Articles Misc

The Rise of the Finnish Poker Pro

Considering the size of Finland and the fact that the local casino and poker room scene is virtually non-existent, the fact that Finland is home to some of the most respected (and feared) poker players on the planet, says a great deal about the character and perhaps even the fierce competitiveness of Finns.


Poker history is filled with breakout players dating back to the early 1970’s, except in the case of Finnish players. The internet poker boom in the early part of the 2000’s gave birth to the Finnish pro. Universally the Finnish players brought a wildly aggressive style to the table. For some time, the other internet players referred to them as “fish” a poker term for weak, exploitable players. They also had a tendency to lump them all into the “Scandinavian” category. Those players soon learned (usually as they saw their chips being pushed to “fish”) that their read was totally incorrect and that the Finns, while technically Scandinavian, were in a category of their own.


Determining who the top players in the poker world are is a somewhat tricky problem. The only reliable and verifiable method is to rank players based on their tournament results. Tournament poker, however, is only a part of many players’ poker career. Finnish players have excelled in both.


Juha Helppi

Juha Helppi

Like many poker players, Helppi got his start in gambling as a dealer; unlike many of those professional players, Helppi was a croupier, not a poker dealer, in Helsinki. Prior to be introduced to poker by some friends, he was a champion paintball player. Like many other poker players around the world, he was also an avid Magic: The Gathering Player.


Many poker fans and players got their first introduction to Finnish players by Juha’s appearance on one of the first World Poker Tour broadcasts from Aruba. After winning his seat in the Aruba tournament, he bested a field of amateur players in Aruba, which earned him a seat in a single table tournament where he faced five professional players. His aggressive style earned Helppi his first major victory after he defeated poker pro Phil Gordon in heads-up competition.


His victory convinced him to try poker professionally, which has turned out to be a very good career decision. His tournament earnings are approaching $5.5 million.


Patrik Antonious

Patrik Antonius

Patrik Antonious’ is arguably the best-known Finnish poker player in the world. He came to poker after a career in professional tennis and, not surprisingly, modeling. While Antonius has tournament winnings which near $7 million, he is better known for his skill and aggression at the cash tables. He excels at both Hold’em and Pot Limit Omaha. He holds the title for winning the largest single pot in online poker history ($1.35 million). He plays in some of the largest cash games in the world in Macau. The combination of his skills, aggression, and good looks has also made his a regular on televised poker broadcasts around the world.


Ilari Sahamies

Ilari Sahamies

Like many Finnish players Ilari Sahamies, who is better known as “Ziigmund” in the poker world, was introduced to poker by playing at a friend’s house. In his case that friend was Patrik Antonious who he met while playing billiards. While Sahamies tournament earnings are “only” in the $1.5 million range, his has earned that amount many times playing cash games and he is considered on the best high stakes Pot Limit Omaha players in the world. Like Helppi and Antonious, Sahamies is an active online player, where he has over $4 million in online cash game winnings. Ziigmund is one of Finland’s more colorful players. In addition to his aggression, on both the virtual and real world, tables he is one of the most talkative players at the table and takes particular delight in verbally taunting his opponents.

Ziigmund is in many ways the more typical Finnish player, as most are cash game specialists. Players like Jani Sointula, Ville Wahlbeck, Sami Kelopuro, and Jens Kyllonen pop up on the tournament circuit from time to time but do not have as high of a profile with poker fans as the others on the list. However all are respected by the players at the cash games both online and in casino poker rooms.

Gambling is a major part of Finnish life. The ubiquitous slot machines are everywhere and the low minimum age for playing means that Finns learn to gamble at an early age.

One recent incident may be an indication that there is more to the success of Finnish players at casino games than just availability.

Sara Chafak

Earlier this year, former Miss Finland Sara Chafak participated in Shark Cage, a broadcasted poker tournament powered by PokerStars. The Shark Cage pits professional and amateur players against one another for a $1 million top prize. In one of the first hands of the tournament Chafak made major bets on every betting while heads up against a seasoned pro will on a total bluff. While most of the table, even her opponent to a degree, wanted to have the beautiful Chafak at the table as long as possible, a million dollars is a lot of money and the pro eventually folded the best hand to Chafak’s aggression. The hand instantly became an internet sensation as poker players worldwide watched the amateur make a play that would be commonplace for Antonious and Sahamies but almost unheard of from an amateur.


So perhaps, there is something in the basic Finnish DNA or the cultural makeup of the country that leads to players who are not only aggressive but also incredibly successful. Taking into account that the history of professional poker in Finland is only slightly more than a decade, poker players may well be advised to protect their bankroll and avoid taking a seat at the table if they are facing a Finn now or in the future.






Articles Misc

NIPT – Non Invasive Prenatal Test

The Non-Invasive Prenatal Test (NIPT) is a DNA test on maternal blood to safely and reliably screen pregnancies for the most common fetal aneuploidies Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome), Trisomy 18 (Edwards syndrome) and Trisomy 13 (Edwards syndrome).The fetal sex can also be determined.

