Theo Jorgensen rolls up his shorts in the PCA Player Lounge. “The first bullet came in here, and went out here,” he says, pointing to a set of pinkish scars both roughly six inches in length on his left leg. “The second here and here.”
“That’s actually pretty close to your nuts!” shouts Ville Wahlbeck. “Can you imagine that? Both of your testicles… gone.”
“There were so many worse case scenarios,” he replies.
In December 2012, the Dane became a crime statistic by answering his front door. Outside stood an innocuous looking 18-year-old pizza delivery boy. And beside him stood two masked gunmen.
“I underestimated the stupidity in some robbers,” Jorgensen continues. “In their world I had €500,000 lying round at my home. And now there’s a safe that’s locked and I claim I don’t have a key, so I can understand him not believing me.”
The safe belonged to the previous owner of the house and Jorgensen did not have the key. One of the gunmen shot, waited ten seconds, and then shot again. “I thought, ‘why would he ever use the gun?’ But I never worried I was going to die.”
Making an inch-sized gap between thumb and forefinger, Jorgensen shows Wahlbeck how close one of the bullets came to leaving him with more permanent injuries. He stands, moves about five feet away from his friend, lifts his arms and points those same two fingers out like a gun. The close proximity of the shooter meant that if the bullet had hit his bone it would have shattered it, most likely leaving him disabled. And that’s a best case scenario.
“Looking back at it, when I’m lying there on the floor, I’m still convinced it was just a painful paintball shot,” says Jorgensen. “It’s weird how the brain always hopes for the best.”
Sadly for the Team PokerStars Pro, it wasn’t a paintball but instead a bullet from a loaded Scorpion submachine gun. And as he leans back in his chair, shorts still slightly rolled up, he remembers months that followed — the infections, the scar tissue, and a trainer called Thomas.
“His fingers are so big he can’t even pick his own nose,” Jorgesen says of the big-digited man who helped rehabilitate him. Thomas is part of four-time super middleweight world champion, Mikkel Kessler’s training staff, and the boxer was there for some of Jorgensen’s rehabilitation sessions. Although by the sounds of it he was mainly just there to record videos of the Dane writhing in pain.
“I said to myself, ‘I’m going to take this’. Then, about 15 seconds in….mmpppphhhh… OoooooHHhooooooo,” says Jorgensen, his arms now flailing in mock agony. “I’m twisting, trying to get my leg away from him. At one point I could feel the sweat rushing out of my body. But who’s going to argue with Kessler’s coach?”
“What was he doing?” says Wahlbeck. The sentence barely has enough time to register before Jorgensen grips his hands around the Finn’s left knee.
“That doesn’t hurt.” Wahlbeck shrugs.
Five seconds pass.
“Okay, stop. STOP, PLEASE!”
Two days from now the Main Event’s story will be dominated by the likes of Mike McDonald and Roger Teska. But right now, Jorgensen sits in the soft-furnished walls of the PCA Player Lounge. It’s a long cry from the hospital beds and ambulances he’s spent more time that most in recently. Scars aside, the leg is thankfully now all but healed and he actually believes he’s in better physical condition than before the shooting.
As he stands again to show Ville what kind of lunges he should be performing to strengthen his leg, the expensive medical team have clearly earned their keep. “It was the right decision to get the best possible help,” he explains. “It was expensive, but it’s my leg.”
Understandably, he took his time to return to poker following the incident. He waited until he was as close to 100% a man with bullet holes in his leg can be, waited until his “family we’re all over that s**t”. Then at EPT London last March, he completed the perfect comeback story. Almost.
“London was my first tournament back,” he remembers. “I had a good communication with PokerStars, and they made it clear that I should take whatever time I needed. After everything that happened, just the result was fine.”
Jorgensen’s name can be found fourth on the payout table for London, a feat worth £183,000. Friends, family and poker fans the world over were cheering him in, hoping that he could claim a first EPT title after months of hurt.
Despite making the final table, errors with two tables remaining are what cost him. Apparently he held on to too many hands pre-flop and on the flop and “made some minor mistakes here and there”.
“I was definitely out of shape and I felt tired in the end,” he adds, rubbing his thigh. “I could have had another result if I was as fresh as I am now.”
Eventual winner Ruben Visser was the villain of the piece that day, sending Jorgensen to join his dad on the rail after his A-8 spiked an ace on the river to outdraw the Team PokerStars Pro’s pocket fours.
“You’re not going see me cry that much over losing a coinflip anymore,” says Jorgensen.
Wahlbeck doesn’t want to talk about EPT London. Throughout our time together, he peppers Jorgensen with questions about the shooting. “Were you afraid you might die… Did you think he was bluffing… Did anyone hear the shots… Do you blame yourself for opening the front door?”
Most probes are met with quick yes or no answers, but on the last one Jorgensen dwells for a few seconds.
“I still think that was ridiculous,” he says eventually. “I could have talked through the door. Considering the clock was around 9:40 in the evening, how many people order pizzas that late?”
Wahlbeck can’t relate. He claims that as a poker player, Jorgensen can work out the odds, that the chances of a knock at the door being anything more sinister is “about one in a million”. Because of that he’s tried not to think twice about the dangers Jorgensen’s incident highlighted because he “doesn’t want that paranoia”.
But according to Jorgensen some players “got scared f***ing s**tless”. And the first of them to hear about the incident was long-term friend, Gus Hansen.
“I was talking to him from the ambulance and he thought I was making the sickest joke ever,” he explains. “I told him it would be all over the media in Denmark, and how we needed to go through it. I’d had the morphine by then. I was 100% clear like now, I just didn’t feel any pain.”
In the days that followed his shooting he couldn’t put anything on Facebook without it appearing in the papers, yet messages of support continued to flood in. In a perverse way, it’s added to the legend of one of poker’s most likeable characters.
“Do you feel more popular since the incident?” I ask.
“Yeah, because people feel sorry for me.” comes the reply.
“That’s why you were so popular before.” laughs Wahlbeck.
“Obviously people feel this is horrible and it shouldn’t happen to my family. But a lot of weird shit happens to people. If my kids had seen it that would have been really bad.”
Those kids were with Jorgensen earlier this week for a family holiday in paradise. He didn’t play the Main Event, was never spotted in a High Roller and apart from appearing in The Shark Cage and chatting prop bets, he’s rarely been a fixture of the Imperial Ballroom. Family has been the crux of this trip, and no one can begrudge them that time together.
As he tells stories of his son cruising round the lazy river, countless waterslides trips and fantastic weather, I almost feel bad for bringing up the near-tragic events of that night at the family home.
“I got chased down like a dog in Denmark after it happened,” he tells me. “”I was worried about having to answer the same questions over and over.”
“You mean like the nuts one?” adds Wahlbeck.
“Yes… like the nuts one.”
With any luck, questions from Walhbeck are the only negatives Jorgensen has to deal with in the future.
Keir Mackay is a copywriter for PokerStars.