Norway is simply on a roll in the fun-having business lately. First, they brought us the comedy duo Ylvis who have made many an elementary school student giddy with the sounds of a fox. Now, a Norwegian politician has happily agreed to play poker for a real, significant sum of money against a poker pro. This would never happen in the United States.
Last month, high stakes heads-up Pot-Limit Omaha specialist Ola “Odd Oddsen” Amundsrud issued a public challenge: he would play 10,000 hands of poker against any of Norway’s politicians to prove that poker is a skill game. If you haven’t guessed it yet, online poker is illegal in the country (so maybe they aren’t quite as fun as originally thought). Erlend Wiborg of the Fremskrittspartiets (Progress Party) actually stepped up to the plate and accepted the challenge.
The contest will last for at least 10,000 hands or 120 hours before May 7th with each player beginning with 300 buy-ins at $0.50/$1 in Pot-Limit Omaha. If Wiborg wins, Amundsrud will pay him one million kroner, or about $170,000. If the poker pro wins, he gets nothing. It is a complete freeroll for Wiborg, though he has already said that he will donate the money to charity in the unlikely event that he triumphs. For his part, Wiborg simply wants to make the voice of poker players heard in the halls of government.
Wiborg did not accept the challenge because he opposes online poker and thinks he can win. On the contrary, he said both he and his political party are in favor of legalizing internet poker and that he would like to get together with Amundsrud to discuss “the need for legalization then we’ll see who wins.” Wiborg doesn’t think he has much chance to win the poker match.
A month after the challenge was announced, it has begun about as people might have expected. Wiburg is getting his lunch handed to him. 1,000 hands in and Odd Oddsen is up $2,666.
There is some skepticism as to both whether or not the game would actually be fairly contested and if it will be perceived as such. To quote a poster on 2+2, “So basically all he [Wiborg] has to do is lose and that proves it’s skill. So his incentive is to play terribly in order to legalise it? But if he wins, he wins money + proves that there’s a damn lot of luck in poker and maybe it isn’t a skill game.”
Chances are that Wiborg is legitimately trying and will get trounced. It would be far worse if it were found out that he purposely played poorly than if he were to win. Of course, it would probably have been better for Amundsrud’s political message had an opponent of online poker take him on, but that wasn’t going to happen.