getting married on July 23 and his matrimony will likely make the residents of his home town of Lillhagen pretty giddy. Consequently, he's not in Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker Main Event. Staying at home prepping for his wedding, which he's definitely not self-catering, has also allowed him to play in a mostly shark-free pool. In fact, he has four wins already in July, raising his career total to 83. With more mouth-watering food hitting his belly, the sky seems to be the limit for the Swedish grinder from here.
“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