We go deep with half man, half superman Patrik Antonius: “In one day I lost over a million dollars and my biggest win was $4m”

What makes Patrik Antonius’ blood boil? PokerPlayer finds out

If it wasn’t for the fact we’ve met him, we’d probably think someone had invented Patrik Antonius. The ice-cool male model who crushes poker for fun? Sure. That’s just a fantasy, dude. He doesn’t really exist. He’s like Santa Claus. Sure he makes millions playing on some shitty laptop in Monte Carlo. Sure he does. In some ways you couldn’t make up a character like Antonius.

The chiseled cheek bones. The unflappable cool. The phenomenal poker talent. It’s all a bit too perfect. But it’s all irritatingly true. And since he burst onto the scene back in the early days of the EPT he’s been the poster boy for the online generation. He was, and still is, young, cool and fearless.

According to highstakesdb.com he’s the second most successful player in online history with over $11 million in winnings. But he’s nothing like the typical online  player. We’ve seen his home set-up and it’s a million miles from your classic grinder set up. It’s just a man, a screen and a chair.

Despite his huge success, Antonius vastly prefers live poker. He’s a live game pro at heart with a table manner that’s totally unreadable and a fantastic feel for the live tables. He just happens to be ridiculously good online too. What a life. But not everyone loves Antonius. There are rumours of players trying to make it difficult for him to get a seat in the high-stakes games in Macau, and he once said he’d love to break Aussie pro Mark Vos’s nose.

The ice-cold Finn has fiery temper underneath his implacable poise and we’ve seen the holes he punched in his walls back home after a bad beat. Despite his image, Antonius is one of the game’s more talkative and opinionated characters. His interviews are rarely dull, and he’s not afraid to speak his mind. In short he’s one of the most interesting characters in poker, so it was great to see him back in the spotlight at the recent PartyPoker Premier League.

PokerPlayer caught up with Antonius in a break from filming and asked him how his thoughts on Full Tilt, the truth about the big games in Macau and how he’s always steaming.

Has your life changed much since Black Friday considering you live in Monaco?

My personal life hasn’t changed, but my work has changed. The high-stakes games have dried up a lot. Macau is dominating super-highstakes so that’s always an option, but the game is almost too big. You can win $10m in one week in those games.

Are you still playing a lot online?

Online there was nothing for me for a while, I’m only now just getting back into it.

There’s a rumour that you’re FakeLove888 on PokerStars?

I don’t want to comment on that. I have no comment on that (laughs).

How much have you been playing online?

Not a lot and not with much success lately.

Have the games changed much since Black Friday?

Yeah a little bit. It looks like mixed games and H.O.R.S.E. games are not really running in the high limits. PLO looks like it’s coming back, and people are trusting more that they can have money online. Players are getting better so it’s going to be tougher. I do prefer live poker to online. For a while I was trying to decide whether I liked live or online better, but with all these programs and trackers online, live poker is real poker. You have to use your head for memory, and you get a strong feeling when people bet.

How are the live games in Vegas?

The games were already drying out before Black Friday. In 2005 and 2006 there were $4k/$8k mixed games at the Bellagio and big PLO $1k/$2k games, but those games are kind of gone now. It needs a few big-time gamblers for people to play, but we’re missing those at the moment. People are choosing to play private games right now which is bad because there’s a lot of opportunities for cheating, and you’ve got to be worried about getting paid.

Have you experienced cheating in private games?

Since poker got popular, there’s so much money out there that people are trying to find all sorts of ways to cheat the system. I don’t really know what kind, but I know it’s very dangerous to play in private games with people you don’t know. You’ve kept quite a low profile recently but it hasn’t stopped rumours spreading. One of the main rumours is you’re banned from the games in Macau. Those rumours are 100% not true. Anybody can play there. But when they have a great game and they have the biggest fishes, the game is full. They have certain players who are always able to playand then they have an order of important players. So when there’s a great game it’s very rare that I’m going to have a seat because the game is full.

What about Rui ‘PepperoniF’ Cao said? He claimed you were banned because you played too ‘tight’.

That guy’s crazy. He was just upset because I beat him, I smashed him for $800k and he wrote that he thinks he has an edge over me. Then he went and wrote that stuff about Macau. He can say whatever he wants, I’m not going to start an argument with him.

Someone else claimed that Guy Laliberté said ‘No way’ to you playing in the game.

You can’t accuse Guy of not letting me play. There were two other people and they completely f♣♠ed me up in my opinion. You know what, that was a very bad thing that happened there. I’m not going to say any names, but I was promised to have a seat in the game. If not, I would not have flown there from Europe for three days. It’s so far from other places, you’ve got to take two flights and a boat. I was obviously furious and so close to starting a big mess in the casino because I was f♣♠ing boiling.

So was it a personality clash between you and the other two people?

I don’t know. That was last November. It’s over, I’m not living in the past.

You’ve put in quite a few sessions there though right?

My average session there is close to 18 hours so your body gets so screwed up. I think playing poker for two days straight is so much worse than drugs or drinking. What these guys do is play for two days straight, sleep and get up and play two days again. It is what it is. The local players decide a lot of things in the game. They like to play long sessions, they like to play big and there’s nothing you can tell them to change.