Although NIPT can be performed without specific indication, it might be most appropriate in pregnancies with an increased risk for fetal aneuploidy based upon a high maternal age (> 40 yrs) or abnormal result of the first trimester screening. In these cases NIPT is an alternative for invasive tests, where there is a risk of a miscarriage. The reliability of NIPT results is very high (more than 99% for Down syndrome), which is much higher than the reliability of first trimester screening (80 %)

The maternal blood can be taken from week 10 of the pregnancy. The sample has to be sent by Express mail to GENDIA‘s lab in Antwerp, Belgium, and arrive there within 2 days of withdrawal.
NIPT takes 1-2 weeks to complete from arrival of the sample in the GENDIA lab.

For more information: see our website

If you want NIPT, please email us at

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Finns know how to gamble!

Finnish people love gambling. That is a fact. You can see slot machines in every supermarket and the casinos are always full of people. For many young Finnish people, playing onlinevhas become their number 1 hobby or even their most steady source of economical income. It is notorious the cool temperament of Finnish in their everyday life, not easy for a foreign person to read their thoughts. That behavior extrapolated to gambling makes them really ferocious opponents that mix an attitude cold as ice together with a determination hot as a sauna.

Among those players, there are some professional poker players ranked among the best in the world. Probably the top Finnish player is Patrick “Pate” Antonius who resides nowadays in Monaco and has earn more than 5 million dollars during his career, having won among other titles the European Poker Tour.

Sara Chafak

It is also common for some players to alternate playing both live and online tournaments. That is the case of Juha Helppi who started working as a dealer and combines online with real tournaments, being the only Finn who has won the WTP.

One video that has gone viral lately is the one showing ex Miss Finland Sara Chafak during her participation in the Shark Cage poker TV show held in Barcelona that features celebrities and professional poker players battling for a price of 1 million dollars. Following the tradition of aggressiveness that Finnish poker players tend to show, she was able to win with an amazing bluff to pro player Ronnie Bardah while the other players and the audience got astonished by the performance of the beautiful lady.

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The Finnish Dream: Winning the Lottery

Every Saturday night hundreds of thousands Finns gather around their TV sets for the national Lottery draw. The lottery is organized by the national betting company Veikkaus and it’s quite simply called “Lotto”. Lotto has been played since the end of 1970 and it has created around 1 500 millionaires along the years (large share of those naturally during the time before euro). Nowadays there’s also the Viking Lotto, drawn on Wednesdays and played also in other Nordic countries and the in Baltic states. Another popular newcomer is the Eurojackpot, played in altogether 16 European countries. The largest jackpot in the history of Eurojackpot was won by a Finnish player based in Espoo, in September 2014 – 61.1 million euros!

Of course there are other ways for Finns to chase their millionaire dream. Finland really offers only one true land-based casino, based in Helsinki. Taking this into account, it’s no wonder that Finnish casino players direct their interest to the Internet when looking for gaming options. And that naturally multiplies the available options. Problem is that it’s hard to know which online casino are not only reliable but which offer services tailored specially for the Finnish market. There’s a number of so called netticasino sites offering useful information to those who want to try their luck, like for example There are plenty of different types of lottery games online, too, if lottery really is the way to get your fix of excitement.

Lottery winning

And although Finland is pretty restrictive country when it comes down to gambling, the Finnish authorities have at least so far taken pretty relaxed or at least passive stand for playing on foreign-based sites. Finland is ranked pretty much on top positions when talking about press freedom, freedom of speech and related topics. Blocking access for legally operating websites wouldn’t really fit into that image, and that’s one reason such drastic measures haven’t been taken in regards to accessing online casinos from Finland.

There’s a modern Finnish proverb: “On lottovoitto syntyä Suomeen” which roughly translates as “Being born into Finland is like winning in the lottery”. Whether that now might be true or not depends on your perspective. But one thing is certain: Finns love their lotteries.

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Street Hockey Tour 2014

Street Hockey, also known as ball hockey, dek hockey or road hockey, is a variation of ice hockey where the players play on the ground with sneakers or rollerblades instead of on ice with ice skates. This is why this sport is easy to play and everybody can participate, regardless of their skill level. This year 144 team were chasing the Finnish Street Hockey championship title.

Street Hockey is usually played on asphalt which is why helmet and ice hockey gloves are mandatory equipment. Although it’s also recommended to use protective cup and knee pads. In Finland the Game time is 2 X 10 min. and in this sport the gaming time doesn’t stop during the game breaks. Street Hockey is played with a small plastic ball.

Street Hockey Tour 2014

Street Hockey Tour has been arranged in Finland already for ten years, and the popularity is increasing year after year. This summer Street Hockey Tour celebrated its eleventh year touring around in Finland. This also means that there are eleven happy teams with the Finnish championship title in Street Hockey. This year the tour started in the beginning of June, with the first qualifier arranged in Helsinki 7-8.6.2014. Altogether the tour was arranged in 7 different cities, and in total there were 14 eventful days during the Finnish Street Hockey championship tour. The tour was culminated with the Finals in Helsinki 1-2.8.2014, where the four best teams of each city, altogether 24 teams, competed against each other to win the Finnish championship.  The title of The Finnish championship in Street Hockey year 2014 was won by Jaybirdz team from Tampere. The second team was American diner and the bronze was won by a team called Joukkue. You can check out pictures from the whole tour here.

