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Gary Trask

Gary  Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's Editor in Chief and has worked as a writer and editor more than 25 years. The Boston native was a member of the Poker Hall of Fame's inaugural Media Committee.

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Sweden's Mattsson eyes third straight cash at WSOP Main Event

18 Jun 2008

By Gary Trask

As far as Stefan Mattsson is concerned, you can keep your copy of Doyle Brunson's Super System and all of those instructional poker videos. He doesn't want to hear about "poker theory" and he certainly isn't going to be seeking out a coach or poker lessons any time soon.

You see, Mattsson is an old school, self-taught poker professional. He learned how to play the game simply by doing just that: playing poker.


Stefan Mattsson has proven he knows how to handle himself at the WSOP's Main Event after cashing the last two years in his first two appearances. (Courtesy of World Poker Tour)

"I never in my life have picked up a book about poker," says the laid back 28-year-old from Sweden. "I think I've always had poker in my blood from playing a lot of cards with my family as I was growing up and the more I played the better I got at it."

The end result from this rather unorthodox road Mattsson has taken to professional poker have been quite impressive. After playing in a regular home game for years and then moving to online poker, he improved his game to the point where he knew he could make a living from it. He began playing professionally in 2004 and has prospered in the limited amount of big tournaments he has played in, particularly the World Series of Poker's Main Event, where he has cashed in each of his first two appearances.

In 2006 he collected $123,699 with a 57th place finish out of 8,773 entrants. Last year in a field of 6,358 players, Mattsson was 22nd and took home $333,490.

His success did not go unnoticed. In September of last year, Purple Lounge, which refers to itself as "the world's fastest growing luxury online poker room and casino, signed Mattsson as a sponsor.

"Stefan is a driven young man with a very bright future if he continues to build on his success at the same rate we've seen so far," Chairman of Purple Lounge Chris Gorman said at the time the deal was announced. "[He] is evidently talented and his skills at the poker table are incredibly impressive. We're thrilled to be working with him."

"Signing with Purple Lounge has been a great thing for me," Mattsson says. "I've enjoyed my association with them so far and I hope that it's going to be a long relationship."

Since his big score at last year's WSOP, Mattsson has landed two more significant cashes. In August he was 41st and picked up $ $17,156 at the European Poker Tour's Barcelona Open. Last month he landed his biggest-career payday when he won $342,989 with a runner-up finish in the World Poker Tour's Spanish Championship, also played in Barcelona.

Mattsson started the final table as the chip leader, but then began his heads-up match with Caspar Hansen with even stacks. Almost 130 hands later, Mattsson seemed to have the edge with A-9 in his hand as he called a pre-flop all-in from Hansen, who had A-2. But Hansen caught a two on the flop and the pair prevailed.

"Although I really wanted to win, I was proud to have got so far," he said. "To have come in second place in an event that attracted a tough field of over 252 players [including Patrik Antonius and Antonio Esfandiari] is a great achievement and will put me in a great frame of mind heading into the WSOP."

Mattsson was scheduled to arrive in Las Vegas later this week. He doesn't expect to play in any events other than the Main Event and the $5,000 No Limit Hold'em Six-Handed tournament that begins June 26.

"I really don't like the structure of all the smaller events," he says when asked why he limits the amount of events he plays in. "I'm the type of player that doesn't take many risks. I don't like to have my money depending on a coin flip type of hand. I like to wait things out and play the hands where I think I've got the best chance to win.

"In the smaller structured events, it's more like a cash game. One bad hand or one bad decision and you're short-stacked immediately. But in something like the Main Event you can play a lot of hands and just kind of wait things out. That's what I like to do."

Mattsson's interest in cards began as a kid. As he grew up in the northern part of Sweden his family played games of all kinds. After high school he went to UmeƄ University to study civil engineering, but after two years he wasn't quite sure that was the path he wanted to take with his life.

"I decided to a year off and figure out what I wanted to do with my life," he explains.

While he was in school, Mattsson began working as a blackjack dealer for the Cherry Casino Group, a job he held for five years. During his time as a dealer, Mattsson and his co-workers began playing a weekly home poker game. The game of choice was Hold'em and Mattsson quickly discovered he was pretty good at it. Then someone told him about online poker and he began spending most of his free time sitting in front of his computer, playing poker and winning money.

"Online is where I learned how to become a good poker player," he said. "I was winning enough money where I realized I didn't have to go back to school."

Now, almost four years later, Mattsson is loving the life of a professional poker player. He doesn't have a set schedule and isn't like many professionals who like to hunt down cash games and play for 20 to 30 hours a week online. He enjoys his free time and spends as much of it as he can outside, enjoying the fresh air, working out and "hanging out with friends."

"Life is good right now," says Mattsson, who did not make the trip to the World Series of Poker Europe last year and hasn't decided if he'll be there in 2008. "I really enjoy what I do and I hope I can keep doing it for a long time."

As for this year's Main Event, Mattsson (who is not a fan of the new delayed final table format calling it "good for the fans, but bad for the players") is confident he can cash for a third straight year.

"It's going to be very interesting," he says. "I've learned a lot from playing in it the last two years. There are a lot of bad players in that event so I expect to use my experience and build my chip stack early. That's my goal. Get a big stack of chips in front of me and then see how far I can go."

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