A Look Back at the Decade of History at the OlyBet Kings of Tallinn

Poker Jason Glazer 16.02.2024

The 2024 Kings of Tallinn powered by OlyBet is just a week away at our luxurious home of Olympic Park Casino and the adjoining Hilton Tallinn Park with 55 action-packed events from Feb. 23 to March 3.

It will be time to celebrate as this marks the 10th anniversary of the Kings of Tallinn with the event’s history dating back to 2015 when famous tournament director Teresa Nousiainen combined forces with the Olympic Entertainment Group to launch the inaugural event.

There is no time better than the present to dive into the decade of Main Event champions crowned at the Kings of Tallinn.

Local Hero Ranno Sootla Wins First Big Title (2015)

Both the Kings of Tallinn and WSOP bracelet winner Ranno Sootla were relatively unknown a decade ago. Sootla was an up-and-coming player making a name for himself locally in Estonia while the Kings of Tallinn was just being born.

The first Kings of Tallinn €1,100 Main Event attracted 140 entries for a €137,200 prize pool. Former child chess prodigy Jeffrey Sarwer already made a name for himself in the poker sphere as well and advanced to the final three players before hitting the rail. This guaranteed that the first Kings of Tallinn Main Event trophy would stay home in Estonia before Sootla defeated Vallo Maidla to win the €37,730.

Sootla is now a well-known poker pro after winning a plethora of live and online events including winning a WSOP bracelet in 2020 World Series of Poker at OlyBet in the $400 COLOSSUS for $595,930. He has turned his attention mostly to cash games, but is expected to battle it out for more Kings of Tallinn glory in 2024.

Johan Creutz Earns Trophy for Sweden (2016)

Word began to spread about the Kings of Tallinn as it began its climb to grow into the biggest poker festival in Northern Europe with a more robust schedule. Feedback was incorporated and player-friendly Team Competitions, tons of side events with plenty of mixed games (and, of course, no-limit hold’em) incorporated, TV tables, live reporting, a lounge area, and more were here to stay.

The Main Event grew to 245 entries for a €240,100 prize pool with the final table featuring five players from Finland and two each from Estonia and Sweden.

The title was guaranteed to head somewhere outside of Estonia with five players remaining after both Kristo Klaasseen and globally recognized poker beast Markku Koplimaa hit the rail.

Eventually, Sweden’s Johan Creutz and Finland Sauli Haapaniemi agreed to a deal during heads-up play before Creutz earned the second Kings of Tallinn Main Event trophy along with a tasty haul of €52,200.

Mattias Knaapinen Wins Gold; Roland Luik Wins Biggest Prize (2017)

The schedule continued to grow and boasted a healthy 35 events in 2017. The side events proved to be popular while attendance at the Main Event slightly grew to 247 entries for a €234,650 prize pool.

For the second straight year, two players made a heads-up deal in the Kings of Tallinn Main Event and for the third straight year, a winner was crowned from another country. Finland’s Matias Knaapinen and Estonia’s Roland Luik agreed to a heads-up deal that guaranteed Luik at least €46,677. However, he was unable to hold onto his chip lead to win the trophy and the extra money left to be played for and instead Knaapinen was crowned the third-ever Kings of Tallinn Main Event champion.

Juha Helppi Adds to Poker Resume (2018)

For many years, Finnish poker superstar Juha Helppi was known as one of the best poker players to never win a WSOP bracelet. Helppi got that monkey off his back after winning the 2019 WSOP $10,000 Limit Hold’em Championship for $306,622 before adding a second bracelet a year later in the 2020 WSOP Online GGPoker.com $5,000 Pot Limit Omaha Championship at OlyBet Poker for $290,286.

Before that, Helppi was already well known for crushing poker tournaments for around two decades and entered his name into the Kings of Tallinn history books by shipping the 2018 Kings of Tallinn €1,100 Main Event for €62,000 after defeating countrymate Arto Loikkanen heads-up.

The festival itself provided tons of excitement with 45 numbered events and the Main Event growing for a fourth straight year with 268 entries creating a €254,600 prize pool.

Helppi is obviously a big name with nearly $8.3 million in cashes tracked at The Hendon Mob. However, there is one player in Finland in his friend Patrik Antonius with more than $17.2 million in tracked tournament earnings, also battling it out in 2018.

Antonius, Helppi, and 2018 Kings of Tallinn High Roller Champion Eelis Parssinen all battled it out with others in a high-octane $50/$100 pot-limit Omaha affair with occasional double straddles. Helppi won even more than his Main Event haul in the cash games to cap off a memorable week of poker for the Finnish legend.

