Patrik Antonius' undeniable talent at poker combined with an enormous bankroll and millions in poker winnings would be enough to make any grown man envious.
Combine it with his strong resemblance to Brad Pitt, a gorgeous wife and beautiful kids, a home in Monaco and not even a hint of Dad bod, and you've got trouble.
Burgeoning Tennis Pro
Antonius was born to a working-class family in the suburbs of Helsinki, Finland, on December 13, 1980. His father worked as a bread delivery man and his mother found work at a day-care center to help make ends meet.
A rambunctious and competitive youth Antonius played soccer, tennis and hockey and worked hard to keep himself out of detention.
He was particularly gifted at tennis and by the age of 13 had been singled out by his coaches as a child with Wimbledon potential.
He dropped the other sports and began a tennis training regime but suffered a serious setback a couple of years later when a bulging disc in his back forced him to stop training for a year and a half.
Hold'em Champion Without Trying
It was around this time that he and his friends began playing poker almost daily at the tennis club. Patrik had first anted up at age 11 in a backyard game where the stakes were 50¢ to spend at the candy store.
At the tennis club the stakes were significantly higher: $50 pots and bragging rights.
"It was a great time in my life," Patrik says on his Web site, "right after school playing tennis and poker all afternoon."
The games continued throughout high school and the stakes eventually outgrew the club. Having just discovered Pot-Limit Omaha the young rounders began playing home games till the early hours of the morning, often only stopping when a parent got up to go to work.
When Antonius turned 18 he brought his game to Casino Helsinki, the only casino in Finland at the time, where he took down the weekly $25 No-Limit Hold'em event and its $225 prize on his first try.
A Hold'em champion without ever trying, Antonius won the tournament despite having never played the game before.
Back Problems Derail Him Again
The aspiring tennis champ graduated from Helsinki Business College shortly after with a high school degree and was conscripted into the army for mandatory service. He was accepted to the Army Sport division and, although much of his gruelling six-month service was spent camping in the woods, he was allowed to practice tennis whenever he was back on base.
Upon release from the army Antonius was primed to start serious training for his tennis career but fate had other plans. The young Finn suffered another back injury just before his first professional tennis tournament was scheduled to take place, crippling his dreams of tennis superstardom and forcing him to the sidelines permanently.
With a bulging disk in his back and his tennis dreams broken at his feet Antonius had to find something to occupy his time. He began studying business and meandered through different jobs: modelling, serving tables at restaurants, selling products door-to-door and even coaching tennis, but nothing paid enough, and nothing was as satisfying as tennis.
Convinced he was destined to do something unconventional with his life and determined to make use of his competitive spirit and drive Antonius began to focus more and more on poker - the one hobby he'd stuck with throughout the years.
Patrik Antonius Takes His Game Online
He increased his home-game play and bellied up to the $2/$2 Pot-Limit Omaha tables more frequently at the casino. It took some time, but after a couple of years of dedicated play and bigger stakes, the self-schooled poker pro began to build a solid bankroll.
Shortly after, in the summer of 2002, Antonius hit a hot streak, winning consistently and fattening up his bankroll even more. The spell was broken when he left Helsinki for a three-month culinary internship in Italy in the fall on 2002.
As an apprentice at several different restaurants Antonius didn't play poker for the duration of his stay and managed to blow a large chunk of his bankroll. When he returned to Scandinavia in January 2003, he continued his studies at Helsinki Polytechnic Stadia and decided to take his game online.
He made the first of what would be many online deposits and within two months had multi-tabled his $200 deposit into $20,000. It was then that he realized he had to take a break from school to focus on poker exclusively.
"The idea of being able to play anytime and more than one table at a time was unbelievable. I was hooked," says Antonius. "I started studying the game and my opponents even more and immersed myself in the game."
One-Way Ticket to USA
And he meant business. From March to December 2003 Antonius played 12 hours a day, seven days a week, and boosted his bankroll to an astonishing $80,000. His knowledge and skills increased too as he took on the best online players and learned from their play, and soon he was being hailed as one of the top online players in Europe.
During these years of poker playing Antonius's back had healed enough that he began to consider playing tennis again. Several of his Finnish tennis buddies were studying at U.S. schools on tennis scholarships, and he decided to try his luck as well.
He applied and was awarded a one-year sports scholarship to Averett University in Virginia; he packed his bags and headed stateside.
His poker playing decreased significantly while he played tennis and attended classes, but it didn't affect his bankroll. Playing just one or two hours a day of $50/$100 heads-up and short-handed Hold'em netted the Finnish player $150,000.
He upped his bankroll by about $100,000 when he added $5/$10 and $15/$25 Pot-Limit Omaha games to his repertoire, and topped it off by winning an online satellite to the 2004 World Series of Poker.
He completed his academic year but as soon as the semester was over Antonius jumped a plane to Vegas and never looked back.
Vegas Was Heaven
"After spending six months in a tiny town in Virginia, Las Vegas was heaven," he admits on his Web site. "I met a lot of great people in Las Vegas, and some great players gave me a ton of confidence when they said I should really focus on my game, because they thought I had a lot of talent.
"It is one thing to think you are doing really well, but when some of the great players tell you that you are very tough, it was a huge confidence boost. I was being touted as one of the most successful online players in Europe."
Though he didn't cash in any events, Antonius left Vegas determined to improve his game, and to champion the online poker world while doing it. In his first few weeks home after moving back from Virginia, he doubled his bankroll playing short-handed $200/$400 Limit games online.
