[GG08]sVEN: 'We probably didn't party as hard as we thought we did'

Posted by Lasse "Enron" Engen at 12 January 2011 19:48
sven198width.JPGHe used to be a high-level StarCraft Brood War player in the early years, but retired from StarCraft several years ago and made a living playing poker. He quit poker three years ago, but is still today living on the money he made playing, while he finish his civil engineering degree, doing his master thesis this spring.

Sven "[GG08]sVEN@aBs" Myrdahl Opalic has enjoyed traveling ever since his busy StarCraft days, and go on a yearly trip to the Alps with Guillaume "Grrr..." Patry, Bertrand "Elky" Grospellier, and Fredrik "Slayer" Østervold. He's still taking the time to play some StarCraft 2, but mostly his time is spent on his girlfriend, friends, and school.

The famous Norwegian won a few tournaments during his time, but he's disappointed he never managed to win the World Cyber Games. According to himself, his biggest achievement is being able to play with the top Korean players, and often beat them, and Sven was also the guy Garimto practiced with the night before he faced the Emperor, SlayerS_BoxeR, in the SKY 2001 OSL 3-2. His career as a StarCraft player started out after playing a tiny bit of WarCraft 2 at the age of 13-14 before he jumped onto StarCraft.

- "My parents would let me go online for six hours a week, and I would play via modem with friends from school before my parents got home, because I didn't have the password for the internet. I started playing StarCraft right as it came out, and I got into it heavily through taking a class called "work experience" instead of having to take German in school."

When sVEN met Slayer and things got serious
By randomly walking into the netcafé Netropolis, asking if he could work there for free, Sven got the job, and quickly got into competitive StarCraft gaming. Netropolis was also the place where he later met Fredrik "Slayer" Østervold for the first time. There were some serious StarCraft players there, a few years older than him, they didn't take him seriously at all first, but Sven got to prove himself after some time.

- "I started proving myself and they let me into the clan [Grrr] (yeah, kinda funny name considering, but this was actually before his time) which we later remade into aBs (Another Biological Screwup). I had some really good times there, and until I turned 16 that was basically my whole social life, hehe. Netropolis is also where I met fredrik for the first time. He later told me he came there because he had heard about me and wanted to beat me, which is exactly the killer attitude you need to win the KBK (smiles)"
Editors note: Slayer won KBK in 2000 for approximately $15,000, and is one of the few non-Koreans to win a major tournament i South Korea.

- "My life before Starcraft and computers was all about sports.. From about age 5 I was 100 % set on becoming a professional football (soccer) player, and I've done everything from ice hockey to handball to table tennis.

You have to want to to win more than you hate to lose!
You have to have some talent to get good at a game like starcraft, but what you also have to be hungry for improvement. I've always enjoyed mastering things and getting better, and so has Fredrik. You also have to want to win more than you hate to lose!"

- "Anyway we would constantly challenge people we had heard were good, and sort of build our way up to get games vs the people who were considered the best at that time, people like Maynard and Grrrr. The early days of Starcraft was a lot of fun because we didn't have replays to figure everything out, so the people with a natural feel for the game were the ones who excelled and not the more methodical players.
My best memories from this time was definitely hanging out at Netropolis and earning the respect of older guys I admired, and also starting to realize that I was actually quite good, and getting to play and hang out with the best players in the world (smiles)

It made me very arrogant and full of myself, sorry Asmodey!
Unfortunately this made me very arrogant and full of myself, and in retrospect I think that that immature and unhealthy attitude really held me back. I remember the last big tournament I played in back in 2002 where I lost the finals to Asmodey 2-0 to some very aggressive offensive cannon + zealot build. Game 1 i managed to come back after having 4-5 SCVs left and probably played the best game I've ever played in a tournament, but I still eventually lost. The second game was on Hunters 12 vs 11 (very very close positions) and I just died right away to the same build. After the game I was so upset I told all the other players not to talk to Asmodey for "cheesing" me, but all he did was come prepared, and I thought it was cool not to practice and had only myself to blame. Sorry Asmodey!"
When and how did StarCraft become the real-deal for you? When did you realize what it actually meant to be really good at it?

