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Capture the Flag: Where Top Cash-Game Pros Talk Strategy

Patrik Antonius

by Lizzy Harrison |  Published: Jun 11, 2008

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Patrik Antonius is one of the most aggressive cash-game players in the world, and his onslaught of betting has helped him to scoop his share of pots. He is a regular player in the "big game" at Bellagio in Bobby's Room, and he also has made appearances on GSN's cash-game show, High Stakes Poker. In fact, he was involved in one of the biggest hands ever played on the hit series; he and Sammy Farha tussled over a pot of $998,800.

Lizzy Harrison: Why do you prefer cash games to tournaments?

Patrik Antonius: Cash games are usually played with deep stacks, unlike tournaments, and I think deep-stack poker is the best way to play poker. In cash games, all of the money does not go into the pot before the flop, or even on the flop, very often.

LH: What is your favorite game to play, and why?

PA: Pot-limit Omaha is my favorite, because it is the most fun; you get to play more hands than you do in any other game. Also, there is a lot of flopping involved, and the board changes all of the time. For example, on the flop, whichever cards come usually make a straight or a flush possibility. Then on the river, there are always tough decisions to be made. When a straight or a flush card comes, or the board pairs, you have to know whether to value-bet, call, fold, raise, or bluff. There are a lot of interesting situations that come up, and there is also a lot of bluffing involved. I think that pot-limit Omaha is really a game of decisions.

LH: You're known for your no-limit hold'em skills; how enjoyable do you find that game?

PA: No-limit hold'em is not my favorite game if it is a ring game with no antes. In that kind of game, you just have to play very tight. There are much better cash games to play, but it is OK if you play with antes. It can actually be a lot of fun if you play with antes in a shorthanded cash game.

LH: Do you have a least-favorite game?

PA: I like to play all 15 of the games that we play in Bobby's Room, but I guess I like razz the least. I think it is too simple. You look at what the other players get, and you have to make a decision only if one of them pairs his board.

LH: How did you develop your style at the table?

PA: I have not always had the best bankroll-management or game-selection skills, but I think that is one of the reasons that I became a very good player. I've never backed down, and I have played against players who were better than me in certain games. I have played in bad games, but I have always learned from those players. In the last three years, I have played any game against any person; not anytime, though, because I do not like to play when I am very tired. There are certain players who beat me at certain games, and these days I kind of back down. I like to play in the games in which I know that I will do well.

LH: Why do you think some players continue to play against players who consistently beat them?

PA: Some good players with good bankrolls have big egos. Sometimes, though, they will run into a better player whom they just cannot beat. They will continue to play heads up with someone who is a better player than they are, until they end up losing all of their money to that person. They just cannot believe that one guy can outplay them consistently. Some people believe that they are the best player ever, and they will go broke to a better player trying to prove it.

LH: When you first started playing cash games, what games and stakes did you play?

PA: I was 11 when I played in my backyard with two older friends. We played a poker game that was like five-card stud. The betting structure was limit and we played for cents; it was just a little game. When I was about 15, I started to play much more. I was with a group of people who were training very hard to play tennis, and we were also into gambling and cards. We played poker when we had breaks from practicing tennis, and in the evenings, as well. Then, one of my friends found limit Omaha, and we started to play that game.

LH: When did you begin to raise the stakes?

PA: The only casino in Finland, located in Helsinki, was only 15 minutes away. I was happy about that, and started to go there when I was about 18.

LH: Were you always a winning cash-game player?

PA: I was a winning player when I played with my friends, but not when I played in the casino. The casino had different games, I had never played pot-limit before, and I did not understand it at first. I was a losing player for the first year and a half that I played in casinos.

LH: Why was that?

PA: I did not know that you could play poker professionally, so I did not spend any time studying the game. Every once in a while, I just went to the casino and bought in for a little bit; and I would lose my money. Then, one of my friends started to make money by beating the games, and I saw that you could really win.

LH: What changes did you have to make in order to win consistently?

PA: I have never read a single poker book; I figured out everything by myself. I started to think about the game more. I realized that most people look at the board and then play their cards, but I saw so many more options. I looked at situations and saw them as spots to bluff.

LH: You not only play cash games in casinos, but are also a threat online. How did you develop that reputation?

PA: When I first put money online, I had no idea how to play shorthanded. I just bet every hand like crazy. I raised before the flop and bet the flop almost every hand; I usually bet the turn, too. Everyone kept folding, and to me it was like free money, because nobody ever called me. I was playing over-aggressively.

LH: Did you have starting-hand requirements?

PA: Not really. I played bad hands and, because of that, had to make a lot of decisions. It was a good way to learn and it made me creative. When you are learning, if you play only good starting hands, it can be hard to loosen up later. When you look at bad hands, you will have no idea what to do with them. Everybody can play a good hand.

LH: What characteristics do profitable cash-game players share?

PA: They are all very consistent players. They do not have any bad moments, and they don't have days when they play badly. The key [to success] is not to steam money away. They also play poker very well and have good bankroll-management skills. When building a bankroll, they know not to play limits that are too high, because they could have a couple of bad sessions. It does not matter how good they are.