Vitalijs Zavorotnijs Rising Into Poker Stardom (2019)

Patrik Antonius was back for more high-stakes cash games and Juha Helppi was back to defend his title. The festival hit a milestone for surpassing €1 million in total prize pools including the Main Event getting a massive boost with 375 entries creating a €356,250 prize pool.

It appeared that the Main Event trophy could once again be awarded to a player from Finland for a third time with both Jari Saviaho and Jussi Mattila in the mix with three players remaining. Meanwhile, a relatively unknown Vitalijs Zavarotnijs came into the final table with crumbs in his stack before making a run. He eventually defeated Saviaho to win the €85,300 top prize.

A few weeks later, Zavortnijs rose further into poker stardom after winning the WPT Barcelona €3,300 Main Event for €600,000 and will be one of the stronger players in the field if he returns in 2024 with nearly $1.7 million in live tournament earnings.

Johan Karlsson Wins Six Figures (2020)

The year of 2020 rocked the world with the COVID pandemic. Many poker venues were closed throughout the world for most of the year. However, the Kings of Tallinn didn’t miss a beat in 2020 and squeezed in more than a month before the rise of the pandemic with a historic festival.

The Kings of Tallinn €1,100 Main Event boasted a €500,000 guarantee for the first time in history. The guarantee was blown away with 674 entries creating a whopping €640,300 prize pool for the second largest in Kings of Tallinn history only behind last year’s Main Event.

Sweden’s Johan Karlsson and Ermo Kosk made a deal guaranteeing that each player would walk home with at least a six-figure prize. Karlsson celebrated with his old and new friends until the wee hours of the morning after defeating Kosk to win the €126,900 top prize.

Claudio Di Giacomo Wins Title for Italy (2021)

The pandemic was still in full force in 2021, however, restrictions in several areas including in Tallinn allowed for a poker event or two to be squeezed in. However, the festival moved from its usual time in February to September but the important part is that the show went on without any interruptions.

The guarantee for the Main Event was removed in 2021 with lower attendance expected. However, the Main Event still attracted an enthusiastic field of 298 hopefuls to create a €280,120 prize pool.

It was an international final table to say the least with nine players from eight different countries. Oddly enough, no Estonian made it near to the final table. Finland’s Jari-Pekka Juhola, Ireland’s Daragh Davey, Lithuania’s Eirimas Tomkevicius, Australia’s Adam Kharman, Sweden’s Hol Persson, Romania’s Marius Rusu, and Germany’s Martin Mulsow all hit the rail at the final table to leave Italy’s Claudio Di Giacomo and Sweden’s Carl Halvarsson heads-up for the title. Di Giacomo secured the title to win the €58,440 top prize for the only time in Kings of Tallinn history a player from Italy has won the title.

Adam Kharman Makes Second Time Count (2022)

Australia’s Adam Kharman was in Europe during the pandemic. He had an amazing showing at the Kings of Tallinn in 2021 when he took sixth place in the Main Event for €12,750.

The festival was held in September for the second straight year with the pandemic winding down. The Main Event attracted 328 entries for a €308,320 prize pool with Kharman at the final table for a second straight year.

Kharman got it done the second time around as he defeated Norway’s Kurt Skimmeland heads-up en route to winning the €64,280 top prize and the first and only Kings of Tallinn Main Event title for Australia.

Priit Parmasto Wins Record-Breaking Kings of Tallinn (2023)

The pandemic was more or less over in the beginning of 2023 and players were hungry for the return of the Kings of Tallinn. The schedule was boosted up to 53 numbered events and the €500,000 guarantee was back for the Main Event.

A record-breaking field of 716 entries got into the mix during the 2023 Kings of Tallinn €1,100 Main Event to not only shatter the guarantee but establish a new record with a €673,040 prize pool.

A deal was agreed at the final table that secured at least €82,400 to the top three players with Petteri Laiho guaranteed €102,500 thanks to the chip lead he had at the time. All three final players then had the lead at one point or another until Antti Vetelainen was off to the cashier in third place for €90,000 after his queen-jack was unable to get there against the ace-queen held by Priit Parmasto.

Parmasto held a 2:1 chip advantage over Laiho before one of the quickest heads-up battles in poker history took place. Laiho four-bet jammed fives and was one player shy of the title after Parmasto called with sevens and held.

Laiho was still the big cash winner thanks to the deal, but Parmasto walked away with the coveted trophy to go along with an impressive €97,400 haul.

History will be made during the 10th anniversary of the Kings of Tallinn where we expect records to be broken left and right in the Main Event and the plethora of side events. We hope to see you soon and best of luck in making Kings of Tallinn history.

Jason Glazer

Poker journalist Jason Glatzer boasts more than a decade in experience in poker media and operations. He is well-known in Europe for providing quality reporting, editorial, and commentating at a wide variety of events from around the world including at all major events at our flagship venue Olympic Park Casino


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