- "Hm, I would say probably when I beat players who I'd only read about on websites that were considered the best in the world. Shortly after that pro teams started forming outside Korea, I think the first one I was in was iDEF, which never amounted to anything, but then GG flew us in to Paris and bought us dinner and asked us to join the team.. That really blew me away and had I known then what I know now, I would've handled the following years a lot differently (smiles)"
You traveled a lot when you were 16-19 years old, and participated in many tournaments. Please tell us about how you got started with that, which tournaments do you remember the most, and do you have any fun stories to share from those trips?

- "I honestly can't remember which tournament was my first, but I remember the very first WCG qualifer. Norway didn't have one at the time, so GG flew us down to paraticipate in the french one, but telling us we probably wouldn't be able to go to Korea for the finals regardless of the outcome. This really took the pressure off, and I was able to win the finals of that vs NTT, even though we both played absolutely horribly (smiles)
How was your time in aBs, GG and eSu? What was your time like with those teams?

- "aBs was all real life friends based out of the netcafe Netropolis that I talked a little bit about already. GG was the best western pro team at the time, and we had players like Slayer, Garimto, Elky and NTT.
The time with GG was great, even though the pro scene was really underdeveloped they managed to send us to several tournaments, including Paris four times. I met Elky in Paris for the first WCG qualifier, and man has he changed a LOT! (smiles)

Going out in Prague to a five story club with all the other starcraft players was a really cool experience. We probably didn't party as hard as we thought we did, but we were a bunch of nerds having a lot fun
- "eSu promised a lot, but didn't really deliver.. They only sent us to one tournament, and decided that they would take our winnings to cover their expenses, pretty damn professional of them! They got us to the tournament in Prague in 2002 though, and going out in Prague to a five story club with all the other starcraft players was a really cool experience. We probably didn't party as hard as we thought we did, but we were a bunch of nerds having a lot fun, and I must say that my experience is that starcraft players tend to be a lot nicer and cooler than other gamers (smiles)

I remember the counterstrike players in the same tournament basically all hating eachother and going all out war every time a game was played. All the starcraft players were friends, and everybody dealt really well with losing except myself, hehe.

Staying in touch with his friends
You made many friends through StarCraft, Elky, Grrr, smuft, Rekrul, and of course your friend Slayer, how do you stay in touch with them, and do you have any stories from hanging out with them?

- "Me and Fredrik went to Korea twice in the last 5-6 years or so to visit them, and we've actually been going on annual ski trips to the alps, but sadly next year I won't be able to go :/

SVENskiing200.JPG SVENparty200.JPG
Sven and Elky in the alps in the picture to the left. In the picture to the right (from the left): Sven, Elky, Grrr, Slayer.

- "We've had a lot of fun and I guess I could tell a lot of random drinking stories, but the good ones are kind of embarassing to the individuals involved (myself included, hehe), and I wouldn't feel right about sharing something that the others involved might not think was okay."

SVENjaegermeiseters200.JPG- "In general though, partying with the ex-gamers that have now turned poker players and spend money like it's on fire is exhausting :) For example, Elky and Guillame once got into a drinking contest with another friend of ours (who lives a normal life (smiles) who had a flight really early the next morning. Two bottles of Jäger and about one hour later our friend was in such a drunken stupor it was impossible to wake him up. Elky, who had drank the most, just stood up like it was nothing and soberly proclaimed that his job was done and went to his room like it was nothing. You can imagine the lovely experience our friend had on our flight home."

svengrrr200.JPG- "We stay in touch on MSN and facebook, and Guillame even came to visit us once in Norway and lived with us for a whole month. The man had never cooked his own food before, and was shocked to learn we all did on a regular basis (smiles)"

- "Life is different in Korea I guess, much love to him! A kind of random thing that happened in St. Anton (a place in the alps) was when me and Fredrik and Guillame were eating breakfast at a small diner. This was way after any of us stopped playing Starcraft seriously by the way. These two awkward guys were sitting at another table looking at us weirdly. After a while one of them shyly leans over and says one word: "Teamliquid?". We didn't really know what to say, but told them that yeah, we had played Starcraft and our IDs were this and that, and who were they and what were they doing here.. The guys really didn't have anything else to say though, so after a while of me trying to be nice and inclusive, I think you could actually reach out and touch the awkwardness in the room.. Hopefully they had a nice skiing trip though."

