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Okay France, You Win -- Part I

by Miikka Anttonen |  Published: Mar 10, '12


It says “any views or opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ownership or management of” at the bottom of this blog. The piece of text is there so that Card Player can’t be held accountable if the blogger manages to say something offensive. This is going to be one of those blogs.

I’m just going to say it out loud. I hate France. I hate the people, the food, the accent, how everything goes on strike at least twice a day, how they don’t want to communicate in English despite knowing it, Paris, the lucky poker players, their soccer team. Someone once said that “France would be an okay place without the French people”. It sums up pretty well what I think about the place.

I would have quit giving the country more chances ages ago if their poker players weren’t so bad that every time you fly over there to play, you make so much money (in theory; in reality it’s impossible to win there) that it would be stupid not to go when they have a big tournament series. And they have big tourneys a fair bit. So the country I hate the most has actually been the place I’ve visited the most frequently in the past couple of years. I’ve made so much Sklansky dollars during my trips there that my bank needed to build an extra vault just for them. Every single trip to France has been a smart, professional decision, kind of like a work trip that’s unpleasant all the way but can’t be avoided.

Those days are over now. Farewell, professionalism. After my most recent trip to the country, resulting in me losing a ton of money playing almost every possible EPT Deauville main and side event, I am done. I give up. No matter what multi-million tourney full of stupid people willing to pay 10,000 euros drawing virtually dead to even finish in the money they have (in theory; in reality, it’s always the people who don’t seem to know the rules of Texas hold’em who win French tournaments) I’m going to stay at home and watch The Wire re-runs instead. Keep your baguettes and trophies.

It all started in 2000. I have always been a fan of the Italian soccer team. My first memory of watching soccer on tv was in the 1994 World Championships, when Italy lost to Brazil in the legendary final. I loved the way Italy played, their team, their passion, their “catenaccio” defence. My love for them carried on to the new millennium despite their poor performances. In the 2000 European Championships it looked like me and my team were finally about to win something.

For those who don’t know my personal history, it shall be mentioned I was quite a gambler as a teen. We didn’t have age restrictions in Finland back then and I bet on sports instead of getting summer jobs, and did quite well in it. I had several five-figure scores before I turned 15. I have also always been quite a degenerate. I often lost those five-figure scores in a day or two on slots, new bets, or whatever I could come up with to spew the money away.

I had a decent amount of money to my name when the 2000 Euro Championships final was just a day away. I had had an extremely successful summer betting on soccer and other sports. There was only one match left – the championship game. Italy versus France. My all-time favourite team versus the team I hated the most.

France was made a favourite by the bookmakers, as they were also the defending world champions at the time. You could get great odds to bet on Italy winning the title. You didn’t have to be good at sports betting or understand much about soccer to see that this was a great bet. Italy had been way, way better during the whole tournament and their defence seemed unbeatable. How could France ever win if they can’t score a goal?

“This is it” I thought. “This is a risk I need to take. I’m going to bet my entire net worth, every cent from my savings account, everything on Italy. And when they win, I’m going to be so rich that I can buy every PlayStation game ever released.”

I proceeded to do exactly that. Back then they had maximum betting limits in Finland, according to which a single bookmaker’s agency could only take 500 Finnish marks (about $100) worth of bets from a single customer on a single game. I spent all day going from an agency to another to get the same bet in enough times to have everything bet on it. About an hour before the match’s start I had succeeded to wager my last penny on Italy.

When the match started I could barely breathe. I was so excited and nervous at the same time. I watched Zidane, Barthez and other French anti-heroes walk to the pitch, and listen to their national anthem. They all looked obnoxious. Even if I hadn’t bet on the match, I knew I wouldn’t recover from it for a week if these guys won the title again and beat my beloved Italy.

When the referee blew on his whistle to start the match I realised I can’t even watch it. I invited a couple of friends over who played five card draw. We sometimes played for small money. (I don’t count this as actual poker experience since we all just wanted to gamble, none of us had any idea about how poker actually worked, and we basically just flipped by seeing who could get the best five card hand instead of betting with chips).

We went to play in our basement, and I took my portable radio with me. We listened to the match from there while we played cards. The stakes were a bit higher than usual, since I assured them I’d be rich in a matter of hours and bet on my future money.

I hit the most terrible downswing you can possibly get in a flipping game from the moment we started. I basically lost every hand all night. It still didn’t matter though, it was small money compared to my winnings.

On the 55th minute Marco Delvecchio scored to put Italy ahead – 1-0. The only thing between me and scooping the bets had been Italy’s goalscoring in my opinion. I knew their defence wouldn’t leak a goal. And now they had scored. I started running around our yard, shouting enthusiastically.

We played some more poker. I lost more, and by the time the 90th and final minute of the game was about to start I had lost some 20 percent of my winnings. No worries though, still a massive profit for me.

Then it happened. For some reason the referee gave a minute too much overtime, and one minute after the match should already have ended, France got their one last attack, and Sylvain Wiltord managed to equalize.

I already knew what was going to happen. There’s no way France wasn’t going to win this now. When someone manages to score a last-minute equalizer in sports they never ever lose on overtime (feel free to use this tip for live betting). And sure enough, David Trezeguet scored the winning goal for France just 13 minutes later and it was all over. I was busto, also in debt for my poker losses, and in considerable pain.

In the next few days it was impossible to avoid watching the French celebrating their victory. It was all over the press, TV, radio, and Internet. I hated listening to Zidane’s arrogant comments on how they knew they’re the best team in the world and winning the trophy was a piece of cake. The only reason they were even allowed to equalize was because of a referee error in the first place! I made a pact with myself to always anti-sweat every French team in every sport.

I visited France on that same summer, only to find out that the people in the country were as arrogant and rude as their soccer stars. It was the worst of my childhood holidays, as basically every person I spoke to was as rude as they come. We tried to go to Monaco, but our train driver decided to go on strike in the middle of a field somewhere in the French-Italian border, throwing us out having no idea where we were. I strengthened my pact by adding that when I’m old enough to travel where I want to, I would avoid France. And if I ever spotted a French person visiting my country (not that they’d ever leave their own country as they’re so in love with it), I’d be as mean as possible.

My personal war against French people had started. I almost forgot about it for many years, as I didn’t visit France or interact with their people for a long time. It wasn’t until I picked up poker when my hate was resurrected. And for a good reason.

Miikka Anttonen, also known as “Chuck Bass”, has some crazy stories to tell of his time in the poker world. The poker pro and coach has made over $300,000 playing MTTs in two years and has caused quite a stir on various poker forums in the past. Check out our special feature on the young Finn in the February 2012 issue of Card Player Europe.

Any views or opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ownership or management of
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