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Miikka Anttonen Spews

by Rebecca McAdam |  Published: Feb 01, 2012

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Miikka AnttonenIt all started on a prawn farm somewhere in Northeastern Australia. It was 2007 and Miikka Anttonen had made his way from a wintery Helsinki to sunny Sydney on a whim, where he would find work in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere. Little did he know that little village, hundreds of kilometers from anything resembling the outside world, is where the young Finn would discover poker.

“After months of partying and doing nothing in particular I was broke and needed a job, and somehow I found myself on a prawn farm,” he says. “The local workers there played poker on Friday nights, and I was invited to join them one week. I somehow managed to win my first tournament, which I think was a $10 or $20 sit and go, and immediately caught the poker bug. It didn’t take long for me to find myself at a casino 500 kilometres south gambling all my savings on a $25-$50 table. I just kind of randomly decided that poker was the thing for me, and never looked back. Although it didn’t go very well in the beginning and it took me about six months to have my first winning month. By then I was already over $20,000 in debt.”

This may sound like a drastic change in circumstances, but Miikka Anttonen has never really lived an ordinary kind of life. At 10 years of age, Miikka and his friends were skipping school to grind slots until their pockets were empty. It was during a time of loose legislation in Finland where there were no age restrictions. Miikka was the only one of his friends to turn his attention to sports betting, although he did so without leaving his love for slots behind. He says, “I didn’t have Internet at home back then, actually I didn’t even have a computer, so I always went to a library to use their Internet after school. I’d search for all kinds of information about the teams I was betting on such as injuries, or I’d find out what the weather was like near the track if I was betting on horses because I knew some of them didn’t do well on a muddy track and so on. The Finnish betting market was definitely beatable back then and I did well on bets for years. I think I made my first bets when I was 9 or 10 and took it seriously from 12 years on or so.

“I didn’t care about school at all, all I did was analyse probabilities and try to scout who to bet on. I hit many five figure scores before I turned 15 and it was pretty fun to be the baller kid who had $20k in his pockets when the other kids got allowances of $5 a week.” Sadly, this success was short-lived and the slots would get the better of the junior gambler. “I was a huge slots addict and usually always lost all of my big wins on slots. I remember one day when I had won about $3,000. I decided to skip school the following morning and went to play slots instead. I started at 8 a.m. when the mall near me opened, and played the same slot at $1 per round until 4 p.m. without a break. The $3,000 was gone when I finished and all I could think about was somehow getting more money so I could play more slots.”

Love At First Felt

It is no great surprise then that adrenaline junkie Anttonen would fall for poker and never let it go. “I’ve always liked all kinds of puzzles and riddles, and I feel that doing tons of them as a kid has helped me form a theoretical approach towards poker… I’ve always been addicted to everything that has anything to do with excitement – slots, roulette, table games, sports betting… so at the very beginning it was just the adrenalin rush of seeing a flop, or going all-in as a bluff, and so on. I still get these same feelings when I play every now and then, and I still enjoy them, although naturally it’s all a bit more controlled and boring. When I started in 2007, the games were still very soft. Even though I had no idea what I was doing, it was obvious that neither did most of the people I was playing, so I figured that if I practiced and studied hard there would be a lot of money to make. Nowadays I have no idea how new people do it, it must be crushing when even $.50-$1 games are relatively tough, especially if you’re a beginner.”

Saying It Like It Is

Miikka Anttonen, or Chuck Bass as he became known as on MTT forums, is confident, honest, and open when he speaks. Eyebrows raise when he talks about all the crazy things he has witnessed in such a short timeframe but at just 25 years of age he now seems to know what he wants and what he doesn’t. One can’t help but deeply respect the matter of fact way he talks about personal experiences, both good and bad, as if proud, or perhaps just accepting, of all the things that make him who he is. “I come from a poor family,” he says. “My alcoholic father left when I was young and I was raised by my mother alone. We never had any extra money, but we got by. It’s because of this I always feel guilty when I spend money on stupid stuff like expensive night clubs.”

