The Jimmy Hoffa Files: Andreas Hoivold "I Asked Them to Kill Me. I Said Please, Shoot Me."

“Right now, sitting here, talking to you, I have the same level of pain as someone nursing a broken arm.”
It was a line that made me feel as significant as a flamingo in a 40-full flock. My aching back, my lack of money, my trials and tribulations with a two-year-old daughter who keeps headbutting me in her sleep.
Hardly first world problems.
A reality check, for sure.
The waitress went to pour Andreas Hoivold a glass of sparkling water, and he quickly dives in, fishing out the lemon.
Andreas Hoivold Playing Poker
“Not a lemon fan?” I ask.
“Not, today.”
Did you know that the pink colour of a flamingo comes from the beta-carotene ingested from the crustaceans and plankton that the birds eat? If you kept a flamingo as a pet and fed it nothing but Trill, it would eventually turn white.
I wonder if I fed them Andreas Hoivold’s unwanted lemons, they would turn a waxy looking yellow?
We’re sitting in the Hilton in St Julian’s Malta. Both of us are here for the Malta Poker Festival. I invited Hoivold to spend an hour chewing the fat because, like the flamingo, I wanted to know if someone who used to eat from the same pool as the high rollers, kept that pigmentation forever, or if they would become a different animal altogether if forced to feed elsewhere.
I asked Andreas, what brings a man who once appeared on High Stakes Poker to a €500 buy-in event?
“I know Ivonne {Monteleagre}, said Hoivold between sips of his lemon-free fizz. “I fucked up when I played High Stakes Poker. I got married after 19-days, and during my honeymoon in Costa Rica, I met Ivonne. She was a poker dealer, and we became friends. She has good energy. I love her beautiful personality, warm heart and passion.
“Many years ago, when she worked on the Battle of Malta, she asked me to come, and I loved it. The weather is superb compared to Norway. This time of year is horrible back home. Here, if you want to party you can party, if you want to play poker you can play poker, and if you want to lie in the sun, you have that too. Most importantly, you meet lots of nice people.”
Hoivold’s relationship with Montealegre aside, I wonder how much his bankroll also plays a role?
“The thing is, I have had some major surgery,” says Hoivold. “I had a car accident in 1994, where I broke pretty much every bone in my body, and had minimal chance of survival. I ended up with metal all over my body. I had a prosthetic hip that was 4cm out of alignment. The surgeons wrongfully put it in back in 95. When you put something like that 4 cm misaligned, inside your body, you’re talking, miles.
Andreas Hoivold Car Crash
“I have not had one day since 94 that I haven’t been in pain, and that’s a challenge when you play poker. After my hip surgery, I struggled to sit for long periods, and when you play poker, you need to sit for a long time. When you start getting unbearable pain after four hours, you have to take painkillers, and they are not good for you. But you either have to do that or sit through so much pain you can’t focus on the poker. So I decided to play less. This is the first trip I have had without cashing since deciding to play less. I have played five tournaments, and I have cashed in most of them, and I even won a tournament.”
The tournament Hoivold refers to is the 114-entrant €170 buy-in Pot-Limit Omaha DeepStack Turbo at the 2018 Irish Poker Open & Norwegian Championships in Dublin, a far cry from the days that Hoivold was winning European Poker Tours (EPTs), appearing on The Poker Million, and getting that spot on HS Poker.
If Hoivold plays less, because of his ailments, isn’t he worried about how he will function, financially?
“I haven’t been doing anything else because of this pain,” says Hoivold. “Poker is one of the few things I can do to some degree because I can stand up and choose when to play. If I have a regular job, I have to be there every day. I have some savings I have been living on, while I focus 100% on getting better. I have been seeing an osteopath, and it seems to be helping. I feel like something is happening, something I haven’t felt before. Hopefully, it will be good long-term.”
“I have never cared about money. I view it as a tool to play more tournaments. The only thing that worries me about not having enough money is not being able to play more tournaments. Luckily, I have had a sponsor for most of my career. I kept 70% of my winnings, and they paid all of my expenses. If I could get back to that again, then I wouldn’t have to worry about the money, but I am not as good at the part where you have to hunt for the money. I just want to play poker. I don’t want to find the bad players. I want to find the good players and play against them and improve my game.
“I have always been very competitive, and after the car accident, I had very few things that I could compete in. I sustained so much damage – my left eye was pushed five millimetres back because I crushed that side of my skull, so I have double vision. Things I need to have good eyesight for I can’t do, and all physical sports are out of the equation. Poker is one of the things I can be on par with anyone.”
I ask Hoivold to talk about the car accident that seems so pivotal in his life.
“I was 21 when it happened,” says Hoivold.
Andreas Hoivold Car Crash
“It was after midnight. I had been visiting my girlfriend and was on my way home. I was driving along the same road I drove every day. On the way back, for some reason, both cars were in the same lane at one point. How that happened, I don’t know because I couldn’t remember anything that day after the accident. The other person died, but she had taken a lot of valium, so my theory is she fell asleep and drifted into my side of the road because there was no need for me to be on the other side of the road. It was a head-on collision.
