There may be plenty more famous poker players in the world, there are better known players who have come from an online background (think Tom Dwan, Patrik Antonius), there are certainly more consistent online high stakes winners, but when it comes to popularity among fans of online poker then nobody compares, nobody even comes close to one Viktor “Isildur1” Blom.
The word ‘enigma’ could have been created for Viktor Blom. If you add up the pages written about him in poker forums he’s probably the most written about poker player in history; certainly of the online era. He has represented the two biggest online poker sites of all-time in a professional capacity. He has been an integral part of all of biggest ever online cash game pots in history, and he is often cited by his peers as probably the most naturally talented poker player on Earth. Despite all this, however, surprisingly little is really known about Viktor Blom, a man who never reads poker forums, has never used poker software, largely shuns the live poker scene, and who rarely gives interviews.
Of course, you don’t reach the superstar status of “Isildur1” without people knowing the basics about your life, but unlike other prominent poker stars, Viktor Blom shies away from media attention - or at the very least is not in the least bit concerned with it. Unlike Phil Hellmuth he isn’t known for his brattish outbursts, unlike Daniel Negreanu he isn’t known for his ambassadorial personality, unlike Jaime Staples, Doug Polk, Alec Torelli, and Jason Somerville he isn’t known for his media output. No, Viktor “Isildur1” Blom is known for one thing and one thing only - being the biggest badass the online high stakes cash game world has ever seen - and who wouldn’t love that?
What we know about Viktor’s early poker endeavours largely come from the one piece of biographical information he did write. During the early phase of his notoriety, Blom agreed to write about his early poker endeavours for the Swedish poker forum Svenskaspelare.com.
Viktor Blom started playing poker at Junior High School in Sweden after being introduced to the game by his older brother. He immediately became immersed in poker, playing for pennies with friends at school, after school - basically whenever he could. When he first played online it was in SNG’s and MTT’s where he quickly progressed up to the $530 SNG’s. In a manner which is now very familiar to all Isildur1 fans, despite running up relatively huge bankrolls (he cites having a bankroll of some $275k at the age of just 16) his gamble always got the better of him and his teenage years are littered with examples of busting his account, borrowing money, running it up, and busting again.
During this time Blom’s schooling suffered and he was often reprimanded for skipping classes after yet another all-night poker session. Eventually he had to appeal to his parents for cash as he had blown his school maintenance grant. They agreed to help him as long as he quit poker; they also wanted him to move home. He eventually got them to agree that he didn’t need to move home and that he wouldn’t play poker anymore. This was a promise he simply couldn’t keep. He knew that he could earn a living at poker - he just needed to work out how to do it.
His big breakthrough came when he decided to give poker one last go and scraped together $2,000 to play NLHE heads-up cash games. He had finally found his sweet spot and within just three weeks he had turned that $2k into $1.8m - the first of many seven-figure upswings.
By now (early 2009) something of a buzz was beginning to circulate on the forums about this new player to the high stakes scene who went by the name of “Blom90” on the iPoker network. He seemed to be winning at an unprecedented rate but nobody could understand why. The words “fish on a heater” were widely in use as many, more experienced players could detect huge, fundamental leaks in Blom90’s play. What he lacked in fundamentals, however, he more than made up for with his intuitive understanding of game-flow and spotting his opponent’s weaknesses. If heads-up play was all about getting inside your opponent’s head then Viktor Blom had X-Ray vision at the poker tables.
As the weeks and months continued, the same high stakes pros began commenting on the forums that although they still found elements of his game terrible, that he was clearly a very fast learner and that they were finding his style extremely frustrating to deal with. At this time the name “Isildur1” had yet to be coined on a poker site and Blom90’s prowess was unknown outside of the many euro-sites he was tearning up.