It’s probably because of his candidness that his blogs have always been pretty controversial. It’s also because of this that he happens to have one of the most popular poker blogs in Finland. “There are a lot of people who’ve supported me from the beginning and I have a huge circle of poker friends, but there are a few guys who always give me shit for everything. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t blame the haters, as I used to be quite cocky. Many of my older entries were far from humble brags, as I was sucked in by the poker lifestyle and forgot my roots for a long time. When I came crashing down busting my entire roll in late 2009 after my sponsor screwed me up for over 50k there were a lot of people who were happy for it. Something good did come out of it, though, as having to grind from the bottom and struggling to gain people’s respect again changed me as a person a lot. When I think of myself three years ago I feel like I was a massive idiot back then and I think I’ve evolved a lot as a person.”

Tilt Free! Well, Almost…

These days the CardRunner coach only plays tournaments and has actually banned himself from online cash games after playing heads-up exclusively up to $5-$10 for one-and-a-half years. The self-ban is because of that dastardly four letter word — tilt. “I always blew most of my roll at 100-200 or something like that when it got too big. I don’t think I was ever meant to play cash games, they just don’t fit my persona at all.

I found tournaments in late 2009 and realised almost immediately that this was what I’d been supposed to be doing from the beginning. I’m almost tiltless when I play tournaments and my style works much better there than in cash. I was pretty successful from the beginning. I think cash games fit more mathematically oriented people than better. You kind of need to be a bit robotic to be a successful cash gamer, when in tournaments it’s more about being creative and changing gears. So many people are scared and overvalue their tournament life, meaning that you can just steal their blinds orbit after orbit and do all kinds of stuff using fear as your weapon. I think many tournament regulars think I’m a bit spewy because I still do screw up and do stupid stuff.”

Often in poker you hear of wannabe hotshots climbing up the ranks in the blink of an eye and then just as quickly losing everything. It’s not hard to see that compulsion can often lead to destruction, but sometimes it can also lead someone back to where they once were to try and do things differently. Anttonen has since restricted himself with sports bets, not betting more than $1,000 on any given day and avoiding all kinds of gambling. “I’d just hate to get addicted to all that shit again so it’s better to be safe than sorry,” he says. And one thing is for sure, Anttonen is extremely determined.

“I’m sure I’ve gone broke and climbed back up to five figures more than 20 times. I think I always came back because I have a very competitive and obsessive personality and I hate losing… Sometimes that meant locking myself in for weeks to grind $.02-$.04 hold’em for weeks to turn my last $5 I found from my back pocket into a decent bankroll.”

Skeletons On Display

Now on to the really juicy stuff; the irresponsible, wreckless, fool-me-once days yet to be captured in the young gun’s autobiography, which is already in the pipeline. Although Miikka seems, in many ways, more mature and focused than ever before, it is still too tempting not to ask the innocent-looking, Nordic player about his past. What could possibly top his list of wackiest experiences? Anttonen laughs and says, “Where to begin? I was second in chips in the Unibet Open Algarve main event after day 1, went drinking, got beaten up by Portuguese policemen for trying to hijack a cab and later on mugged by robbers. I was bruised all over and I’d slept just a few hours but somehow I made the final table. Easy game.” And if that wasn’t enough, he continues, “My ex-girlfriend almost choked on her own vomit in a strip club in Warsaw on another poker trip and it was pretty surreal to have to carry an unconscious girl at six in the morning, truly having to worry if she’s ever going to wake up. I got robbed at gunpoint in Mexico City, which was pretty disturbing. They stole my passport too and I got stuck in Mexico for days, and as a result I missed the LAPT Uruguay I was supposed to play the next day.” Anttonen ends his reminiscing with a trek in Vanuatu, a tiny “Lost”-like island in the Pacific Ocean, where a local guide took him to get a closer look at an active volcano. “I’m pretty sure it didn’t quite meet the international safety standards as there were balls of lava flying from the volcano all around us,” he says, adding, “The guide said that if one of those hit us it would go straight through killing us instantly.”