The tour this year was arranged in following cities: Turku, Rauma, Tampere, Jyväskylä, Oulu and the finals in Helsinki. From these cities the following teams were able to struggle their way to the finals in Helsinki: Killeri, Joukkue, Vallox Rednecks, American Dinner, HC Puutuneet Jalat, Minnesota Viltti, Texas Pete, Myyrät, Punakone, DPHD, Turtles Hockey, Raimonlätty, Jaybirdz, Örh, HC Nahkanuoliaiset, Radio City, Vuorelan Veikot, HC Nahkatorvi, Pasilan Pyrkijä, HS127, Dynastia, Haamujengi, Hc Kings, and G.G.G.

Tour with 14 eventful days

In addition to the tour and the exciting games, the gaming area was filled with entertainment and events for the audience. Throughout the whole tour the audience had the possibility to test their own strength with the hockey shot radar. One of Finland’s most known hockey players: Jarkko “Rudi” Ruutu tested this hockey shot radar in Helsinki with the result speed of 153 km/hour. And of course the aim of many hockey fans was to beat Rudi in the hockey radar. The speed of the best shot during the whole Street Hockey Tour was over 190 km/hour. Another partner to Street Hockey Tour in Finland was the Finnish online casino, which provided the audience entertainment in their tent with their roulette and blackjack gambling tables. Netticasino also had a raffle throughout the tour where one lucky winner from Oulu won a season ticket to Kärpät ice hockey team for season 2014-2015. Read the interview with the winner here.

Throughout the whole, almost two months lasting tour, many famous faces were seen and also many hockey players participated the tournament. In Jyväskylä the audience could enjoy games watching Stanley Cup winner Ville Nieminen playing in the Blockfest team. The northernmost city in the tour also provided the audience excitement with a “star game” with Finnish known hockey players such as Juhamatti Aaltonen, Julius Junttila and Joonas Donskoi.

Helsinki finals in August was popped with people and no wonder, since the “star game” at Saturday 2.8.2014 was played with hockey stars such as Esa Tikkanen, Jarkko Ruutu, Leo Komarov, Veli-Matti Savinainen and Juha Koivisto.

Be ready for the next year’s Street Hockey Tour, since for sure there are going to be even more teams participating, and it’s going to be bigger and of course better, so sta

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Gambling Culture in Finland

Finland is a country in which the people enjoy gambling. Statistics have shown that a large percentage of Finns have either gambled playing cash games or other games of chance such as the lottery. While Finnish people enjoy various gambling games, the choice is somewhat limited.

Gambling Oligopoly in Finland

While it is not quite a monopoly, but rather an oligopoly that dominates the Finnish gambling market. The main players, each with a monopoly in their specific areas, are RAY, Veikkaus, PAF and Fintoto. Fintoto runs the country’s horseracing. With the introduction of mobile gambling, there are certain changes that are slowly taking place in the gambling culture in Finland.

RAY, Finland’s Slot Machine Association, not only provides gaming entertainment to the Finnish people, the association also helps to support both health and social welfare organisations as well as war veterans. RAY runs its own arcades, and also offers slot machines in a total of 8,000 locations, including hotels, markets, service stations, restaurants, and other locations that are frequented by the general public. RAY operates the only land casino in Finland and offers both online and mobile gaming too.

The Finnish Lottery, Veikkaus, operates a number of games including instant games, pools, and of course, lotto games. Many Finns play the lottery games that are offered in a large number of locations around the country. Veikkaus helps to support arts and culture, science, and sports.

The Alands Penningautomatforening (PAF) company has been offering legal online gambling in Finland. While online gambling has been legal since 1996, it took until 2010 for RAY to get the necessary permission to enter the online gambling market. Fintoto and Veikkaus were also given permission to offer their lottery and horseracing betting online.

Land-Based Gambling and Online Gambling in Finland

Since Finnish people are surrounded by legal gambling games there is clearly a high demand from players. The gambling culture in Finland is thriving and many children are with their parents when the parents play slots around the country. While gaming is familiar and part of life, the Lotteries Act passed a law in 2011 making 18 the minimum gambling age. While children had been allowed to play slots if they were accompanied by an adult, this changed in 2011 with the introduction of this law. Those who are gambling now were introduced to gambling games from a young age.

Gambling culture in Finland

As more households have one or more computers, smartphones or tablets available, online and mobile gambling is becoming more popular. While the percentage of Finns that gamble online is still smaller than that of land-based Finnish gamblers, it is likely that the number of online players will increase over time since Finnish people enjoy games of chance. The EU has ruled that all member countries should allow online gambling across EU borders, however, Finland is resisting this change. Should more online gambling companies be introduced into Finland, it is likely that there will be a rise in the number of players who choose to play online.

Statistics Show How Entrenched Gambling is in the Finnish Culture

In 2011, the National Institute for Health and Welfare designed a survey regarding gambling in Finland. The survey was conducted between October 2011 and January 2012. The survey showed that 78% who responded to the survey had gambled during the past 12 months. The percentage is only slightly up from the 74% result in the 2007 survey. There have been no significant changes between the 2007 and the 2011 studies that took place.

85% of respondents showed that there is a general feeling that raising the legal gambling age to 18 has been a good move and will reduce the number of problem gamblers. 75% of those who were polled feel that it is a good thing that gambling is controlled by the state.

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Jari Litmanen – A Finnish Football Legend

Jari Litmanen, the son of two footballers, carried on the family tradition in style. Litmanen’s father, Olavi played for Reipas and as a Finnish international player. His mother also played for Reipas at the highest level in women’s soccer in Finland.

