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Patrik's early days

With all the renowned European poker pros gaining international acclaim these days, there's no question that Finland is a breeding ground for poker success. 21-year-old Helsinki-born, Monaco-based poker pro Patrik Antonius might just be our next great contribution to the poker landscape. A pro for just over five years, he has already amassed an impressive record; cashing in major events since 2006 including a recent 6th place finish at the WPT North American Poker Championship held in Niagara Falls and a 4th place finish at the EPT Grande Finale in Monte Carlo. This puts his total major tournament winnings at over $3 millions and has already earned him corporate sponsorship from Full Tilt Poker. We caught up with him in his home town of Monaco about life as a Finnish poker professional. Here's what he had to say:

What made you decide to pursue poker as a full-time career? The money. I'd sit down and make seven or eight hundred dollars in twenty minutes playing online when I'd have to work all week to make that in my regular job. It didn't make sense for me to put in all the hours at work to make what it took me half an hour to make sitting in my chair, in my room.

After doing this for many years, is it still about the money? At some point the money doesn't mean as much anymore. It's just the excitement of being there and winning and it's just, it's hard to describe. I get to travel around the world, play in the biggest tournaments against the best players and be successful at it. This year I'll be in Australia for the Aussie Millions, France and Monte Carlo for the EPT and I'll probably be in Vegas for over a month during the World Series playing at least ten to fifteen events.

What would you say to someone who wanted to make the leap and pursue poker as a career?

Well, before you quit your job or do anything drastic you have to make sure that you're going to be able to survive off poker. So, you have to test yourself for at least six months to a year and make constant, steady profit and use proper bankroll management. If you're making money steadily; making more than you make at your job for a long period of time, then I think you should try it out.

Is it difficult not having a casino that spreads poker where you live? I wish they did have a casino, only for tournaments though 'cause for cash games I find I like the internet a lot better; I can play ten tables at a time and I can play three times more hands per table than you would in a live game. Unless it was really big stakes it just wouldn't be worth it for me to play a live cash game. But I love to play big live tournaments. The authorities recently raided a number of underground card rooms in the USA and arrested several players as well as the owners. Even though you weren't personally involved, as a professional, do you have an opinion on the matter?

That's a good question, you know what, I think the cops went in there thinking they were going to find drug dealers and gangsters and criminals and what not. But they went in and ended up arresting doctors, engineers, professionals, business owners and family men, you know what I mean? These were all just regular citizens who wanted to play in an organised game. The government doesn't offer them an organised game to play in here so if people want to play they need to find a place to play. I really don't think that all these people should be charged for doing something that the government condones and offers in other casinos around the country. If anything, the government should focus their efforts on legalizing poker. Then there wouldn't be any underground poker anywhere. Why would people play underground when they can play in a casino?

Now that you have a sponsor you get to play tournaments in casinos all over the world. Does being sponsored by Full Tilt and wearing their gear at the table disguise the fact that you are Finnish and do opponents play differently against you because of it? Yes and I like it because it intimidates people. They see it and they think you're European. They think you're a maniac. I kind of do play loose-aggressive but I have a bit of a more controlled style. So, I find I get a lot more action than I should and I get paid off a lot more.