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Malta Poker Festival: Espen Uhlen Jørstad’s pursuit of poker excellence

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Malta Poker Festival: Espen Uhlen Jørstad’s pursuit of poker excellence

Lee Davy sits down with Espen Uhlen Jørstad at the Malta Poker Festival to talk about his migration from cash games to tournaments, his views on health and meditation and much more.

Malta Poker Festival: Espen Uhlen Jørstad’s pursuit of poker excellenceImagine washing your knickers in the froth surrounding Lindisfarne, and seeing shiploads of Vikings heading your way.



Technically, Norway doesn’t have any Vikings these days. They only have five ships. Make that four, after some doughnut sank one earlier this month, running it into a Maltese oil freighter. And in October, 50,000 NATO troops teamed up with Norwegian armed forces in a military exercise to defend a smaller nation from the threat of attack from a much larger bastard.


But there are Vikings.


Espen Uhlen Jørstad is one.

And had he made one or two different decisions in his life; he could have a part of Trident Juncture 18.

Thankfully, he gave the army the two-finger salute and became a professional poker player.

Let’s see how he is doing.

What are you doing at the Malta Poker Festival?

“I came here from the Battle of Malta,” says Jørstad. “It’s brilliant that they have two festivals in a row. I thought that this festival would have been much tougher than the Battle of Malta. Battle of Malta is bigger so most recreational players will come to this event because they can’t take two weeks off. The pros will take two weeks off and play in both. But in my experience playing yesterday, this event {Malta Poker Festival} was even softer than the Battle of Malta.”

I am curious.


Is it a relief to play in a lower buy-in event, or does Jørstad feel like he is a peach-perfect perch swimming in a rank garden pond?

“It’s changed a bit over the last year or two,” says Jørstad. “A couple of years ago a $500 buy-in would have been one of the biggest I would be playing. Now I have moved up a bit in stakes, so a $500 is basically the lowest I will play live. Even playing these, my hourly rate would be better just playing online. But then you have to factor in other things, like the glory of winning a big tournament, getting to meet your old friends and socialise, and maybe most importantly, actually being away from your computer for a few days.”

Several months ago, The Unibet ambassador hit the headlines, teaming up with Rauno “Estonian Jesus” Tahvonen, and Rauno Kiviloo, in a project dubbed One Year, One Million where the three players would attempt to win a million in 12-months playing poker, and trading in cryptocurrency.

I ask Jørstad how the project is going?

“To be honest, I was a lot more enthusiastic in the beginning,” says Jørstad. “I was attacking it from an uncomfortable place when it comes to vlogging. I am fine talking poker hands or discussing strategy because I think I can do it fairly naturally. But if it was just me walking around the streets of Malta talking to a camera, I felt uncomfortable with that. So in the beginning, I thought if I did it for a while, I would become more and more comfortable in front of the camera. To some degree, I guess I did, but I didn’t really enjoy doing it too much. Estonian Jesus enjoyed it a lot more, however, so he basically became the main character in the story, with me and the last guy {Rauno Kiviloo} being more side-kicks.“

Malta Poker Festival: Espen Uhlen Jørstad’s pursuit of poker excellenceSo is the financial goal gone the way of a surfboard on the set of Jaws?

“In the beginning, we were tracking progress weekly,” says Jørstad. “Crypto was going really bad, and poker was going well. In poker, we were up about €200k after a few months, and then we all went on pretty big downswings in both poker and crypto. I went on my biggest downswing ever. My goal for the year was to become as good as I could be and to reach high stakes. I decided I would take a rather aggressive approach, and take some shots at fairly high stakes (€5,000 NL cash games and some $5,000 MTTs). The cash games were okay, but I got destroyed in high stakes MTTs and lost quite a bit of money in the process. It was a conscious decision though, and I don’t really regret taking those shots. I don’t have any real responsibilities, like a mortgage or kids, so I knew that if I lost a significant portion of my bankroll, I could move down and work my way back up.

“In the beginning, we had different ideas on what the project would look like. I would have preferred it to be focused on poker and strategy, while I think Rauno wanted it to be more lifestyle orientated, and we ended up doing a mix of both, which I think was bad. We should have had a long talk about it. You’re not going to hit a niche audience in a big way by being so broad.”

When I first met Jørstad I learned that he was ostensibly a cash game grinder, who used to be a fiend at World of Warcraft (WoW) and also served some time in the Norwegian Armed Forces, an experience that woke him the fuck up.

Today, he is playing more tournaments.

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