For most of the summer, an online player from Sweden known only as "martonas" dazzled everyone on the rail as he ran up his bankroll to almost $3 million in a short period of time. Many of the top pros in the game, including Phil Ivey, David Benyamine, Patrik Antonius, Gus Hansen, and Tom "durrrr" Dwan, actively sought out martonas at the nose bleed tables. Martonas accomplished what many of us wished we could have done-challenge the best in the world and fleece them for millions. The kid had balls of steel and took a shot at the highest limits on Full Tilt Poker, while no one could figure out his true identity.
Although the actual name of the online player "martonas" is still a mystery, a noted Swedish journalist confirmed that he's an 18-year old player from the town of Gothenburg, Sweden. Rumors circulated on the internet forums that martonas was either Martin de Knijff or his protégé Jonas "Nebuchad" Danielsson, but those proved false.
Martonas claimed that he was purposely vague about his real name because of the tax implications with the Swedish government. Well, it appears that he won't have to worry too much about tax evasion issues after his multi-million dollar bankroll evaporated as quickly as he amassed it.
Martonas was spotted playing $25-$50 no-limit and significantly dropped down in levels, which indicated that his time swimming with sharks was officially over. He should have taken his $3 million score and banked it. Alas, he continued to press his winnings against the same sharks that were itching to get their money back. The ensuing results were devastating.
The young Swede lost the majority of his bankroll in a couple of sessions against durrrr which occurred over a two-day period at the $500-$1,000 no-limit tables. During that bombardment, durrrr siphoned off almost $3 million from martonas. Four out of six of the largest online pots in the last month were played between durrrr and martonas during sessions over those two days. Each pot was in excess of $500,000 and Durrrr was the victor in each of those hands worth over $2.2 million in total.
With martonas nursing a gaunt bankroll and no longer in the mix of things, the sharks returned to feeding on each other and the durrrr Challenge resumed. After a couple of sessions, durrrr and Patrik Antonius are approaching the mid-way mark of their 50,000 hand challenge. Durrrr held a $750,000 lead for a couple of months of inactivity during the martonas run, until Antonius stormed back. By the end of August, Antonius secured a slight lead and erased his deficit. At this pace, it's a big question mark if the two will finish this before the end of the year.
Aside from martonas, the biggest loser in the month of August was Gus Hansen who dropped a whopping $2 million at the tables. He's down $2.2 million overall.
Through the first eight months of 2009, Patrik Antonius still leads his peers with a $3 million surplus at the virtual tables. Illari "Ziigmund" Sahamies, Cole South, and Ashton "theASHMAN103" Griffin are all up over $2.5 million for the year.
Sponsorship Update: In case you were wondering about November Nine sponsorships by online poker sites, here's the scoop: Full Tilt and PokerStars have three players apiece, while chipleader Darvin Moon has shunned all sponsorship opportunities and remains unsigned and independent.
PokerStars recently signed the last available player, Joe Cada. PokerStars also has Eric Buchman and Kevin Schaffel wearing their gear at the main event final table. In addition to Phil Ivey, Full Tilt signed Steven Begleiter and James Akenead to November Nine deals. Jeff Shulman will be wearing a hat sporting the logo of his company, Spade Club, while France's Antoine Saout qualified via an online satellite at Everest Poker and will be wearing their logo.
Paul 'Dr. Pauly' McGuire is the author of the upcoming book 'Lost Vegas'. You can read his poker blog, Tao of Poker, over at www.taopoker.com.