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High-Stakes Poker Legend Patrik Antonius Discusses His Return To The Tournament Scene

The Cash-Game Star Accumulated $5 Million In Tournament Scores Last Year

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Patrik Antonius has regularly competed at the highest stakes, finding success in both live and online cash games. Not only has the 38-year-old Finnish poker pro been involved in some of the largest cash game pots ever televised, but he also won the largest recorded pot in online poker history when his flopped five-high straight held up against the wrap draw of Viktor ‘Isildur1’ Blom to take down a $1.3 million pot-limit Omaha hand.

Antonius has also found success on the tournament scene, accumulating more than $11.4 million in live earnings throughout his career. Just shy of $5 million of those cashes came in 2018, when Antonius took to the live circuit with more consistency than he ever had in the past.

Antonius secured more than $3.1 million for his runner-up finish in the 2018 Super High Roller Bowl China, a $271,000 buy-in tournament that drew 75 of the world’s best. He earned his lone title of the year by taking down the partypoker LIVE MILLIONS Germany €25,500 high roller to win 522,750.

Antonius’ renewed interest in tournaments also led him to get involved in organizing the 2019 Patrik Antonius Poker Challenge. The festival was held at Park Casino in Tallinn, Estonia and utilized a number of Antonius’ recommendations on how to improve the live tournament experience for players. Antonius is an ambassador for the social poker app First Land of Poker, which sponsored the PAPC series.

Card Player spoke to Antonius during the late stages of the 2019 World Series of Poker to learn more about his return to the tournament scene, how the high-stakes cash game scene has changed in recent years, and much more.

Erik Fast: In 2018, you played a lot more tournaments than in previous years. Was that a conscious decision to just kind of mix up the grind? Are you still playing a lot of cash games as well?

Patrik Antonius after winning a high roller event in 2018Patrik Antonius: Actually, I started to play those tournaments again beginning of 2018, because I played a couple events in 2017 and I got a little bug for the tournaments. So yeah, unfortunately for me, I didn’t play many tournaments in the United States. It’s been a little bit complicated with the taxes, so it takes a lot of value from the High Rollers. But I have been playing around Europe and other parts of the world in the big tournaments. And then, there’s always the high-stakes cash games that happen randomly in different places.

I used to play more in Vegas, and I haven’t really played that much in the last one and a half years here. I did play last World Series a lot, there were big games running, but that’s pretty much it. I would have to say [I’ve played] less high-stakes poker cash games than in previous years because I’ve been involved with other things more, including the First Land of Poker application. I have also my live events nowadays, which we are going to do another one at some point. But we’re focusing mostly in Europe right now, and this is why you haven’t seen me in the States.

I would like to play a couple times, those Poker After Dark cash games, but it has always been bad timing with the schedule, and hopefully, at some point I’ll come to make my appearance also there.

EF: How have you found that the high-stakes cash games have changed in recent years? It seems like some of the people that might have been interested in playing cash games are now a little more focused on the high rollers than began a few years ago. Have you found that there’s fewer cash games, or more?

PA: I would still think that you can definitely split the tournament players from the cash game players. There are very few players that are playing the High Roller tournaments, that are playing high-stakes cash games. To me, the high-stakes cash games, actually the mixed games have been really good in the last three or four years and it looks like there are more people playing those. And the big bet mix has had a nice positive impact on that. I see that poker has been growing in a way, I mean, there’s more big tournaments around the world all the time and big cash games are running all the time. Only online poker is not the same anymore as it used to be.

EF: It’s hard for me, as an American, to follow high-stakes cash on the major international sites that aren’t available here, but would you say that the online glory days are long gone now?

PA: I really don’t think that there’s big money being traded online. I play very rarely online nowadays, and I never see any big game going. Yeah, it’s far away from what it used to be. But live poker is doing great, I think. We have more players than ever before, and all the tournaments are having bigger numbers every year. It looks like they are breaking records all the time and so on. Poker is doing well and is in a healthy position, in my opinion.

EF: So, you said 2018, or late 2017, you kind of got a bug for tournaments again. You made seven final tables last year, you won a title, and cashed for around $5 million. Were you able to just kind of sit down, having not played as many tournaments before that, and just pick it right back up? It’s the same 30, 40, 50 players in these High Rollers, but you were able to find some success right away. Did you feel comfortable against those players?

Patrik Antonius at the 2018 WSOPPA: Yeah, I felt really comfortable. Also, it was a different kind of situation for me, because I hadn’t played with those players before, but they also didn’t have any experience playing against me. I would say last year, I had nice runs… Like, I had a really good start, which helped. I think, from the first six tournaments I played I made five final tables. And that always helps when you have a good run.

But, yeah, what can I say? I played well last year and the luck was there. I used my skills, whatever I’m giving away to these guys when it comes to all this theory of poker and being very good at playing the optimal game theory, I catch up with the feel. I was able to make very big calls at the crucial times of the tournament using my navigator.

It was a fun year actually and I enjoyed playing those tournaments a lot. But what I still enjoy the most is to play larger field tournaments, like main events where it’s $5,000, $10,000 buy in, because you always play with new players and the atmosphere is still more relaxed, instead of the High Roller tournaments. I would say that it’s a specific group of players that play those, you know, it’s just a 50 to max 100 players that play those. I would like to see more events with $25,000 buy-ins or even $10,000 with just a massive number of players.

EF: Speaking of what you’d like to see in tournaments, you were obviously involved with the Patrik Antonius Poker Challenge earlier this year. How did that event come to be, and what were you looking to achieve by putting your name on a live tournament series?

PA: That was kind of a coincidence how it all happened. With First Land of Poker, the goal is to help the poker players, help the poker industry, and I have a lot of ideas how we can improve the game and how we can make the game better for everyone when it comes to the experience of playing, the popularity of the game, and with the entertainment part, what you see on TV.

To me, the game has got a little bit too slow, and many, many players can agree on this. And so, it’s nice to have our own events also, that we can try these new things. Like, we tried this advanced shot clock, which was 10 seconds before the flop, and 20 seconds after the flop. And then, we gave the players more time banks, which then means that you know, you take more time when you really need to, but the flow of the game needs to stay smooth and fast, instead of every hand taking three to five minutes.

We actually played like twice as many hands [compared to] the normal pace of play, and nobody had any problems. Everybody loved it. This was a very positive thing. We are planning on doing more events, we got a lot of approaches, a lot of offers to make a couple of events, but there are no plans to make a tour or anything. For now, I’m just looking to throw individual events that the players will love it, and that’s about it.

EF: Did you come out to Vegas for anything, in particular, this summer? Were there certain tournaments you wanted to play, cash games, or a bit of both?

PA: I came for the cash games. I’m playing the WSOP main event, which is a tournament that I really enjoy playing, but otherwise, it will be the mixed games at Bellagio, and no other plans. I’m very relaxed right now. I don’t have any kind of itch that I need to play every day. Yeah, just enjoying the time. It’s nice to be here. I like Vegas. I like the poker. It’s nice to see a lot of nice events.Spade Suit