If you beat one of the regulars for a lot of money, is there a possibility that you’ll get banned?

No, no. I haven’t heard that anyone couldn’t play because they were playing too good, they just don’t like to play with certain players. They don’t like it if people come with a short stack and double and triple and leave. They don’t like it if people leave the game even if you’re losing. They like you to play 20 hours with them. It’s the only public game on the planet that is so big, so if you want to play there you’ve got to play with their rules. They don’t let you play when the biggest fish are there. So there will only ever be a maximum of three players like Tom Dwan, Phil Ivey, Sam Trickett. Then there are five regular locals and one or two fish. But even those ‘fish’ play pretty good poker and only if they start losing do they start playing worse.

What have been your biggest wins and losses in Macau?

In one day I lost over a million dollars and my biggest win was $4m. That was the first time I played, which was a 28-hour session. I’ve played a lot of sessions there and about 360 hours in total. Overall I’m up, but it’s because I was lucky when we gambled big on flop combinations. When it comes to poker I’m probably even. That shows how tough the game is. I really have a high respect for the players there.

How is it compared to the Big Game at the Bellagio?

Like any of these high-stakes games, the atmosphere is always relaxed and people aren’t too serious. Money really gets passed around, swings are very big and people play lots of hands aggressively. I just wish they would play PLO more. No-limit hold’em is just not as fun to play. It takes a little bit more energy. In PLO you don’t really need to pay much attention before the flop, you just pick your starting hands and the decision-making is more on the turn and the river.

This is the first Premier league you’ve played in. Why did you choose to come over?

Since all the bad things happened with Black Friday, there haven’t really been any poker TV shows for a long time. It was proposed to me and I thought, why not? It’s been a long time since I’ve been in any poker show. Also the buy-in was big enough to get a little bit of  motivation. I’m in Europe anyway.

You won your first heat at the Premier League. How did you find it?

It was anything but smooth. I felt I was struggling through the whole heat and I think I played  pretty poorly. Maybe it’s because my head just seems to hurt when I’m sick. I feel like I got good cards and won because of that. I didn’t do that much to deserve to win the heat.

Is the league just fun for you as opposed to a need to make money?

When I committed to this, I didn’t realise how much time it was going to take so it already feels like, ‘F♣♠, I have to do all this just to win this much?!’ I guess there’s some sort of media value to it. The televised cash games are always nicer than the sit-and-gos. The edges are so small in this one so you have to be kind of lucky.

A year on from Black Friday and Full Tilt, what’s your feeling about it?

Right now, I’m so down about it. First I had a lot of hopes for Full Tilt to come back and now I just hope they come back so that the players get paid. I don’t have a future with them as a representative.

Are there certain people at Full Tilt you’re disappointed with?

For sure, nobody wanted this to happen. Nobody did this on purpose. For sure, they made bad, and probably crazy, decisions on how to run the company. The biggest thing I feel sad about is that poker’s reputation took such a big hit. It was becoming more acceptable every year and getting more mainstream and the money that’s tied into Full Tilt is away from the poker world.

There’s been some debate about how much you had in your account. What’s the bottom line?

That was all big bullshit. I transferred all my money to other accounts before. I had no use for it because I went to the States so I had transferred it to other people who needed it and wanted to play. Money-wise it’s going to be a big hit for me personally.

Were you able to borrow money from Full Tilt whenever you wanted to?

I could have, I borrowed it a couple of times when I didn’t have it online instead of doing a bank wire. I always paid them back right away. But I never did what other people did where they owed the money for a long time or borrowed a lot of money. I borrowed a couple of times. There are some documents which say I owe a small amount of tournament buy-ins and I might do but it’s nothing significant.

Do you wish you’d tried to find out more in hindsight?

I don’t know if this is the right way to think: but I can’t do anything about anything. I’m not going to use my energy for it, I want to put my energy into playing good poker and for positive things.

What’s your relationship like with other Full Tilt players now?

Phil [Ivey] I’m good friends with. I’ve always kept contact with Gus [Hansen] and Tom [Dwan].

What is your attitude to poker like now?

When I was 19 it was so much fun, you keep learning, you get better. Now it’s a different kind of fun, where I get good feelings about playing well. Sometimes I play long sessions, and I  realise I should go to sleep but I’m maybe too much of a degenerate to quit the game. Sometimes I’m so tired that I’m falling asleep between hands and I don’t know why I keep paying! I’m trying to change my attitude to things.

In what way?

Live a little bit better. I’m a big steamer, let’s put it that way. Not just in poker, in general. When I play poker it doesn’t show but inside I might be boiling for two days. I can’t get it out of my head.

People very rarely see that side of you.

No, but I want to stop the boiling because it doesn’t help anything. There’s a Finnish book I’m reading which tells you how to bring a little bit of Buddha into your life. It tells you that everything you do you should enjoy every single moment. So do things seriously, but still in a playful way. There’s so many serious people in the world.

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