“I had a seat belt on, but my left arm was completely straight, and there wasn’t a piece of bone longer than 5 cm left in my whole left arm, it was pulverised. My head hit the steering wheel so hard that it bent. I have since tried bending a steering wheel with a sledgehammer, and I could not make the hit that I did with the top of my jaw. I fractured the top and bottom of my jaw, and the fragments went through, under my eye and up.
Andreas Hoivold Car Crash
“My right leg went up and fractured all of the ribs on my right side and punctured my lung. All of these things paled into insignificance compared to my left knee. It went through my leg and exploded the hip bone. My left knee hit my left testicle, so that was black and blue for months. The femur bone went through my back and broke that in two places.
“I was sitting like this for a long time before anyone came. When the first car came, I asked them to kill me. I said, “Please shoot me.” I was in an insane amount of pain; my lung was punctured so I could hardly breathe. I couldn’t move. I was sitting there with my knee in my balls, utterly crushed. The firemen took an hour to get me out of the car because I was so stuck. Luckily, I was only ten minutes away from there, so I got there quite fast.
“They called my mother, and she asked me if I would be ok until she got there, and they couldn’t tell, and I only lived four minutes away. When she got there, I was a mess. She said what looked the worse was my stomach. I had so much internal bleeding it collected itself in a hard ball, and it looked like I was pregnant.”
I ask Hoivold to describe the psychological anguish, particularly dealing with the fatality.
“I was half conscious when I woke up,” says Hoivold. “I think I was innocent. I know I was probably driving too fast, but if you do that on our side of the road then you’re not doing too much, and I wasn’t crazy speeding. But I am sure I wasn’t on the wrong side of the road, and because of that, I don’t feel guilty for having killed someone.
“I spent three months in the hospital and a year in a wheelchair. Then I went to prison for killing someone. It was five months, and it was tough. I felt that I hadn’t done anything wrong, and I was so injured. I weighed the same as I do now before the accident, 81, but back then I was under 60 because I couldn’t eat. Everything I ate went straight through me.
“I had to leave the prison for physical therapy twice a month, and the prisoners wanted me to bring drugs back in, and they were pushing me hard for that. There were drugs in prison, and the guards thought it was me. One day they stripped me naked and left me in a small cell for nine hours because they wanted me to tell them how I had brought the drugs in. I knew how they had come in, but you can’t say anything. It’s a crazy place. There was a guy who took the wrong seat in the breakfast table, and this guy asked him to move, and he said, “No”. He kept smashing his face into the table, and wouldn’t stop despite all of the blood and his broken nose. The prison guards just watched.
“I wanted to be a policeman, and instead I ended up in prison, and that didn’t feel good. I have a heart that knows the difference between right and wrong and I wanted to work with young criminals to keep them out of prison. There are so many things that kids can do to be a real hero and not a crime hero or gangster guy. I always wanted to help young people, and instead, here I am in prison. They treated me like shit. I had a meeting with the head of the prison, and I said, “I am not like these other guys,” and he said, “That’s correct, they are drug dealers, and you’re a killer”. After three weeks they found out that it was a grandmother who was bringing in the drugs. Only one guy came in and said sorry to me; nobody else said sorry. It felt pretty bad.”
Andreas Hoivold
I had read that Hoivold became addicted to opioids while in prison, and I asked him to talk about his addiction.
“I was on painkillers straight from the hospital,” confirms Hoivold. “I took some in prison, too. I had an insane tolerance to opioids from the start. When I was in the hospital, they said I had to be a drug addict because they gave me ten times more than a heavy built doctor they had working there who took them for surgery.
“I had never used anything before. I had a psychologist who began asking me about it. I told him I didn’t want to work with him. I had three of them pushing me into confessing that I had previous drug use. They would tell me that if I just admitted it, they would give me more drugs. It was insane. It was a nightmare for me because the pain was uncontrollable. I think because I wasn’t given enough painkillers when I was in the hospital it’s made some receptors and sensors go crazy, and that’s the best explanation they have, because right now, sitting here, I have the pain of someone with a broken arm.”
I ask Hoivold if he is still taking painkillers to this day, and he confirms that he is. I ask him how he balances being addicted to painkillers while at the same time feeling compelled to take them to control his pain.
“I have been on and off painkillers since the incident,” says Hoivold. “After my surgery, the pain has been so much worse. I had to decide to ignore the addiction. I have been addicted and used them, and not addicted and used them and I don’t feel the difference. People that are using drugs for reasons other than pain, then the addiction becomes something else. I am using them for one purpose – to reduce pain.
“It’s a physical addiction. After using for ten years, I decided to quit, because they do mess with your system, and it took three months, and the first four-weeks were horrible – puking, shaking, I didn’t eat, I didn’t do anything. Two months on and I was still having stomach cramps. I was also coughing for a couple of years, and I think it’s related. It began when I stopped the drugs.”
If you think Hoivold’s life up until this point has been a living nightmare, then things would get much worse. Not only would the former HS Poker star end up in a messy divorce, but he also lost a child who died when a few months old.
