EPT8 Campione: What's not to like as Antonius returns to the tour
We should all hate Patrik Antonius. It's true. There's enough envy in poker to wallpaper his house and line the cat tray for years. He's the type of player you can forgive players for finding insufferable, the type of person that, in moments of low self-esteem, usually about five minutes after a free bar closes, we direct our private fury at. The reason is simple.
Antonius possesses one of poker's most capable minds. Having conquered various forms of the game to international standard, peers watched him join them in the biggest events in the world, and then watched him fly past.
The thing is nobody hates Patrik Antonius. As he spent the break talking to the press he slowly made his way to the sandwich bar for a snack, taking the press with him. Most of the way was spent shaking the hands of well-wishers, who you assume he's never met before. Then he held off getting food until all the questions had been answered.
Antonius is one of poker's exceptions, in more than one way. First, he looks athletic, as though he plays poker to rest his legs from endless hours of that other stuff, you know, like fun and fresh air. Then there are his extracurricular activities; basically he has some.
Poker allowed him to travel the world, but his life exists beyond the walls of a poker room. For a start, and unlike the bulk of people his age on the poker circuit, Antonius has children (5 and 2), at an age when all sensible players know that feeding and clothing those things can cost several big blinds a week.
But Antonius operates on a higher plan to mere talented mortals (he can actually afford kids), with more than $4.5 million in tournaments winnings to his name. Then there are the other earnings, from high stakes cash games online and live that only Antonius, perhaps an accountant, and the players he wins it from, can put a number on.
This week he makes a rare appearance on the European Poker Tour, a tour he made his name on when in he won EPT Baden in 2005, two weeks after finishing third in Barcelona. We didn't know for sure but some people suspected it. Antonius was about to start being liked.
"There was no plan," said Antonius. "The plan was just to play poker as good as possible; nobody knew poker was going to be this big. You shouldn't plan things. They never go how you plan."
Months after his win in Baden, Antonius had a WPT title in his grasp, falling a place short at the Five Diamond Classic at Bellagio to Rehne Pedersen, but adding more than a $1 million to his bankroll. Like a rich Aunt, Bellagio would become a source of regular wealth for the Finn.
More WPT cashes followed, then more in the World Series where he cashed in the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event, after months of practice in games he hadn't previously played before. Antonius was a fast learner. He finished ninth to earn more than $200,000.
"I have a lot of motivation," said Antonius, as he squeezed past idle players and to the front of the sandwich line. "I'm very hard on myself when it comes to poker. If I don't play very well, on the scale I have for myself, I get very agitated. I work very hard on it.
"I do the same as many successful players. I play a lot and analyse a lot. Be well rested; whatever works for you. You got to always be 100 per cent when you play."
He certainly looks 100 per cent. He's tanned, fit (he nearly became a pro tennis player), healthy looking and his arms bulge. He sticks out like an Olympic athlete in a branch of Heart Attack Grill.
But recently the big games have begun to dry up. Bad for Antonius, good for the rest of us looking to see him play in more European events.
"It looks like tournaments will maybe play a little bit bigger part in my career," he said. "The reason is that the high stakes games have dried up a little. It makes a little bit more sense to play tournaments. I enjoy playing them, but I've got two kids, I've got a lot of family. It limited me a little bit with travelling.
"So life has been very busy and it hasn't made a lot of sense for me money wise to play these kind of tournaments, to travel. I enjoy travelling a lot, and Europe is the best place for me, as always."
So it looks like Antonius could become more of a regular on the EPT after all, returning to where he secured his first major win, plenty of time for us to try to hate him.