After losing “the craziest bet” he has ever made, Finnish Legend Miikka Anttonen has decided to quit poker for good.
Interview By Gaelle Jaudon
Somuchpoker: To briefly sum up your path: You’ve been playing poker for 10 years, and people know you for your famous blog and books, where you explain your adventures and all the ups and downs of this poker life in a very honest way. You started a bet in October that was, in your own words, “the craziest bet you ever made.” You had to change $500 into $10K online by only grinding MTTs; otherwise, you had to quit poker for good. That bet ended in February. You didn’t reach the $10K bankroll and declared that it was over for you.
Can you tell us what your life has looked like these past 4 months? By following your tweets, it seems it was really exhausting.
Miikka Anttonen: Yeah, a little bit of background about the bet first. I’ve been looking for a way to get out from poker for a while. As you said, I’ve played for 10 years; I started playing when I was 20 years old. I just feel that at some point enough is enough. I’ve noticed that there are a bunch of guys who are like 60 years old and still play for a living, but, personally, I just don’t want to make poker the only big thing I did in my life. Maybe for the last 2 or 3 past years, I’ve wanted to sort of get out of the game, but I haven’t really got the strength to quit poker. It’s a hard decision; it’s pretty much the only thing I’ve ever done. For the first 7 or 8 years of my career, I was really moving forward all the time. I was always trying to climb higher, so it made sense to keep playing. But then I felt I’d reached the maximum level I could ever achieve in that game, because I don’t have the talent and the skill set of the absolute best players, no matter how hard I try. So I started to lose motivation and tried to do other things in my life. I was intrigued by a bunch of things, but poker was always getting in the way. I didn’t have the strength to quit, so I came up with this idea: why don’t I just let the universe decide? I thought about a bet where I would probably be an underdog; it would be very difficult but possible. My idea was if I win, I’ll win a bunch of money from different people, and if I lose, I’ll be forced to quit poker forever, which was something I was going for anyway but just didn’t have the courage to go through with. I had to pay over $70k if I ever played poker again, which was pretty much my whole bankroll.
The rules of the bet were that I had to win 1000 buys-ins with really strict bankroll management and also change a $500 bankroll into $10k. I wasn’t allowed to gamble and take shots; the bankroll management was strict. I really wanted to give my best, so for the last 4 months I haven’t done anything other than sit at a computer and click buttons. The final score was $7,200, so I failed. I could have make it with a bit more time, but I really feel good about all of this.
SMP: And what are you working on now? What are your plans for the future? You wrote on Twitter that you’ve received some inquiries from poker companies and might jump to the other side of the fence, but you might also like to write or do some television producing, etc.
MA: I’m not really in a big rush to decide right now, and that’s also why I feel really good about quitting poker. I’m now 31 years old, and there are still so many things I can do. I still have time to really screw up and make mistakes, pick the wrong thing, and still come back and try something else. But I think that if I was like 45 when I quit poker, I would be in a very different spot and not be sure of what to do with my life.
But, anyway, I have a bunch of writing projects that I’m working on right now. I also have a new book coming out and a screenplay for television that I’m finishing. At the same time, I’m trying to learn marketing-related skills. I’m not sure where that’s coming from, but I really like the creative side of marketing. I’ve been thinking about it over the last year. Also, four different poker companies have reached out to me and proposed that I come work with them. I haven’t met with any of them yet. I sort of put them on hold because I think I might just leave the gambling industry. I’ve always been pretty cynical about that industry in general. To be clear, I love poker, I love the game, and I love playing, but in the bigger picture I don’t want to make the gambling industry the basis of my life. There is a lot of darkness and sadness about the poker world, like all the gambling addiction. I was a gambling addict myself, and I don’t want to encourage people to go into that. I don’t really know if I want to go to the other side of the industry, unless I find something that is exactly what I want, a job that totally fits me.
SMP: You also wrote on Twitter—and it was pretty funny—“What an epic way to go out though, putting your whole roll on a bet and fail, classic Chuck Bass.” It seems that your idea was: if I ever quit poker, it has to be in a dramatic way, with style and degeneracy. Is that right?
MA: Yeah, I always knew I didn’t want to quit poker by sort of fading away. I knew it would be some kind of big explosion, and I’m happy about it now. I think it was a very stylish way to go!
SMP: So you don’t have any regret at all about it?
MA: No, I just feel incredibly good about not being a poker player anymore! I feel a massive relief to be honest. I couldn’t have imagined feeling this good. Right now I can’t see anything negative about this whole thing. I’m just thinking, thank god it’s over!
SMP: As you said, you’re still young, but you already have a crazy life behind you. Is it really possible for someone like you to stop being a gambler?
MA: Yeah, it’s interesting because I’ve always been a big gambler, even when I was growing up. Whenever a sport match was on television, I had to bet something on it. I could never play tennis with a friend without having a bet on the game. I was very caught up by all the excitement about betting and the gambling degeneracy for a very long time. But something started to change over the last few years. I really haven’t enjoyed the gambling side of it for maybe the last 4 years. I don’t know happened; there wasn’t a big change in my life. It’s like that part of my personality just disappeared. I guess I’m getting old; that’s probably the explanation!
SMP: When we hear you talk about your life in poker and gambling, it seems like you’re not proud of it and don’t see any positive aspects?
