Monday, 31 October 2011

PPT legend in profile

If the ParadisePoker Tour ever opened a Hall of Fame, one of the very first inductees would have to be Toni Merivuori.

The Finn (pictured) final tabled his first ever venture into the PPT, just as the tour was taking off in London back in 2009, and has never looked back. He won the inaugural PPT League and has since joined us across Europe for every event to date.

As we embarked on Season 3 in Vienna in October, Merivuori's polite nature and steady play was on show once again and we thought it about time we gave him some extra credit!

He spared a few moments with the PP blog to reflect on his ParadisePoker Tour adventures to date, so without further ado, we give you a PPT legend...

You’ve attended every ParadisePoker Tour event since it debuted in London 2009 – what is it about the tournament that keeps you coming back?
I won a package to London in 2009 via the ParadisePoker VIPSOP tournament. Before that I had played only about five live tournaments (all low buy-ins around €100-200) so the PPT London was the biggest I had played. I made the final table and finished 8th, so I started trying to qualify for the next event. Luckily I won packages for all of the events and eventually topped the PPT League. That meant I had packages to all Season 2 events and while I didn't win a seat for the start of Season 3 in Vienna, the tour had given me so much that I just had to come again!

Coming from Finland, you’ve had to make some long and difficult journeys to play, were there any that stand out in your memory?
It's hard to find direct flights from Helsinki to some destinations. Even if you find one, it might be more than twice the price of an indirect flight, so for many events I usually had to travel for 8-12 hours. I think I was lucky that I was only delayed twice - and only one airline lost my luggage! The journey has been lonely at times because although they tried, my friends didn't manage to win a package.

Do you have a favourite event? Favourite venue?
The first one in London event was really nice. I had one of my best friends with me and neither of us had travelled much. We had some really funny moments, mostly just from our excitement at experiencing such a big city like London. There were people from almost every culture in the world and we struggled to understand the accent! Obviously the tournament went really well too, as I made the final table.

Who has been the toughest opponent you’ve played with?
What a question! I wish I knew all the players, lol. It's always hard to play against ones who you have categorised as at least the same level as you. I do remember one player in Prague Season 2 who outplayed me at least three times post-flop. I never really knew where I stood against him and had to fold to several moves. He once showed me a turn bluff, having called my pre-flop 3-bet, floated the flop and raised me on the turn with QJ unimproved. I only had overcards and it was frustrating not to be able to call, but he obviously read my hand and was willing to bluff for over half his stack. I do feel that is something missing from my tournament game, but I saw him grinding cash tables later on so I presume he was a pro.

Is there one hand that stands out in your memory?
My favourite hand has to be from London in 2009, when I hit a two-outer to stay in the tournament. I had been card-dead so when I found JJ in the big blind and a player raised, I re-raised half my stack with intention of going all-in whatever came on the flop. He looked at me for a while then called, before the flop came Qxx. I didn't like the Queen but I pushed all-in as planned and he questioned me, saying "you have KK do you?" I tried to stay calm but my heart was beating like never before! Eventually he made the call with AQ and I stood up to leave, only for a miracle Jack to hit the river. Wow! (Don't worry, I've lost enough times vs two-outers since to make up for it.)

Any other favourite memories?
One funny story is how I qualified for the last event in Season 1, which was held in Sunny Beach. After PPT Madrid, I travelled to Barcelona for five days where I stayed in a hostel. It was Sunday evening and I knew there was a VIPSOP online tournament scheduled, but there was no internet connection. The only internet cafe nearby was closed but I sat outside and picked up their wireless connection, so I ended up playing in the street! The same night Barcelona won La Liga and the people came out to celebrate. The noise was unbelievable, with people around me honking their car horns and waving flags, but I managed to win my package to Bulgaria - it was an unreal feeling!

Winning the Tour League must have been a highlight, what was the key to you winning it?
The point system in Season 1 was really rewarding for my style of play. I usually finished around 50th and the top 100 players scored points. The last two events I played only with the points in mind, so I had to be patient and avoid mistakes. I have to admit that I was lucky and some people have said that those who achieved two final tables should have won the league, which I can understand. Still, at least I got ranking points from all events! :)

You said at the time it was your biggest achievement in poker, do you still feel that way?
Yes, but the hunger has grown. I really want to finish in the top 3 for another event.

You also said you had to improve your game afterwards, do you feel your progress has continued?
Yes and no. I have read more books and played some tournaments, but not enough. I have to adapt my style for tournament play, as they are totally different from cash games. My game still has many leaks, mostly in the mid-levels where you have around 15-20BB's. Tips for post-flop play in tournaments can't be found in cash game books and the best way to learn is to play more live events, but I'm not a professional so there's only so much time I can give to poker away from work. Live tournaments take up a lot more time than online!

Winning the Tour League in Season 3 will be tougher than ever, with points won for cashing in the main event and side events. Will you be playing all the events? Are you feeling confident?
Sadly I didn't earn any points in Vienna, even when playing the Main Event and two side events. Unfortunately I can't make it to PPT Barcelona and having been to Prague twice now, I may be more selective which stops I go to. The new events look very interesting though, so I'll definitely be in Greece and look forward to seeing where the TBC event is going to be held.

The PPT has added more chips and more guaranteed money over the years, but has the competition got tougher/easier?
I think it's getting tougher. More and more people really know the basics and I am probably not much above average in tournament poker. I mostly play full-ring cash games online, so my style is quite tight and conservative (which I guess is not surprise for anyone anymore, lol). I have often had a tight table, with other players who play the same patient style as me. I think skilful post-flop pros would have a real edge but I haven't seen many terrible players, and after the first few levels the field can be really tough.

Thanks again Toni!

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