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The biggest pot in televised poker history was won by the Finnish poker legend Patrik Antonius, as part of the PokerGO ‘Cash of the Titans’ line-up on the No Gamble, No Future show on Sunday night. Winning an incredible $1,978,000, Antonius took it down with just two pair against the busted flush draw of Maverick Casinos owner and controversial cash game player Eric Persson.
The two men could hardly come from more diverse backgrounds, proving the old adage that it doesn’t matter what your background is, if you have the money, you can sit down at the felt with anybody.
Patrik Antonius is widely recognized as one of the best high-stakes cash game players in poker history. The Finnish former tennis player and coach and part-time model is often the envy of poker players everywhere. Having won millions online, the Finn’s net worth a matter of lively debate, with one website claiming it to be over $80 million in 2018, while another says he was down to his last $5m in 2022.
Both seem tricky to believe, especially considering Antonius won over $11 million on Full Tilt Poker alone before the poker giant was closed down on Black Friday in 2011. The more accurate estimate of $25 million seems more likely and that figure has been more widely reported in the past 12 months. Despite playing mainly cash, Antonius has also won $13.7 million in ranking poker tournaments too.
Eric Persson comes from very different stock, having been born and raised in Hoquiam, Washington. The owner of 26 casinos under the Maverick umbrella across Washington, Nevada and Colorado, Persson was previously in charge of slot and marketing operations for the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, before founding Maverick in 2018.
“We think of our company as having an enterprise value of around $1 billion today,” he said recently in an interview with GGB News. “[We’re] working towards becoming a $5 billion enterprise value over next five years.”
Almost entirely a cash game player, Persson has only cashed for a paltry $3,677 in poker tournaments, preferring to ‘stick to cash’, although this latest pot may well tip into the red given the magnitude of the loss.
The biggest televised pot in poker history started with little hint it would climb to the level it did. Persson was – as he had often been in the orbits before the hand took place – the main aggressor, bet $7,000 with queen-nine of hearts. Rob Yong called with ace-deuce of clubs, while Antonius raised it up with the ace-king of hearts. Making it $30,000 to go, the Finn was called by both Persson and Yong, making the pot $94,000 to the flop.
The flop of 8-3-3 with two hearts and one club was never going to slow the action down. Antonius led for $40,000, but Persson snap-raised it to $140,000. Yong knew his back door flush draw was no good and wisely got out of the way. Antonius, obviously, was going nowhere, re-raising to $250,000, which Persson called.
The ace of spades on the turn saw Antonius lock up the hand, no longer able to be outdrawn. Not that he knew that of course, with a paired board out there meaning full houses or even a set would be ahead of him. When he led for $150,000, into a pot of around $594,000, Persson almost immediately shoved for his remaining stack of $692,000. Antonius asked Persson ‘What do you have?’
Persson’s reply was a garbled sentence about how much money he had in chips – around the $700,000 mark. Had his opponent asked more about the cards? But Antonius thought about the hand for a total of 13 seconds before he realized that he was ahead, announcing the one word that would confirm the biggest-ever pot in televised U.S. poker history…. ‘Call.’
That call gave Antonius the pot, and a whopping $1,978,000 was raked towards his seat from Persson’s pile, leaving the American player with just $60,000.
Was Persson’s punt the biggest of the century so far? It’s hard to argue that it wasn’t. At no point does Patrik Antonius look in any way weak, raising pre-flop, leading the action post-flop and after the turn too. What convinced Persson to make his move before the river with comparative air and what was he looking to beat?
Antonius is a long-time player in games such as High Stakes Poker and Poker After Dark. He was highly likely to have a good read on Persson’s hand, especially with Rob Yong entering the hand too. Persson made a lot of having position on Antonius, but in essence, he wasted the chance of using it by not putting enough pressure on the Finn post-flop rather than on the turn, and not just because his own chances of hitting a flush had decreased.
While we know watching the hand play out that Antonius has the better flush draw, it’s not certain that he calls a shove on the turn. It looks to most observers that Persson punts it on the turn and Antonius’ quick call after just 13 seconds backs up that theory.
You can watch the hand in its entirety here above, with commentary from No Gamble, No Future’s Jeff Platt and Brent Hanks
With Persson a likely candidate to want to eradicate this memory from his recent poker experiences as quickly as possible, there’s no doubt that the favorite to take part in a $2 million pot on a televised stream would be Persson. But would he be your pick to win that pot? After this most ambitious of attempts was snuffed out by Antonius, it’s hard to call it.
Antonius himself doesn’t come out of the woodwork for any old game, but PokerGO is really making a good job of escalating the level of their cash game output. High Stakes Poker has replaced Gabe Kaplan with Nick Schulman but has the potential for a mammoth pot too, although if it had happened, it would have been hard for the production team to keep it under wraps.
Players such as Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey, Rob Yong, Andrew Robl or possibly Door Dash owner and billionaire Stanley Tang will all have designs on becoming the first poker player to win a televised pot of $2 million if the possibility creeps up on them.
Rated 4.4/5 stars.