In 1987, at the age of 16, Litmanen played for Reipas for the first time in what was the top division in Finland at the time, Mestaruusarja. Litmanen’s international football career began in 1989 and only ended in 2010. Between 1996 and 2008, he was the captain of choice for the Finnish national football team. In November 2003, while he was still playing professionally, the Football Association of Finland picked Litmanen as the best Finnish footballer of the previous 50 years.

Over the years, Litmanen has represented a number of clubs both in Finland and abroad. In Finland, he played with Reipas, MyPa, Lahti and HJK. Abroad, he played with Barcelona, Ajax, Hansa Rostrock, Malmö, and Liverpool.

Jari Litmanen statue

In the 1993 – 94 season, Litmanen scored 26 goals, the top-scoring player in the league. In 1995, the midfielder made his name on an international level when he was playing with the Amsterdam team, Ajax, and won the Champions League.

Having started his international career in 1989, and playing into 2010 when he played with Finland against South Korea on 19 January 2010. Litmanen, also known as “Kuningas” or “The King” had earned the distinction of playing professional football in four different decades.

The King was voted as the Finnish Footballer of the Year in 1990, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, and 2000. He was voted as the Dutch Footballer of the Year in 1993, and as the Finnish Sports Personality of the Year in 1995.

With all these football achievements under his belt, Litmanen is also the face associated with the Betsson sports betting site at this time. Finland has also erected a statue of Litmanen in October 2010. He is the first team sport player in Finland to receive a statue. The statue stands at the place where Litmanen’s career began in the 1970s, at Kisapuisto (Lahti).

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Rautatientori: the throbbing heart of Helsinki.

If you are a new visitor in the Finnish capital or just basically if you live in Helsinki, it is almost impossible that you spend many days without your steps guiding you around the Railway Station Square or “Rautatientori” as it is called in Finnish. I still remember the first time I stepped there and I was naively surprised to find many of the street signals written in both Finnish and Swedish languages.

Rautatientori is the spot where most of the foreign people get the real first contact with Helsinki, as trains from St. Petersburg arrive there as well as buses from Vantaa airport. Added to that, it is also the main point where all the local trains connect to destinations in Helsinki and nearby cities Espoo and Vantaa, as well as the most transited metro station and also the departing point of many bus lines on both sides of the Station building and also the trams that allow you more slowly and pleasantly to have a great view of the city.

Although relatively a new building, opening its doors in 1982, the Helsinki Railway station is also one of the most recognizable architectural work in Finland due to the unmistakeable two pair of statues holding spherical lamps that decorate the facade outside and that are widespread used in commercials and parodies, giving the station a unique “Gotham City alike” touch.

Helsinki Rautatientori

But not only the station itself is worthy to mention in the square. The visitor can pretty much find anything interesting to do in every corner of the station square. Around in a few meters the walker can see and visit the National Finnish Theatre and the Ateneum Museum if you are into arts and culture. For those who like tempting the luck live apart from gambling online in sites like, the Casino Helsinki is also located in the Railway Square surrounded by many interesting bars and restaurants to enjoy good food and relaxing drinks. And on winter there is also the possibility to practice ice skating in the ice rink located there.

Shopping is also pretty much just something that you can do walking a few meters away from the station, as you can find shopping malls just in front of the station and a few meters away like the infamous Sokos, Forum or Stockmann. The station has also a lot of R Kioski where travelers can load their travel cards and buy snacks and drinks apart from different fast food chain restaurants to have a tasty quick bite before continuing the journey. The main office of Helsinki Transportation Office is located also in Rautatientori, downstairs near the Metro entrance, and if you are a permanent resident of Helsinki you can get a transport card that can make your live much more easier to move around the city.

As you see, Rautatientori has just condensed almost everything that a visitor needs for enjoying the stay in Helsinki. Although we advise you just to visit as many areas as possible, do not waste your chance to investigate all the adventures that the emblematic Railway Station and its square have awaiting for you!

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What you always wanted to know about public bus transportation in Helsinki (and never dared to ask)

Written by Antonio Diaz

So here you are! You just arrived to the capital of Finland. It can be for studying a few months or a few years, for visiting a friend, a relative or a lover, just for a few hours before continuing your trip somewhere else, a new job, a permanent life here… In any case, once you step out of the airport, bus or train station, there is a lively city out there to discover and probably some distance to your destination.

Taxi prices in Helsinki can be considered everything but cheap, tram is nice for a ride but extremely slow, train network is improving but still insufficient… so there they are! Painted in white and blue, reaching all neighborhoods of the big capital area and running almost at any time of the day and night: the public buses!

FREE! Magazine gives you 20 helpful and funny tips so from the first time you step on a bus in Helsinki, you can feel at ease like a local!

Helsinki public bus

1. The main Helsinki Public Transportation office is located at the heart of the city in the metro station down the Railway Station. If you will stay for long time, the easiest way to travel is getting a transport card that can be loaded with just a selected amount of money or monthly. And they allow you to choose your favorite color, how cool is that!

2. Students (holding Finnish student cards) get half the price when loading the transportation card. In general, they always get 50% of discount traveling around Finland. So find any excuse to start or never leave your studies! And second saving money tip, line 615 will also take you to and from the Vantaa airport to Helsinki centre much cheaper than the buses provided by the flight companies.

