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Norway – A poker haven you didn’t know about

Thor Hansen

It is very hard to attribute the popularity of poker to a single factor. Some reference the socializing aspect of the game, as your success will largely depend on your ability to read the body language and predict the psychology of other players. For others, it is the complex skillset and the consequent validation that the game provides. Finally, the success stories of the amateur players who manage to build their way up to the most prestigious tournaments or win large amounts of money can also serve as a big factor contributing to the popularity of this game.

Norway is no exception, as poker is so popular in this country, that it has even been named as one of the region’s major poker destinations. In the article below, we will have a closer look at the most prominent poker players from Norway, as well as assess the overall poker scene in this country.

So, what is it like to play poker in Norway?

With the constant flow of technological advancements, poker enthusiasts are no longer required to make time-consuming trips to the closest casinos to enjoy the game that they love. Many argue that the introduction of online casinos has put an end to the brick and mortar gambling establishments. While we are yet to see whether this notion is true, the popularity of online poker cannot be overlooked.

Although online gambling is banned in Norway, it does not mean that you cannot play poker altogether. Technically, poker itself is not banned – so long as you play it on the Norwegian licensed poker platform. In fact, poker is becoming so popular in Norway that even the local odds sider ( Norwegian for “odds sites” – sports betting sites) dedicate a large chunk of their platforms to covering it.

However, when it comes to playing poker online, there are a number of issues that you should keep in mind. Although the Norwegian government’s attitude towards poker has softened a little bit since 2014, this card game is still closely monitored and regulated. Since most of the online card rooms are usually based outside of Norway, in places such as Cyprus, Gibraltar, or Ireland, Norwegian authorities can do little about restricting their operations in the country.

What they can do though, is to restrict the Norwegians’ access to the services that such card rooms provide. A good example of this would be the fact that the banks and financial institutions registered in Norway are not allowed to process the transactions that involve money transfers to gambling platforms outside of the country. Thus, you will not be able to use your Norwegian credit or debit card to make a deposit, and would probably need to use an online wallet, or a cryptocurrency instead.

How did Norway get itself on the poker map?

With such strict regulations in place, it seems like Norway would be the least likely country to establish itself on the world’s poker map – and yet it did.

Like many other countries in the world, Norway first appeared on the poker map due to the remarkable poker champions of Norwegian origin, thus, the history of Norway’s establishment as a poker destination is, to a large extent, a compilation of the success stories of the local professionals. Let’s now have a closer look at the three most prominent ones:

  1. Thor Hansen – is often referred to as a “Godfather” of the Norwegian poker players. His total winnings since 1987 are estimated at 2,949,644 USD, and Hansen is ranked third in the Norway all-time money listings. Moreover, at the World Series of Poker, Hansen cashed 55 times with combined scores of 1,215,493 USD. Finally, Hansen is a proud owner of two WSOP bracelets in his name, after he has won  5,000 USD Limit Seven Card Stud in 1988, and 1,500 USD No-Limit 2-7 Draw Lowball in 2002.
  2. Johnny Lodden – with total winnings estimated at 2,833,374 USD, Lodden is ranked fourth in Norway’s all-time money listings. A regular attendant at the European Poker Tour, he has reached money in five WSOP events, and cased over 12 EPT Main Events, in 13 different countries.
  3. Felix Stephenson – is at the top of all-time money listings, having been the first runner-up to Martin Jacobson during the  2014 WSOP Main Event, which, on its own, brought Stephenson a result of 5,147,911 USD. He also won an Aussie Millions ring and continues to be one of the most prominent players in the global online arena.

It is not yet clear whether poker will be legalized completely in Norway any time soon, however, one can already observe some positive developments in that direction. For instance, until 2014, one could not imagine a poker tournament to be held in the country, and as of today, the Oslo event has been added to the annual tournament calendar.

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