Won a televised match, was offered a pro team contract, rejected it

Samsung approached me to recruit me for their pro team, but I was too school for cool!
- "In the aftermath the Korean organizers decided to fly us over to participate in the finals anyway, which took place in 99 or 2000 I think. That's where I met Grrr for the first time, and mostly hung out with him and the Korean participants Gorush, I Love Star and Bassy. I completely choked in the round of 8 and lost to the french player Chobo, who I honestly think I'd never lost to before and got really upset of course. I got to prove myself a little though, as they asked me to play a televised match against one of the top korean pros at a the time, a zerg player I can't remember the name of, and I beat him PvZ on Lost temple in a pretty good game. Samsung approached me afterwards to recruit me for their pro team, but I told them I was too school for cool!"

- "Well, school wasn't really the main reason why I didn't go, it was more because I lacked the dedication. For me, StarCraft was actually more fun before my name got known and I was still figuring stuff out and learning without pressure. If however I had the same opportunity at 18 or 19 and was done with "high school" and didn't really know what to do, I would definitively have gone. I think I had enough talent to do well, so if I was a bit more mature and dedicated I think I could have made a living for myself in Korea :) So I probably would have stayed in Korea for a few years, but I think I would have felt the need to go to school sooner or later anyway just to have something to fall back on."

Sven's contribution to the grand final of SKY OSL in 2001
Being in the same team as Garimto at the time he beat SlayerS_'BoxeR' in the SKY OSL in 2001, you were the one he practiced with the night before the grand final. Tell us about how you practiced, and what you focused on. And how was your relation to Garimto in general?

- "Well Terran was my race of choice at the time, and TvP was always my best matchup, but I could play PvT also.. So we would alternate a little bit between races, him playing Terran and me Protoss, and just discuss what worked and what didn't. The maps were really hard for protoss though, and I ended up beating him 5-0 TvP the day before the finals (shameless brag! :D), but he had a real killer instinct in tournaments and managed to beat Boxer 3-2 in some really intense games.
I first met him when I was at the WCG for the second time, and we hit it off and he started hanging out with us a lot online. His English wasnt great, but he really tried to communicate with us and we had played quite a bit with Koreans so we knew our way around Konglish (smiles)"
What do you miss the most from the early StarCraft years?

StarCraft is a weird game, and once you reach your peak you almost have a 6th sense
- "I guess the times when I still really wanted to improve and first got to play with and meet people I really admired. Starcraft is a weird game, and once you reach your peak you almost have a 6th sense and can make anything work, but staying at that level requires so much time, effort and dedication that it just doesn't feel like it's worth it.

At the time I had a this silly notion that true talent didn't have to practice or stay in shape, and kind of looked down upon people who did. So I guess I miss that sheer joy of caring so much about something, even though a lot of people would call it silly. If I could go back I would try really hard to make the most out of the opportunities I had, because no matter what you enjoy or get good at, as long as it's not hurting anyone it's worth pursuing with all your heart (smiles)"

On StarCraft 2: 'I think I was in top 100 world on as Terran at one point'
StarCraft II is a reality, how do you feel about it, is it a worthy sequel?

