Patrik Antonius Crushes Dreams in His Poker Challenge

  • Europe, North America, and South America players descended on Tallinn for the PAPC
  • The livestreamed table featured a heads-up contest called “Challenge Patrik,” among others
  • Antonius defeated Unibet qualifier Pekka Ikonen in the rubber match of a best of three
  • Matilla lost €30,000 ($32,669) in the big cash game but recouped it in the Main Event
  • Finland’s Kristian Kostiander won the title, trophy, and a cool €57,000 (€60,200) 
Patrik Antonius
The Patrik Antonius Poker Challenge welcomed players from all over the world to Tallinn, Estonia, where the star man himself crushed the dreams of his opponents. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

A veritable smörgåsbord of humanity

“Come play poker with Patrik,” they said. “It will be fun,” they said. 

They weren’t wrong, to be fair, but the Finnish poker legend also took no prisoners the past weekend as he came third in the eponymous Patrik Antonius Poker Challenge (PAPC) €5,200 ($5,662) High Roller and finished each televised poker session from the Olympic Park Casino in Tallinn as the big winner. 

an eclectic mix of Estonian, Finn, and international players

The Patrik Antonius Poker Challenge (PAPC) proved a huge success. Over the six days, there were 23 events in a variety of poker formats. There was an eclectic mix of Estonian, Finn, and international players, a veritable smörgåsbord of humanity, battling it out. 

The attendant TV crew focused on the special events for their coverage, but there were some big events taking place in the Hilton ballroom. This included the €1,650 ($1,797) Main Event, chopped by Jussi Matilla and Kristian Kostiander. 

Matilla started the final table of the Main Event as the chip leader but took the high-wire decision to forgo a good night’s sleep and instead hop straight into the televised €25/€50 ($27/54) cash game. He quickly lost €30,000 ($32,668) in that game but returned the next morning to finish second in the Main Event after doing some business.

Challenging Patrik

First up on the livestream was an innovative and generous invitational freeroll called “Challenge Patrik.” Nine qualifiers who won their seats on Unibet Poker were joined by some local qualifiers to play in a series of heads-up matches, culminating in four semi-finals. 

Finland’s Max Avela mounted a huge comeback to overcome Canada’s Gylbert Drolet

In the first semi, Finnish online poker beast Pekka Ikonen defeated the fresh-faced Estonian player Taaniel Jakobson, while in the second semi, Finland’s Max Avela mounted a huge comeback to overcome Canada’s Gylbert Drolet. All four players won an hour’s coaching from Antonius, but both winners also received a €440 ($479) seat to the Unibet-sponsored progressive knockout tournament, the final event on the schedule. 

That set up an all-Finland final between Ikonen and Avela, ultimately won by the former, who added a trip to Monte Carlo and a €1,000 ($1,089) cash game buy-in to his haul. Not only that, but he also earned the right to take on the great man himself in a best-of-three heads-up encounter with a PAPC package online. 

Myself, Dara O’Kearney, and James Dempsey called the action on an engrossing three-match encounter as Ikonen very unluckily lost match one, deservedly won match two, but ultimately lost the rubber match to Antonius.

The FLOP MUG

The second night of televised coverage showcased Antonius’ FLOP app, a nifty piece of kit that allows poker players to connect with other players at their stake level and in their locality. As soon as the FLOP Meet-Up Game was announced as a €5/€10 ($5.44/$10.89) game, it was fastest finger first with players securing their seats via the app. Once a game fills up, the app creates a waiting list, effectively digitizing and democratizing the role of a game runner. 

Again, Antonius was in the mix, buying in for €13,000 ($14,155), easily covering the other players. Also in the lineup were superstar slots-streamer Kim Hultman and Costa Rican poker pro and “Modern Poker Theory” author Michael Acevedo. Hultman, fresh from his appearance on this season of High Stakes Poker, bought in for €8,000 ($8,710) while Acevedo, fresh from his €800 victory in the €330 ($359) event, started with €1,500 ($1,632). Rounding out the table were Andrew Koks, Frenk Kaupervud, Davis Masteiko, and Hampus Grave.

As is the tradition in Estonian cash games, there were lots of big pots and, when the dust settled, the big winner was professional dream crusher Antonius, who ended with over €17,000 ($18,502). Hultman was the biggest loser and Acevedo quit early after losing small.

Acevedo has been working hard of late on another FLOP product, partnering with Antonius and company to create the training tool FLOP GTO, now available as a pre-flop helper with the promise of post-flop solves coming soon.

The cash game

The final night of livestream coverage was the big one, a €25/€50-€50 ($27.21/$54.42) game, and unsurprisingly, it drew the largest audience. Antonius bought in for €15,000 ($16,327), Hultman and Juha Helppi sat with €10,000 ($10,885), and the other players bought in for between €5,000 ($5,442) and €8,000 ($8,708). It wasn’t long before the “7-2 Game” was introduced and the straddles and double straddles were mandatory. 

somebody give me €5,000” 

Overall, there was some good poker on show, but there was also some messy poker, especially when the Main Event chip leader Jussi Matilla descended the staircase after bagging up. He blasted off five €5,000 bullets, borrowing twice from “The Bank of Antonius” before reaching his daily withdrawal limit, at which point he shouted loudly somebody give me €5,000.” Helppi reluctantly obliged.

Over the course of a couple of hours, Matilla gambled with napkins, but he was also on the wrong end of a couple of coolers, most notably when he ran AK into Hultman’s Kings. For a while, it seemed as though the sixth time would be the charm when Matilla flopped the nut-straight with Q9 off-suit and got the full triple up. It wasn’t to be, though, as in the penultimate hand, he back-raise shoved huge with KJ off-suit over a Helppi squeeze with AQ. Helppi made the call for a pot just shy of €30,000 ($32,669), the biggest of the night.

Once again though, it was Antonius who put on a cash game clinic to book his third winning night in a row and add more to a pile already bolstered by his third-place finish in the €5,000 High Roller. The lesson here is it’s not easy to beat the guy whose name and image are emblazoned across the walls, felt, and TV screens. 

The Main Event 

Matilla’s preparation for the €1,650 Main Event final table may not have been GTO, but he returned to the felt on Sunday morning like a man on a mission. Leveraging ICM-pressure on his opponents from the off, he bludgeoned his way to short-handed play. 

the trophy went to Kristian Kostiander

Third place would get him out for the week, but he had his sights set on the top spot. It wasn’t to be, however, as the trophy went to Kristian Kostiander, but not before a nice bit of business that guaranteed Matilla €57,000 ($62,040) in an even chop as the two Fins played on for €3,200 ($3,484). 

It was quite the rollercoaster for Matilla and an exciting denouement to what was a fantastic festival that almost never happened. VegasSlotsOnline News spoke to Jonathan Raab, head of business development at First Land of Poker who described the considerable difficulties faced by the organizers:

“Its been a very challenging event to host,” he said. “Originally scheduled for February, but postponed due to the most recent COVID wave, which hit Estonia pretty badly. Even after rescheduling it was touch and go, as restrictions were only lifted a few days before the festival started. All things considered it went very well, with the Main Event rising to 190 runners, compared with 98 in 2019, when the PAPC was last held here in Tallinn.”

VSO News then pressed Raab for a comment on Lappin, O’Kearney, and Dempsey who called the action:

“We also had a wonderful (and especially handsome) commentary team for the coverage with some pretty racey action so it is well worth watching the replays.” 

He’s not wrong about that.