The first many of us heard of “Blom90” came in mid-2009 when controversial British high stakes NLHE pro Luke “__FullFlush1__” Schwartz mentioned him in an interview, saying that this “Blom90” was going to come over to Full Tilt and “send all the Americans broke”. Schwartz, at the time one of the top NLHE pros had fought Blom90 at iPoker and found out to his cost that he wasn’t dealing with any “fish on a heater”.
Just a couple of months later Schwartz’s prediction was starting to become a reality. Having creamed the euro sites for millions of dollars (in 2009 Viktor Blom was the biggest winner on four different euro-networks, winning an estimated $5,000,000), Blom turned his attention to the site with the richest players, the biggest stakes, and the most NLHE action - Full Tilt Poker. Enter Isildur1…
Starting at $25/$50 Isildur1 quickly earned a reputation as a hyper-aggro “barrel-monkey”, and some of the better regs were drooling at the prospect of taking some easy money from him. Just as their euro-site counterparts, however, they soon found themselves on the wrong end of a bankroll bashing. The likes of Daniel “jungleman12” Cates, Haseeb “INTERNET POKERS” Quereshi, and Harry “Ugotabanana” Kaczka all found themselves several hundred thousand dollars worse off after tangling with the unknown “Isildur1”.
Eventually word reached the NLHE “King of the Hill”, Tom “durrrr” Dwan who wanted a piece of the action. Up to this point nobody else multi-tabled nosebleed NLHE like durrrr. Known for his unorthodox style, willingness to put it all on the line, and his (at the time) precocious skills, Tom “durrrr” Dwan couldn’t possibly envisage a newcomer coming into his backyard and getting the best of him. Ah, the perils of hubris…
Starting off with six tables of heads-up $300/$600 NLHE durrrr began to lose at quite a clip. Before long he decided to up the ante and the pair upgraded to the $500/$1000 tables. The ensuing matches have gone down in the annals of online poker history as probably the peak, the absolute zenith of high stakes online action. Often playing for 12-15 hours at a time the two fearless warriors played for millions of dollars over a two week period in November 2009. Half million dollar pots flowed like running water. There were seven-figure swings in both directions, but when the dust settled there was only one victor - Viktor. Isildur1 had taken some $5,000,000 from durrrr, and there was a new king in town.
At this point Viktor Blom had won $6,000,000 at Full Tilt in a matter of weeks, and was up $11,000,000 for the year. How much more could he win? Would the Americans find a way to take this heads-up beast?
Part 2 - What goes up…
With an alleged $11m in his bankroll and an insatiable appetite for playing online poker at the highest limits, the arrival of Isildur1 had heralded an unprecedented period of monster online high stakes action. Not one to take time out to bask in their success, if anything Isildur1 ramped up his activity at Full Tilt and set about becoming the architect of the single biggest explosion of high stakes action in online history from November-December 2009.
In less than a month between the middle of November and the middle of December, Isildur1 played a part in every one of the 12 largest online pots in history, including three pots of over $1m, and was involved in 17 of the largest 20 - all of them played heads-up.
The whole online poker world stopped to watch as this still unmasked ‘newbie’ played. In one memorably insane session Isildur1 was playing nine tables of $500/$1000 simultaneously split between Patrik Antonius, Phil Ivey, and Tom “durrrr” Dwan - some PLO and some NLHE. Inevitably this didn’t prove to be a plus EV spot for the Swedish phenom. On that night alone Isildur1 lost over $2.1m to Antonius and another $1.2m to Ivey (although he did beat durrrr for another $800k to offset a little of his losses), and on another night in November he lost a staggering $3.3m to Antonius playing PLO.
PLO - this was to be the downfall of Isildur1’s 2009. While it was generally acknowledged that at NLHE he was virtually peerless, the sharks still clamoured to play him at PLO, a game at which Isildur1 had very little experience. Playing the highest stakes available at a game you’re unfamiliar against the world’s best players is a recipe for disaster - one that Isildur1 would court many times over the next few years.