FML

Anttonen doesn’t seem to have one uninteresting answer to any question asked. It’s understandable then why he has been approached to write an autobiography. Looking back on his life thus far Anttonen names winning his first big live tournament in 2011 (the Helsinki Freezeout main event for $100,030) as his favourite poker experience. “I had dozens of friends on the rail, and when the last river card hit and I saw everyone’s faces cheering for me… it’s one of those moments you just never forget.”

He can’t help leading into another eventful tale however… “On the flip side one of my favourite memories is also my bustout hand in the WSOP main event in 2010. I had had an absolutely devastating WSOP so far. I played 21 tournaments in 15 days and I played better than I ever had. My reads were accurate all the time and I felt like I was owning everyone at the tables. But I just ran so bad all summer, every time I went deep in something I lost with aces preflop all in or ran into set over set or something. As a result, I bricked 21 events and some random nightly tournaments in Vegas without cashing once. I was getting pretty low on bankroll too, but I decided that I wasn’t going to leave Vegas without cashing at least something. The only problem was that there was just one tourney left to play, the main event.

“I sold some shares and skipped my return flight to play it. My girlfriend who was waiting in Finland was so pissed, because I had already been there for three weeks. I got a good start and was among the chip leaders after day 1. My stack still grew on day 2 and I had double average going into day 3. Day 3 didn’t go that well, but I still had a good stack on day 4. We were just a few spots off the bubble, when I found pocket nines and made a standard raise with a stack of 40 big blinds. Soi Nguyen was to my left and he said “raise”, not noticing my open raise. The dealer told him that I had already raised, and he was forced to three-bet. It was clear he wasn’t happy with the situation, and he ended up three-betting the minimum. It got folded around to me, and since I didn’t want to risk bubbling I just shoved my stack in expecting to get a fold almost always. To my surprise he actually had a hand and tank-called with pocket eights. Boom! If this holds I’m going to be the chip leader of my table on the bubble. Flop: 8…8…2. Good game. The feeling after that was so devastating I could hardly move. Five weeks in Vegas, all the commitment, all the money gone, and now the main. I broke up with my girlfriend too like two days after I got back home. Soi Nguyen ended up making the November Nine with my chips. It was all terrible, but at the same time those are the kinds of experiences that make you stronger. Looking back at it now and being able to laugh about it is pretty awesome.”

My Way

Surely though the upbeat Finn can’t have gone through all of this without any regrets. “The list is long,” says Anttonen. “I’ve wasted a six-figure amount on incredibly stupid shit from Cristal to strip clubs to electronics that I never use to slots and roulette. I wish I had saved even a bit of that money. I’ve cut off many friendships for poker back when I used to be more obsessed about it and what I was doing wasn’t healthy. I’ve hurt a lot of people (especially girlfriends, I guess) by being an ignorant prick who only cares about himself, poker, and making money. I’ve lost the respect in the eyes of the poker community some years back when I gambled away my net worth and more. I guess pretty much the only stupid thing I haven’t done is drugs.

“Luckily these days my life is perfectly balanced, and finally I’ve found a girlfriend who I truly think is worth all the commitment and I’ve found things more important than poker to care about. In a way I think all of my mistakes have contributed to me becoming a better person and I wouldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t done all the stupid and crazy stuff, but man, sometimes I just wish that I would’ve been even a little bit smarter in the past, even if it meant I’d be a bit less grown up these days.”

Anttonen could fill this magazine with his thoughts on all things poker and his anecdotes which truly define the word “rollercoaster”, but what’s important that remains to be said, all points to the future. “I’ve been to over 50 counties in my poker career, but I still want to see more. I want to have another stint living abroad. I know in my heart that the day will come when I want to have an ordinary family with the house, kids, and a Labrador retriever but somehow it still feels far away.

“So I guess for now my plans are to enjoy life, continue crushing poker and become as wealthy as possible when there’s still a lot of money to be made playing tournaments. I really want to win an EPT or a WSOP. I’ve got so much ambition for live tournaments specifically, and the two trophies I’ve got so far definitely aren’t enough. I also want to get into investing at some point and I’ve already started doing research and reading books. Oh and, I want to finish that autobiography before I die from a heart attack from all this.”