MA: No, I think it’s really two different things. When I look back at my career, I feel proud of it. Poker is a really great and tough game; it’s very competitive, and I managed to make a living doing it. I went pretty far in the game, and I started from nowhere. I managed to grind my bankroll from $200 to more than $600k, so I think it’s a pretty decent upswing. I feel proud of all of that, also because I see poker as a sport in some way. I was always very competitive as a kid, but I just sucked at every sport, so when poker came along, I finally found that one thing I was good at! I’m feeling super good and grateful about having experienced all that. It’s really more about me getting sick when I look at the bigger picture of gambling. For every successful pro, you find 20 gambling addicts who’ve lost all their life savings. I don’t mean to sound like I have any regrets about that life, or like I’m trying to be some kind of moral police; it’s really not about that. Like I said, I just want to spend my life working at doing something that is good for other people. And me playing poker won’t have any positive effect on the planet!
SMP: You spent a lot of time writing a book for the past two years. The title seems pretty exciting—How to Crush in Fucking Everything—and you declared it should help a lot of people. Can you tell us more about it?
MA: Basically, I have this massive thread on 2+2; it has something around 2 millions views. It’s my life story that I started writing approximately 7 years ago. I never really intended something to come out of it; I just started writing, and people loved it. Something like 5000 people told me I should write a book about it, and I always wanted to be a writer. It took me about 2 years, and the paper version is coming out very soon. So it’s my life story but from a poker perspective, with all the ups and downs of my career, and the downs have always been pretty spectacular. I fucked up a few times very hard! I would say it’s a book of warnings basically: don’t do this, don’t do that, if you don’t want to go broke!
SMP: You were always known as a kind of “degen”. What, in your mind, is the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
MA: That’s a pretty tough question actually. I’ve never done anything stupid in a physical way. I’ve never put my life in danger, because I always loved life in general, but there are always a million things I’ve wanted to do. So whatever the answer to that question will be, it’s for sure that it will be gambling related! Like, once, I was chip leader during a Unibet Open, and it was $150k for the winner. There were maybe 14 people left, and someone wanted to interview me during the break. I had a massive chip lead, and I made the promise that if I won the tournament, I’d put every cent into playing heads up against Phil Ivey. It was my entire bankroll. I didn’t win, but the thing is that I would have definitely done that.
I don’t think that I ever spent more than $25K for one session, so I never had a very spectacular loss like a million dollars in one day or anything like that. I just had those absurd stretches when everything went to shit for a long time. I was even homeless for a few days and lived on a park bench in Sydney because of gambling.
Most degen countries in the world (#OnceAGambler sales per capita):
— Miikka Anttonen (@chuckbasspoker) April 11, 2017
SMP: And how do you manage to rebuild a bankroll when you have a critical situation like that one? How did you end up on a bench?
MA: This happened really early in my career. I was living in Australia thanks to the working holiday program when I was 20 years old. I was working on a farm. I had the worst job you can have. We were in the middle of a rain forest, and people started a poker game one day. I’d never played before, and I was so bored out of my mind that I thought, ok why not give it a try. I won on my first session, and I really thought I was good at the game, even if I barely knew the rules at that time! I took the bus to the closest casino and lost all my life savings…in like 15 minutes! From there, I had a couple of months where I just had huge ups and downs. In the end, I was around $25k in debt, and I just kind of wanted to punish myself I think. I had $2 left in my pocket. I could have just called my family in Finland and told them I was in pretty deep shit, and they would have helped, but instead I wanted to punish myself. I couldn’t afford rent or a hotel room, so I just slept on a park bench for a few nights and in an abandoned house in Sydney for a while, with no water and some drug addicts. In the end, I ran into a guy I had met at the casino before, and I somehow convinced him to loan me $200. I played poker with that and ran it up from there. Eventually, I moved off of that bench!
SMP: What would you have done differently in your career if you could go back?
MA: There are a few things. First, the biggest thing I would change is something that happened in 2011. I was playing an average of $100 buy-in tournaments online, which is high, and I was absolutely crushing it. Back then, the games were also really soft, and I was making a lot of money. But for some reason, I decided I wanted to be a live tournament crusher instead. Winning an insane amount of money online wasn’t enough, because I wanted to chase the glory. It’s not really glorious to be the guy who grinds alone at home in his underwear. I wanted to be the guy in the headlines who’s winning EPTs, etc. I could easily have made $200k a year staying at home, but instead I blew it all playing on the live circuit. Over 3 years, I didn’t make any money, because, well, you know how the variance in live tournaments can be. I was playing $5k EPTs or $10k WSOPs all year long, and I was losing like crazy. I think I dropped like $300k during that time. When I finally realized that it wasn’t going to work, and I had to go back to the online grind, it was 2014, and the games had gotten much tougher. So, basically, I had a few years where I could really have made a ton of money, but instead I chose to chase the glory, and because of that I never ended up getting super rich from poker.
I don’t care about money that much. I’ve never been into poker for the money, if that makes any sense; it was for the competition, but I wish I would have had capitalized more during those years.
SMP: Last question. What words would be the most appropriate to sum up your past 10 years as a player and a gambler?
MA: A roller coaster and turbulence; I definitely had my ups and downs.