Despite the huge losses to Antonius, at this point things at PLO were still not going too badly for Isildur1, the huge variance inherent while playing multiple tables of $500/$100 PLO combined with his blatant total and utter disregard for money had allowed Isildur1 to pull off some huge wins to mostly counter his huge losses. One day, however, it all came crashing down. December 8th, 2009.
By December 8th 2009 Isildur1 had already been on a huge downswing but recovered to still have more than $4m profit in his Full Tilt account. In fact, he had won $471k at NLHE against jungleman12 that day, and another $722,000 early on the evening of the 8th against PLO expert Brian Townsend, although Isildur1 had run some $2m above EV in this match. As it turned out, the EV Gods wouldn’t be smiling on him much longer.
A little later in the evening Isildur1 sat at six $500/$1000 PLO tables against one of Townsends Cardrunners.com colleagues, Brian Hastings, one of the world’s best PLO players, and a bloodbath ensued. Over the course of 2.8k hands Hastings obliterated Isildur1’s bankroll, winning a staggering $4.2m in just four hours. Although he was outmatched, Isildur1 certainly ran badly with the stats showing that he ran some $3m below EV during the match.
Although this was by no means the end of Isildur1, it did mark the end of the insane daily action the railbirds had been used to, and it also marked the first time Isildur1 had busted his Full Tilt bankroll.
Part 3 - Sponsorship
Although the pots never got as big and the excitement never quite reached that late 2009 level, life with Isildur1 at the nosebleeds over the past seven years has still provided the average railbird with significantly more entertainment than any other online player.
After playing sporadically throughout 2010, Isildur1 was finally revealed as 20 year old Swedish pro Viktor Blom in early 2011 as he signed up to become a PokerStars pro. After Black Friday and the closure of Full Tilt, the mega high stakes ceased to exist, although Isildur1 still managed to put together +$1m winning days at PokerStars $200/$400 PLO tables. During his time at PokerStars he also extended his skill set to include 2-7 Triple Draw, Limit Omaha Hi/Lo, and 8-Game, once again “training” himself by playing the best players in the world at the highest limits online. He also honed his PLO skills so that by the time he moved from PokerStars to Full Tilt as a sponsored pro when it reopened in October 2012 he was widely considered one of the best PLO players online.
The rebirth of Full Tilt Poker ignited another explosion of activity at the nosebleeds, and with Tom “durrrr” Dwan, Gus Hansen, and Viktor “Isildur1” Blom as their lead pros, there was rarely a shortage of action.
2013 started with a bang for Isildur1, and by the 12th of January he had already won over $5.1m and was the biggest winner during that period at the PLO, NLHE, 2-7 Triple Draw, and Limit Omaha Hi/Lo tables.
Things didn’t stay rosy for long, however, as Isildur1 settled into a familiar pattern of boom and bust. By the end of the month Blom’s profit sat at just $1.1m, and by the end of February it was just $300k. The year continued along a similar, crazy path; by July Isildur1 was back up over $5m for the year, by the end of September he was back to even, by the end of October he was once again up over $5m, and when the year ended his profit for 2013 stood at $542k.
Above: Viktor “Isildur1” Blom’s insane 2013 Full Tilt Poker cash game graph
The years since have told a similar story. Isildur1 lost $1.7m in 2014 but in 2015 he was the biggest winner in online poker, showing a $3.5m profit at PokerStars after Full Tilt finally bit the dust. In 2016 he lost close to half a million dollars, but so far this year is one of the year’s biggest winners showing another seven-figure profit.
As well as his cash game prowess, Isildur1 has proven to be a phenomenal online tournament player. He has won three SCOOP titles (including a main event win for $1m) and a WCOOP title as well as numerous Sunday majors and has won millions in online tournaments. However, despite performing well in the few live tournaments he has entered (including a $1.25m win at 2012’s PCA Super High Roller), Blom tends to shy away from the live circuit in favour of online grinding.
While we might miss him at the WSOP, I don’t think there is a true high stakes fan out there who would swap his online exploits in favour of seeking some World Series jewellery!