Given we have such a propensity to focus on the moans and groans of this world, I ask Hoivold to share his advice on how to get through the most harrowing of times.
“For almost everyone, days will get better,” says Hoivold. “I even have to tell myself these things because now I am in a period where the pain is bad, and I have other issues coming up with my body. My general situation has been going up and down, and now it’s the lowest since the accident, so I have to keep telling myself that it will get better and try to focus on the future, and focus on the positive things that can happen.
“I think of goals like winning a major poker tournament again, and this process of getting there again is something I have on my mind. I have to get through each day and focus on the future, but I have days when I can’t get out of bed because the pain is so bad and it’s hard to stay positive. Some days, I am not the right man to give advice, because I don’t know what to do, myself. Focus on the future; there will be better days. I have a lot of people coming to me with problems. People find it easy to talk to me. They always begin with, “I know my problems are not as severe as yours, but…”
“I have been living with a girl for almost three years now, and she wants to get married, and have children, and I am not ready. So, she is moving out. I love her, and she loves me. I have told her that I don’t feel that I am good enough for her. I have all of these disabilities, and she wants to have babies as soon as possible, and I am shit afraid of that. To cradle your dead son in your hands is something that scares the shit out of you. I felt at the time nothing could get worse and then that happened. I went to a dark place. I’m scared of going there again.
“I love this girl. She is not from Norway; she is from Belarus. She is going back there. She said she would wait for half a year if I change my mind, and I can ask her to come back. I am 46, and she is 31. I miss her while I am here. I feel so much love when I am with her. I am afraid it will be the most stupid thing I do if I let her go, and the most stupid thing I would have ever done if I don’t. I don’t think I am the best choice for her.”
It seems ridiculous to talk about poker after the things Hoivold has shared, but I ask him how the game fits into his life?
“Poker seems like this little thing, but to me, it’s the one thing that has created the biggest highs in my life. I have had such crushing lows, so for me to get highs, it’s not as easy as it is for other people. I love playing the final tables. That’s what poker is all about. Even if it’s a €100 tournament, I find it super cool; I love it. It’s good for your self-esteem. At least when you have these physical ailments, poker is important for me. I will keep playing poker until I die. I want to play at a competitive level. I want to sit down and know I am the best player at the tournament. I am convinced I can get there.”
Andreas Hoivold Playing Poker
Back when Hoivold appeared on HS Poker, the High Stakes stratum was not as prominent as it is, today. I ask Hoivold if he looks at the High Stakes action, today, and pines to be a part of it once more?
“I wish I were playing in those games,” says Hoivold. “For me, I want to be there. That’s the only thing with having money. I have been screwed so many times. I have been hustled for millions. It’s so bad. If I had invested wisely instead of getting involved in these scams, and put my money into poker, I think I would be in a different place.”
I tell Hoivold of a line Philipp Gruissem said to me in Jeju, recently. Gruissem noted that making the first million was hard, losing it was easy, but what’s most important is knowing he can make a million, and that belief is what drives so many poker players.
“Maybe that’s why I don’t care about money,” says Hoivold. “I know, if I focus on it – it will come. Right now, I am focusing on my health. I think the order of how you do things is essential. If I can get my health better, then playing poker will become easier. I can get the painkillers out of my system. I had a period where I tried to play without painkillers, and I couldn’t do it. It takes away too much focus. I need to reduce my pain so I don’t need the painkillers to play so I can focus on the poker. I perform better without painkillers if the pain is tolerable. Now I function better with painkillers than without, and that’s not good. Now, my goal is to find a way to get my pain down and start building things up again.
“I have been working on a project called ‘First Spade’ for many years. I had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars before I put it on ice when I ran out of money. I didn’t have investors. I spent my own money. It was meant to be a social media site for poker players, and then expand in other areas. I still have hopes that I can develop and improve the site. It’s linked to charity, and the files I have on things I want to introduce on First Spade makes Facebook look like a little pea.
“I have so many ideas in my head and would like for it to work. The main things are it should be social media where everyone who is on it would make money. Comparing it with Facebook on First Space if you post an excellent blog or a good picture you generate more income through commercials. You get a percentage of your income from everything. If I get a lot of money, and I thought I would, then I would put some of it towards this work.
“When I started playing poker, I played in a Norwegian Regional Championships, 113 players, and Ladbrokes sponsored it with a Nordic Championship ticket for the winner. I went to Tallinn to play and won it. The first place included a Poker Millions seat. I played and finished third in the final and Ladbrokes said they would sponsor me into an EPT, and I won it. I played four tournaments and won three and came third in the other, and to have this run after investing a couple of hundred euros and ending up with a million dollars, it was the craziest run. Then I felt that it was going to keep happening. I remember the next tournament was the Irish Open and I was thinking of buying an apartment at every prominent poker location, and rent it out when I wasn’t playing.
“My head was in a space that cried out – I will win everything.
“Of course I didn’t.
“It stopped.
“But at least I have had that run.
“I have felt invincible.”