3. So now you are at the bus stop ready for your first bus trip. Congratulations! Many around the city count with a digital board where you can easily check the minutes remaining for the bus to arrive, controlled by GPS. But watch out, although they usually work like charm, they are not always accurate. Technology is not always an exact science! Just in case, you will also find paper printed timetables in every bus stop.

4. Buses are VERY punctual in Helsinki. If it is written that will leave at 15:38, it will leave at 15:38. So be punctual to be on time at the stop. Of course as good Murphy’s Law, when some foreign friends come to visit you and you brag about the great punctuality of the buses, then the bus will be exceptionally late and you and your friends will freeze your asses at -25 degrees waiting half an hour for the next one…

5. There is a very easy to use mobile application called “Reittiopas” that will show you the fastest route on your phone when you just type your destination address.

6. At winter while you wait for the bus with your nose getting frozen, you would expect at least a small shelter in every bus stop that would protect you from that hard snowstorm falling, right? Nope, forget about it, a simple post marking the stop point will suffice and you will find no cover in the middle of the forest from the snow trying to bury you alive. Thankfully as we pointed before, the buses are punctual, so try to be on time, but do not try to be too early when it is minus 30 degrees out there and it is snowing like there is no tomorrow!

Helsinki public bus

7. The non-written rule while waiting the bus is to keep as much distance as possible from the other people waiting. Do not expect a clear organization to form the queue; it does not matter if you were the first one waiting for the bus. People do not mind trying to enter from any direction once the bus approach, so sharpen your skill to foresee the exact spot where the bus will stop!

8. Do not worry if you do not speak perfect Finnish when trying to communicate with the bus driver. Many of them are actually foreigners and in general almost all of them can speak good English. In any case, if you do not have to buy the ticket directly from them, your only interaction is placing your card in front of the reader at the entrance of the bus and, optionally, telling “moi” to the driver. It is up to the good or bad mood of the driver to answer back…

9. Remember what we say about keeping as much space as possible from the other passengers while waiting the bus? Well, now when you step inside the bus, remember one of the most important rules if you do not want to assist to public suicides inside the vehicle: you NEVER sit close to another person as far as there are 2 free seats in another row of the bus. We repeat, NEVER. If you do so, God will erase all the kitten photos from Facebook and Swedish will replace Finnish as the official language of the country. Do not say later we did not tell you!

10. If the bus is full, there will be 3 or more people around you using their mobile phones. If those people are teenage girls, be sure 100% of them will be using their mobile phones.

11. Just because that boy and that girl sitting together in front of you have not exchanged a single word during the whole bus trip, it does not mean they are not happily dating.

12. Alcohol consumption inside the bus is prohibited. However, the rule gets more relaxed during the weekend, depending also how strict the bus driver is. If you do not make a mess and drink sneakily at the bottom of the bus, and you manage not to puke around, everything should be fine. But remember not to smoke inside the bus that will end up no other way than hated by all other passengers and with your bones quickly thrown away outside the bus.

13. Since last couple of years, now if you hold a monthly transport card, you do not need to pay any extra fee for night tickets. A very convenient change, taking into account the extremely expensive prices of taxis in the city. The down side is that it has killed quite a few opportunities to flirt at night with that stranger who wanted to share a cab or was looking at you with puppy eyes to help him/her to pay the night fee ticket.

14. Do not expect that the passenger sitting close to you who needs you to stand aside to exit will communicate this verbally to you. Listening to a small cough, watching him/her punch the stop button or observing the beginning of his body movement separating the ass from the seat should be enough for you to understand that you need to move. Who said verbal communication is needed inside a bus?

Helsinki public bus

15. If there are teenagers sitting close to you in a bus and they happen to be of the talkative kind, you will hear the word “vittu” at least 3 times every 30 seconds.

16. If the driver forgets to stop in the requested stop or open the door, passengers will patiently wait a few seconds before (maybe) managing the braveness to shout at him for the mistake.

17. When there is a sudden break due to an almost accident on the road, you will notice clearly the dissatisfaction of the other passengers listening only to their grunting.

18. If there is an old lady (mummo in Finnish) just trying to punch the transport card in the system, you will always have to wait 1 more minute than normal to enter the bus until the driver finally takes her out of her misery and punches the transport card for her.

19. School children also use public buses to move around the city under the surveillance of their teachers. This probably would be a nightmarish thought for any other adult passenger. However, they usually behave well and make not much noise or hassle. It must be due to the fact that Finnish children do not usually sing in the bus when going on excursions… They wait until they become teenagers to join a heavy metal band.

20. Some people even shout “thanks” before jumping out of the bus, although is not always required. Be nice and show kindness to the driver. You arrive safely and cheaply to your destination! Until the next bus ride!

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Teemu Selänne: A True Finnish Legend

Current season 2013/2014 will probably see the end in the career of Teemu Selänne, who can be accurately considered one of the best and most charismatic Finnish sportsmen of all time.

Having seen him to help the national team to achieve the bronze medal at the recent Winter Olympic Games in Sochi at the amazing age of 43, being nominated as the MVP of the Olympic tournament, FREE! Magazine also wanted to pay his little tribute dedicating an amazing video to the ice hockey legend. Long life to the “Finnish Flash!”

