Finnish Poker Legend Juha Helppi Captains National Paintball Team to Victory

1 week ago
Finnish Poker Legend Juha Helppi Captains National Paintball Team to Victory
23 Nov

Finnish poker legend Juha Helppi has been talking to PokerNews about his passion for paintballing, a sport that he is a six-time national champion in.

We have this impression that the best poker players dedicate themselves entirely to the game with little time to excel in other areas but it’s good to have something completely different to get away from the grind of study and play once in a while.

Six-Time Champ

Juha Helppi and his team mates recently won the 2022 Finnish National Paintball Championship, a feat also achieved in 1997, 2003, 2007, 2008, and 2014 with him as captain.

The 45-year-old has been into the sport for 30 years now, playing alongside his older brother who is also a member of the national team. He explains how there is more strategy and tactics involved than most people think, too, making it understandable why he took to poker so well in the early days of the poker boom.

“I have been our team captain for over 20 years now and I am getting to decide who plays in the team and which strategy we use at each point. Paintball is a lot about strategy and guessing how your opponent play. Teamwork and communication in the field are also very important, you need to know where your players and opponents are and how many players both teams have left. In the team, you need a few fast runners, but back players can be a bit older, bigger, and slower if they shoot and communicate well.”

Helppi explained what the National Paintball Championship consists of each summer in Finland, with seven teams from finland itself and a further six making the trip from nearby Estonia.

“We played six matches in every tournament. One match is always seven minutes, but the clock gets stopped when the game is not on. There is ‘mercy three rule’ so if one team is leading by three points the match is over. Every point is played five-on-five and usually, one point is played in 1-2 minutes. Your team gets points to the league standings from every tournament – the tournament winner getting 10, second 9, etc. During the season we won 22 games, one draw, and one loss. The loss and draw were in the first tournament in which we finished third.”
He added an interesting snippet at the end of the interview explaining that his friend Anssi Tuulivirta from the paintball scene finished runner up to him in the WPT Aruba in 2002 only three months after he taught him how to play.

Juha Helppi’s poker career is still going strong, too. His first live tournament cash was all the way back in 2001, two years before the poker boom started and he has nine from this year. He also won his first two WSOP bracelets in 2019 and 2022 so is clearly still working hard on his game.

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Mark from London in the UK is a professional cash game player, and part time journalist. A massive chess fan and perpetual traveller.Read more


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