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Top Ten Poker Stories of the 2009: #2, Isildur1, Lord of the Ring Games

In the last quarter of 2009 an unidentified Swedish player known only as “Isildur1” arrived on the high-stakes scene at Full Tilt Poker and quickly began drawing attention. He was aggressive of course, confident, and loved to over-bet the river, but there was something else just a bit more extraordinary about him. Fearlessness. Gamble. Near-total abandon. And the sort of relentless stamina that comes only with youth.

By all reports only 19 years old, Isildur1 redefined the limits of online cash games, driving pot sizes higher than anyone had ever seen and weathering multimillion-dollar swings on a daily basis. It was common for online railbirds to watch Tom “durrrr” Dwan, Phil Ivey, and Patrik Antonius exchange pots worth more than a new Ferrari, but the emergence of an unknown player who (at least at first) picked apart their idols with relative ease inspired droves of converts to "Team Isildur." Adding further to his budding cult status is his decision to keep his identity under wraps.

Isildur1 first appeared on Full Tilt Poker at the $25/$50 no-limit hold’em tables in late September. After playing in ring games for a bit, he started soliciting heads-up matches, his first significant confrontation coming against Haseeb “INTERNET POKERS” Qureshi at $50/$100 no-limit hold’em and $100/$200 pot-limit Omaha. Isildur1 won about $500,000 from Qureshi, then went on to beat Harry “Ugotabanana” Kacza out of $250,000 at $100/$200 PLO. Next up for Isildur1 were matches with Cole South and Brian Townsend, the stakes rising to $200/$400 and $300/$600 NLHE and PLO.

Naturally, Dwan wanted in on the action. He entered the fray and started 6-tabling Isildur1 at $300/$600 NLHE. Soon the stakes climbed to $500/$1,000. Over the course of four days, Isildur1 won $3 million from Dwan, leaving the online superstar with a severely damaged bankroll. With Dwan reeling, Isildur1 moved on to Ivey, Antonius, and Ilari “Ziigmund” Sahamies. Isildur1 fared far worse against these three. He lost $2.9 million to Antonius in a marathon session on Nov. 16-17 and another $2.1 million to the Finn on Nov. 21. Ivey won over $2 million from Isildur1 and Sahamies turned a profit as well. Additionally, during his sessions against Ivey and Antonius, Isildur1 was involved in all five of the largest online poker pots ever played, the granddaddy of them all coming in at $1.3 million.

Isildur1’s tragic fall began on Nov. 24, the night after he won a $1.1 million pot from Phil Ivey. In a single night, Isildur1 lost $1.1 million to Townsend and $1.5 million to Sahamies, setting up a week-long downswing that would cost him $4.1 million. Once sitting with $7 million in profits on Full Tilt, Isildur1 was now $1.2 million in the red.

A stunning turnaround saw Isildur1 recoup most of those losses in 48 hours between Dec. 6 and 7. He took $1 million from Townsend, $500,000 from Dwan, and nearly $2 million from Sahamies, but lost an ungodly $4.2 million to Brian Hastings the following night. South and Townsend claimed what was left of his Full Tilt account balance a few days later.

Of course, Isildur1’s story does not end there. His $4.2 million loss against Hastings is now fraught with controversy following Hastings’ comments to ESPN.com about how he and Townsend shared-hand histories and discussed Isildur1’s tendencies prior to their record-setting session. Townsend had his red pro status suspended for one month, and in an exclusive interview with PokerNews, Isildur1 revealed his intentions to file a formal complaint with Full Tilt.

This is one story that is sure to have legs to carry it well into 2010, so stay tuned!

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