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Grace Vane Percy: The Art of Nudity

FREE! Magazine met recently in the lobby of a hotel in Helsinki centre with British photographer Grace Vane Percy, one of the most well known names in UK when talking about nude photography, while she was visiting the Finnish capital.

Grace is planning to move to Finland in the near future this year due to the studies and work of her husband, who collaborates with the Finnish opera designing stages, so our talk is a double opportunity, firstly for us to get to know more about nude photography and secondly for her to get to know more about Finland and Helsinki.

“I cannot believe that it is already 10 years that I have been doing this job!” exclaims Grace, who comes from a very strong classical art foundation, having studied at Central Saint Martin’s in London and in Florence; a classic influence which really can be spotted at first sight in the amazing and beautifully balanced compositions of her photographs. “My father asked me at some point what I wanted to be, if I’d pursue being an artist or wanted to focus on photography, so if I wanted to be a photographer I had to come back to the UK “and get on with it!” and so I did!”.

Grace Vane Percy photography

Grace has been primarily based in London in the infamous neighbourhood of Notting Hill but also travelling around the world to meet her clients. Grace has built a strong reputation as one of the most refined photographers specialized mainly in female nudity. Working exclusively on black and white medium format film, she finds that it makes the colour less distracting and adds a layer between the reality of the flesh and the image.

Not just as a journalist but also as a man, I find curious where is the limit drawn between a photo being considered just artistic or erotic. Grace explains her views: “For me an erotic photo is more about the meaning behind the picture, is not about the woman being objectified but more about showing provocation. You can see in many of my photos as the model looks disconnected from the viewer, but if I want to achieve something more erotic, then I play with the attitude. So the model engages more looking at the camera and in a way being more ‘inviting’ to the viewer”.

Recently she has taken a departure from her standard female subject matter and tried her hand at photographing male models and in some cases with couples. Grace mostly prefers working with women. “I think women definitely feel more at ease with me being also a woman. They do not feel the pressure to be judged and they are often surprised by how easy and natural it becomes to be naked around me. Being physically naked also makes them feel more emotionally naked and they face this kind of photo session as a release and a way to confront an anxiety, because in the end everybody wants to feel appreciated. Usually when couples come to have their photos taken, men are more much shy and hide behind their women.”

I feel curious to know what kind of clients get in contact with Grace. Being the cost of a session with her 575 (GBP), I wonder if usually the people portrayed belong to high class. But Grace thinks is not like that: “There are photographers who do similar job, but charge much more. Also many work digitally so their costs are far lower, you have to discount from my rate the cost of the materials, the film & processing etc… Clients usually always love the results because they end up with something more like you can see in a gallery, they understand the quality and recognise it is art, something which they could even display in their living room. So the person becomes a subject, an inspiration enclosed in a work of art. I like having a variety of clients, and I find with this price range it is attainable for a wider variety of people, which is also more interesting for me. But then when coming to Finland, I have to see if I need to rethink the prices”.

Grace Vane Percy photography
And Grace has already being doing some research about how the market could be in Finland: “I have heard that now here is an interest in Boudoir Photography, which has a different feeling to what I do, so that shows a certain curiosity about nude/semi nude imagery. I have seen a lot of pretty girls walking around Helsinki. Sometimes I feel like a teenage boy, cause I would love to walk to them and ask them if I could photograph them naked, but then I do nothing!” says Grace laughing.

Although soon moving to the coldness of north Europe, this seem to be a hot year for Grace, preparing the release of her book “Venus” after 4 years of work behind it and looking forward to future challenges.

Finland prides itself on producing some of the most strong, independent and beautiful women in the world. Now is an excellent chance to enjoy having one of the best nude photographers in the world here in this country and maybe be part of a photo session that will leave you a memorable set of photos to remember forever the exaltation of the female body as the sublime elevation of beauty to be displayed and worshipped.

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Beauty and the Beast – The true story of Estonian men and women

Written by Gunnar Sorensen

Gunnar Sorensen is a Danish comedian who has been living in Estonia for a couple of years. Here offers exclusively for FREE! Magazine a pick of what you can find in his blog, treating with sense of humor his views on Estonian women and men:

A friend came to visit me in Tallinn and asked very honestly while in a nightclub “Why are there so many prostitutes in here”!!! Before you think we were in a very seedy place, we were not. What he was simply referring to is that Estonian woman are far more attractive than their male counterparts.

So why is it like this? Well for every 100 men in Estonia there are 119 women, rising to almost 130 in the capital city Tallinn, comparing to 1/1 in Sweden. This phenomenon creates a high demand and competition for available men.

So how beautiful are the women? Well Estonia has the highest number of international models per capita than any nation in the world. When walking the streets of Tallinn you will not just notice the beauty of the women, but also the sheer number of beauty salons created to cater to their need.

Estonian Women

So guys, sound like the perfect country? Well it gets better. All those hours you spent in the gym, that funky new haircut, the expensive suit etc…! In Estonia you don’t need that!! Well with the vast surplus of women that classic image of the man chasing the women has been reversed. So you can put on your comfortable sports trousers and that favourite old hooded jumper and still get the girl!!

This lack of effort needed by Estonian men to get a girlfriend is summed up by this pick up line I heard an Estonian man say one evening “Do you like having sex with men?”

Not only is the girl hotter and easier to get with, you know that night out you want to go on with your friends, guess what? She will let you go!!