In 2005 he entered the live tournament circuit and scored a string of cashes. A 12th-place finish in the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure netted him just over $34,000, and his efforts in the WPT Bay 101 Shooting Stars of Poker landed him in 15th place with $40,000. He moved on to the WSOP, where he placed in three events, but it wasn't until later in the summer that he hit his stride.
In August he won the Ladbrokes Scandinavian Poker Championships in Stockholm, taking home nearly $70,000. The next month saw him place third in the EPT Barcelona event for $145,000 and in October he won the EPT Baden for $343,000, despite being five hours late for the event.
Circle of Outlaws
It was after these consecutive wins that Antonius decided to move to Vegas. He bought a house and began renovations that would take over a year and hundreds of thousands of dollars to complete.
In the meantime he settled into a suite at the Bellagio and continued playing high-stakes cash games and tournaments, both live and online.
In December 2005, he placed second to Doyle Brunson in the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic at the Bellagio. He followed it up by joining Marcel Luske's Circle of Outlaws - a team of high-profile poker prodigies - and then signed with MartinsPoker.com, Swedish pro Martin de Knijff's poker room. It was also around this time that he met his future wife, Maya.
With a set pre-tournament schedule that consists of sleeping and eating well, going to the gym and watching movies, it's no surprise Antonius continued to win in 2006. He cashed in eight international tournaments, including a ninth-place finish in the inaugural $50,000 WSOP H.O.R.S.E. event and a 15th-place finish in the $10,000 WSOP Pot-Limit Omaha Championship.
He also cashed in an additional three WSOP events as well as in two WPT events.
2006 was also a good year in Patrik's personal life. Maya became pregnant with their first child, Mila, who was born in May 2007, and the couple moved into their new home in Las Vegas. Since then, the family split its time between Monte Carlo, Monaco and Vegas, and finally have settled down on the French Riviera.
A Decade as a Poker A-Lister
Since Antonius burst onto the poker scene he's rarely seen a blip in his upward climb up the poker ranks. Few players have been more successful both live and online.
Playing in some of the toughest games against the best players at the highest stakes Antonius has racked up close to $18m in online poker earnings to add to his $11.7m in live tournament earnings.
He's cashed in the Aussie Millions, the WPT Five Star World Poker Classic, the WSOP, the WSOPE, the EPT, the partypoker Millions, the Super High Roller Bowl, the APPT and plenty more.
His online record is perhaps even more dazzling with long-term profit at the toughest games on both Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars. He's stepped away from online games in recent years as he feels he no longer has an edge; he's also impressively never used a HUD.
His public profile has always been very robust as a result of his high-profile wins and celebrity good looks. He's appeared on a number of TV shows and specials over the years and particularly on GSN's High Stakes Poker and NBC's Poker After Dark series.
After a few years away from the poker spotlight Antonius had a resurgence in tournament appearances in 2018 with several more impressive finishes including a 2nd and 4th at the partypoker Millions Sochi and nice cashes on the EPT in Barcelona, Prague and Monte Carlo.
When not at the poker table, Antonius still enjoys daily workouts and regular games of tennis as well as playing other sports. The Finnish prodigy has relaxed into his role as a father and now spends much of his downtime with his family. He's also in the process of developing an app specifically for improving the lives of poker players.
A regular participant in the Big Game at the Bellagio back in the day, Antonius was the youngest player ever asked to join the high-stakes cash game. He's still considered one of the best heads-up players in the world and also one of the best mixed-game players.
- Antonius: I've Never Used Technology to Gain an Edge"
- Antonius Returns to Tournaments in Earnest in 2018
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Barry Greenstein on Patrik Antonius:
"Patrik is one of the biggest winners in the history of online poker. I played with Patrik when he was learning to play mixed games. He barely knew how to play anything but Hold’em or PLO, but amazingly had enough betting and reading skills to win at his bad games.
His technical deficiencies showed more in a full game, but Patrik realized this and was usually careful to stick to short-handed play. Patrik is only the second player I have seen who was able to win in mixed games at the highest levels with hardly ever having played a few of the games. Phil Ivey is the other.
I was heading to the Las Vegas airport to fly back to Los Angeles a few days after I had met Patrik and his friend Roland De Wolfe. Roland told me they were taking a limo to L.A. and asked if I would join them. They wanted to talk about the upcoming Professional Poker League as well as other poker topics.
I felt like it would be a nice gesture on my part to travel with them, since I assumed this was their first trip to the West Coast. A limo to L.A. costs around $700, but it is free if you are a high-limit casino player. They had arranged to take a Bellagio limo with a very pleasant driver who was a Seven-Card Stud player.
Half way to L.A., the driver stopped at a Greek restaurant and Patrik gave him his tip for the trip. Patrik handed the driver a wad of money, and although he didn’t ask me to pay my share, I insisted. Patrik told me he had given the driver $1,900, which seemed like an absurd tip, but I gave Patrik $700 for my share. I assumed Patrik was unfamiliar with American money and tipping amounts, which I had seen before with foreigners.
Being helpful, I told them that $1,900 was a lot to give the limo driver. Roland told me that the limo cost $1700 and they had only tipped $200. I could have gotten the limo comped if they had told me. I now realized that the driver had been under-tipped, so I gave him $300 more when we got to my house.
Patrik is actually a big tipper, but he was also surprised that Roland hadn’t checked with him so he could get the limo comped."