- "I would have to say that it certainly exceeded my expectations. The game is fast paced, it's fun and as far as being a worthy sequel I would have to say a doubtful yes. Things I like about it is that it looks right, it feels right and I see a lot of potential in it, but I also see some issues. It's very hard to say though, because the game is so young. Starcraft 1.00 was far from a perfect game, and Starcraft 2 is way better (smiles)

The biggest issue I have with it though is just that it feels like there are fewer differentiators of skill. Hopefully the differentiators are there though, and have yet to be discovered by hungry young nerds (smiles)

I've played quite a few games actually, but in a very casual manner. I think I have almost 700 ladder games, first with Protoss, then with Terran and now with Zerg. I didn't play the beta, and basically just learned the game from pure ladder play, but I think I was in top 100 world on as Terran at one point. I haven't tried to get games vs good players at all though, so my level is probably just good, not great. StarCraft 2 will just be for fun, the dedication that was lacking for me in BW is even more lacking now, and I think I actually enjoy being a casual gamer more than professional one from a purely gaming point of view. Of course all the things that came with being a professional I wouldn't have missed for the world!"

Still making a living from the money he earned playing poker three years ago

- "Well Fredrik (Slayer) basically hassled me for 8 months after we got back from the army to start playing, and even though I had some moral qualms about it I eventually caved. I started by reading poker literature and squeezing the Fredrik lemon of wisdom, and I eventually deposited $100 on PokerStars.

I got a lucky start at .25 .50 and never lost that initial $100, even though I dropped to about $50 at one point. After spending about 8-10 months getting off the ground I played mostly NL 10-20 and 20-40 for about 20-30 hours a month. I really hated the fact that the better player couldn't win every hand by sheer force of will though, and had trouble forcing myself to even play my 20 hours after a couple of years. So I basically stopped playing 3 years ago, and have lived off my poker reservoir ever since! (Yes I know I'm really weird :D) I guess I regret not making the most ouf of that opportunity either, but when I cry myself to sleep every night, I tell myself that money isn't everything! (smiles)"
What good poker "lemon juice" can you share from Fredrik that would help other players looking to take poker more seriously?

- "A very basic piece of advice that has served me well is to never try to bluff a bad player. You see it all the time in online cash games, where medioce or slightly above average players go off on the really bad players for calling their bluffs. "
You moved from .25-.50 to NL 10-20 within 8 to 10 months, which is extremely fast, what type of bankroll management did you follow?

- "Since .25 .50 was the lowest available limit on PokerStars and I only deposited $100 my bankroll management in the beginning was obviously too risky. I played .25 .50 till I had $500, and then tried moving up several times, but moved back down as soon as I dropped a few dollars below $500. The reason why I pulled this off is probably because I only played 2 tables in the beginning, and moved right back down in limits as soon as I started losing. In hindsight I probably should have waited for a bigger bankroll before moving up, but since I was very disciplined I managed. After the initial experimentation I started using 20x buyin of whatever limit I was playing, but even this is probably a bit on the loose side, which I realized when I tried to move from 5 10 to 10 20 a couple of times unsuccessfully.
The bottom line is probably that I should have deposited more, and been more conservative about how many buyins I needed. However, I was so extremely disciplined that I never let myself keep playing with less than 20x even if I was running bad and pissed off, so it was probably a combination of that and luck that let me move up quickly."
What style of game did you play that allowed you to move up so fast and do well at each new level?

- "I started out playing ring games (9-10 players) and extremely tight, basically only playing really good hands and waiting for sets. Around 2 4 and above I started playing six handed, raising a lot of hands and betting the flop, but giving up easily on the turn and river. I played very solid and bluffed very rarely, and only made loose calls vs players that were obviously playing drunk or just crazy loose aggressive without any thought to their actions. At 10 20 and 20 40 I played a bit looser and tried to pick up more pots and made a few more moves."
What was the hardest level and toughest types of opponents that you faced?

- "Well the highest level of play was obviously at 20 40 (£10 - £20 on william hill), and I hated playing good loose aggressive players that would continuation bet the turn and river a lot."
Do you ever see yourself returning to play poker because it was so profitable for you at one point?

- "I've thought about it, and have sat down several times and played an hour or so at lower limits thinking I would start again, but not making time for it. From what I've heard, the games are tougher and the action at higher limits has dried up a little. I'm really weird about doing stuff I don't enjoy when it's only for my own benefit. If I could go back and change anything I obviously would have kept playing, and tried to play more and work harder at improving, but now I'm almost finished with school and will put everything into getting a job I really enjoy and make the most of that (smiles)"