I know you are asking, before I quit my job and get on the ferry, what’s the catch?
Well did you know that Estonian men live on average just 69 years, the lowest in the whole of the EU! A large part of the reason behind this is typified in the popular joke ¨ That awkward moment when an Estonian man is sober”. Considering all the attractive girls and all the fun you can have, it sounds like a reasonable sacrifice right??? Maybe not….
That idea of the perfect wife, family and home you had in your mind it is not likely to happen in Estonia. Present figures show that in Tallinn alone 80% of high school students are living in single parent families.

Akarusa Yami

Although us men would almost certainly unite in saying having a few drinks with our friends would be preffered to putting up those shelves for the mother in law. It is now clear that our Scandinavian women are just helping us to become better men and healthier, husbands and fathers.

For those who want to know more about me and how I came to this conclusion. I am a Danish citizen who has been living in Tallinn, Estonia for the past 2 years. I work in the Finance sector, but since arriving in Estonia it is the psychological aspect of the people that has most interested me.

I noticed almost instantly the cold and serious nature of Estonians, however what struck me must profoundly was the countries lack of laughter. With no real comedy shows on TV and no internationally known comedian. I found out very quickly that the only people trying to make Estonia laugh were foreigners.

Although the humour of my blog has encountered some negativity in the Estonian press. It would be hard to find a comedian who has not experienced that at some point. It is our duty to use humour to test the boundaries and bring those avoided or controversial topics in to daily conversation.

For more humour about Estonian men come and visit my blog:

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Beer vs. Wine

Written by Alex Hillsberg

It’s an age-old debate, probably as old as the most antiquated oak barrels and brew pots. Behind the waggish claims from both beer and wine camps, sober or otherwise, lies a serious battle to wrestle market shares in developed and emerging markets and across generations.

If we go by votes, the people who altogether consumed 189 billion liters of beer in 2011 clearly outnumbered those who drank wine for a collective 24 billion liters in the same year. But sales can be misleading.

As highlighted in the infographic below, wine is gaining popularity—more pronouncedly in the United States according to a Gallup survey—even as beer consumption is sliding down in traditional markets, such as, horror of horrors, Germany. Early this year, Time reported that beer drinking hit a record low in the land of lederhosen and dirndl.

It didn’t also help for brewers that China, the number one beer market, is developing a taste for wine. In fact, Great Wall, the number two wine brand last year… great what? Exactly. The Chinese wine is a newcomer and was hardly known brand in the industry three years ago. Just last year it easily took the second spot spurred by millions of Chinese who started liking wine. “We will make a French Great Wall, a Chilean Great Wall and an Australian Great Wall,” Shu Yu, a senior manager at the company behind Great Wall, said. Brewers may not be the only ones paying nervous attention to this upstart, but the other top wine makers, too (check their rankings below).

Meantime, brewers lament that wine lobbyists hijacked most of the health claims. Beer is healthy, too, they say, at least in some respect as pointed out below in the infographic, notably that beer is kind to kidneys.

Likewise, one subtle but significant data we uncorked is that wine drinkers’ preference is more evenly spread than beer drinkers’. Cabernet, Merlot, and Pinot Noir among reds and Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Sauvignon Blanc among whites are the top varieties of choice. For beer, only two styles—pale lagers and pilsners—account for most of the top beer brands. Does it suggest wine drinkers have a more sophisticated taste? We dare not ask a Bavarian.

So who wins? Maybe it depends on when you ask the question. This season of Oktoberfest celebrations around the world, it may be advisable to quietly sip and enjoy your wine in one corner. Prost!

Facts and figures comparing popular wines and beers such as Brown Ale and Cabernet Wine as well as the most well-known festivals, like the Fete Des Vendages Wine Festival.
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Breaking the Surface Tour: Bringing talent together!

Bringing the Surface tour is an interesting project that was surfing by bus for 10 days around the Nordic countries until arriving in Helsinki, the Finnish capital.

On head of this is Danish composer and musician Jonas Andreasen together with Finnish singer Sini Koskelainen and a bunch of talented musicians that belong to their “Near Life Experience” project that headed on this adventure from Aarhus in Denmark through Norway, Sweden and Finland, interacting with other local bands, gathering musical ideas, and offering an exciting show full of music, visual effects and dance, brought by the Finnish dancer Nadja Alve.

Near Life Experience

We met the crew just before their final performance at Gloria Cultural Centre in the heart of Helsinki. After 10 days on the road, they were tired and dreaming of a hot shower, plus it was not the easy end when part of the band got sick with food poisoning. However, they were full of illusion to perform in a city that Andreas recognized loves, having lived and studied in Helsinki. Before the local band Elifentree would warm up the atmosphere with some amazing skills by his drummer, it was time to sit with Andreas and drummer Frej Lesner so they could tell us more about how the tour went:

Thanks for your time! Can you tell us a bit more, Andreas, how the project to go on the road for these 10 days came up and how you met Sini (Koskelainen)?

Jonas: I was studying in Aarhus and Sini came there, we heard each other play, and I had a chance to play with her quarter. We just liked each other’s stuff and energy. I wanted to write music with a bigger group but I had difficulties to find a singer, so when I met Sini, it was a super good connection. That is how it goes started, and then we wrote music together and I arranged everything. We put the band together and we did a project together that was a big success in Aarhus. That is how the band got started. Now she is living in Helsinki and I am living in Berlin and all the musicians are in Aarhus. We received the support of a cultural organization there and we are glad to get any help, because it is difficult to tour with a relatively unknown band.

Did you know the other musicians beforehand?

Jonas: They come from all over Denmark, except of the trombone player who is Swedish. Very talented musicians that I was lucky to be able to handpick. Here is Frej, the drummer, one of the first I asked to join the band. So far we had been playing only in Denmark, so this is a big step for us.

You were in other countries sharing the stage with other bands. How was the experience to meet other musicians?

Frej: It was great, I heard some bands with some great musicians. Also this band in its own, it is great to play with this band, they are all great musicians. There is no hiding when you have to play, you have to take control of the music. And we also get to know new places to play. It is very difficult when you are sitting in Aarhus to know for example where to play in Helsinki. So it is great to expand the network.

Near Life Experience

So how is to be on the road traveling by bus for 10 days? What other activities did you do… did you get much sleep time?

Jonas: We would mostly sleep when the bus was driving, but actually not so much sleep. Everyone has been sick also. But well, this is also part of it, it is something you have to do. But it has been so great musically, we have got so much, a good response from all the audience. When we arrive in a new town, we hang around the city, and then a lot of hours in the venue doing the soundcheck, getting something to eat, doing the show… and then on the road again.

They always say that Finland is different than the other Scandinavian countries. Now that you got the experience to tour around all of them, what is your feeling?

Frej: Well, just the language itself is different. It is kind of a mixture of Russian and Nordic culture, somehow.
Jonas: I have been living in Aarhus and Stockholm and Helsinki. I really love Finland so much, feel close to the Finns and to Helsinki. It has less of the Scandinavian “stiffness” that we have in Denmark and Sweden.

What people can expect from the show tonight? What are the backbone ideas behind the show?

Jonas: I would tell them to open their hearts and ears and eyes. It is a mixture, we try to have a big visual side of what we do musically. That is the idea behind the dancing of Nadja. We have some music that some people say that is hard to listen to, a mix of jazz and modern language with a lot of improvisation. Giving some visual expression really help people to get the music and get into it. A lot of people say that it was great and they had never heard anything like that.

Near Life Experience

So do musicians get a lot of freedom to improvise?

Frej: Well, for me as a drummer, I feel that everything I play is something I have invented myself, but of course always on the frame of what Jonas want.

Jonas: I write a lot, but I write for certain people I know very well. So I know or at least I try to write what people need to play. There are places where people do a lot of free style, but of course I need to bring some overview. To know the direction and why something is happening right now.

What are your future plans after you finish this tour?

Jonas: We have the EP with 3 songs and we are releasing a full album, already recorded, this fall. So many things going on!

For coming back, will you go back by bus or flying?

Both: Flying! Enough bus for a while!

Articles Misc

Top 5 Gambling Locations

Gambling holidays are incredibly popular, with people traveling far and wide to splash some cash and feel the thrill and adrenaline that comes with the roulette wheel. While the option to stay at home and use sites like Gaming Club is there, it doesn’t have the same feel as being there in person.

Rather than just list all the American gambling locations, the list is as international as possible, to offer a whole range of gambling hotspots, some might even surprise you!

5. Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

It’s impossible to think about a gambling holiday without considering Las Vegas; it’s the most famous gambling location in the world. If you’ve never been it’s worth going, with iconic casino’s, miniature world landmarks, 24 hour gambling action, Elvis Presley impersonators, and all the shows you could ever want to see – it really is a testament to human entertainment. It’s not number one on the list because that’s too obvious, I wanted to show what the rest of the world has to offer, rather than just America.

Las Vegas

4. Aruba, Caribbean

While you might be looking for a gambling holiday, you’ll still want other things to do between trips to the casino, and what better way to spend a day than lounging in the Caribbean sun, on one of the finest beaches in the world, with a rum based cocktail in hand? After a day of relaxing you’ll enjoy the adrenalin rush of the casino even more. With some spectacular casinos like Allegro Aruba Beach and Crystal Casino, you’ll never spend long looking for somewhere to spend the night and earn some chips.

3.Sun City, South Africa

South Africa is becoming more and more popular, and while it might not be an obvious choice for a gambling vacation, casinos are quickly spreading throughout South Africa, with Sun City being the number one place for gambling. Luxury hotels and fine restaurants back up the casinos of Sun City, they even have shows that match up to what Vegas has to offer! In some respects Sun City top Vegas, since it is placed next to Pilanesberg Game Reserve, so during the day you can go on safari and see the spectacular wild life and scenery of Africa!

2. Macau Region, China

Macau is separate from Mainland China and has an economy heavily dependent on tourism and because of that casinos became big business in Macau and it is quickly becoming the new hotspot for gambling in the world. Casino owners from Las Vegas have even started opening casinos here, which says a lot about the future of Macau. The largest casino in the world, The Venetian Macau, is in Macau, one of the casinos opened by owners from Las Vegas. So this seems like the new gambling vacation destination!

1. Monte Carlo, Monaco

While Las Vegas has the bright lights, Monte Carlo has the elegance. One of the most beautiful places in the world, its likely that while at a casino here you’ll end up competing against celebrities, royalty, and billionaires. It’s certainly no cheap holiday that’s for sure, but after visiting all the other destinations you should have enough winnings to go and rub shoulders with the elite.