Riding in Kyrgyzstan, Diving in Mexico, and Getting $2 Million in Online Scores

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If you like traveling, then you’ll love the life of Miikka Chuck BassAnttonen (pictured), a longtime PocketFiver who eclipsed $2 million in online poker scores over the weekend. He has played poker on five continents, been to almost 70 countries, and has a life that many would be envious of.

PocketFives: Congrats on getting your $2 million cash badge on PocketFives. How are you feeling about it?

Miikka Anttonen: Thanks! To be honest, I have very limited feelings toward it. If it meant I actually had $2 million in my bank account, I’m sure I’d be more ecstatic, but the sad truth is that I haven’t been very smart with my money management in recent years. The $2 million is misleading when it comes to my actual winnings.

I’m coming off a backing agreement where I didn’t get to cash out for two-and-a-half years and started on my own extremely short on cash a few months ago after eventually getting dropped. I deposited $700 in early August and, three months later, I’m up $20,000 entirely on my own; that $20,000 is currently making me a lot happier than the $2 million badge. In all honesty, I probably broke even online between the $1 million and $2 million badges, whereas now I haven’t had two consecutive losing days nor a losing week since the summer.

PocketFives: You had 10 tracked MTT wins in October. Talk about how the month went in general for you.

Miikka Anttonen: I created new screen names for myself almost everywhere when I started playing on my own and chose not to put them up on PocketFives. I briefly considered deleting all of my screen names from my profile, but I was so close to that $2 million badge that I decided to keep the names up for sites like PokerStars where you can’t change them.

So, I’ve actually had 48 outright wins in the last three months, most of them incognito, and I’m liking anonymity more and more every day. It’s incredibly relieving not to have the pressure of being a “known” player when you go deep in something. The downside is that my PocketFives rankings are plummeting.

PocketFives: How important was that Sunday Second Chance win in 2011 for your poker career? How did that change what you were playing?

Miikka Anttonen: I had a great 2011 in general. I won the biggest annual live tournament in my home country for a bit over $100,000, had a six-figure year online, won the World Championship of Indian Poker, and ended the year as the #1 ranked player in Finland for the first time on PocketFives. I remember being so proud of holding the top spot on PocketFives above all my countrymen.

That Second Chance win was definitely huge because I had never done well in any PokerStars majors before and it allowed me to move up in stakes. That final table went like a dream. I busted virtually everybody in a very short time and ended up owning someone heads-up pretty hard.

I still remember the key hand: we were about 50 big blinds deep and I went for a bet, bet, overbet line for value with Q-10 on a Q-X-X-A-X board and got him to call with worse. I felt so good afterward; it was eight in the morning in Finland and my girlfriend was just waking up. It was pretty cool to go upstairs and let her know I had a pretty decent Sunday.

PocketFives: How did you get started in poker? Why was the game interesting to you?

Miikka Anttonen: I started from $5 SNGs in early 2008 and reverted to heads-up cash, playing up to $2/$4 regularly and taking shots up to $10/$20. I played mostly on Euro sites where the games were really soft back then, so even if those sound like large games, the biggest I beat equivalent to today’s games skill level-wise would have been around $0.50/$1.

I started playing MTTs full-time in early 2010 and still love it. It’s definitely the gambling that originally got me into poker. I’m not a numbers guy and don’t care about the mathematical side of it. I was 20 when I started and I’m turning 28 next month. Sometimes I wonder where all the time went, but it has been a pretty amazing adulthood playing poker and not having to have a real job.

I’ve been to 64 countries, played poker on five continents, and have been lucky enough to get the chance to do all kinds of crazy stuff in my time. Last fall, I spent a couple of weeks in the rural mountains of Kyrgyzstan learning to ride horses from scratch (pictured). The year before, I took up diving in Mexico and, next January, I’m heading to Nicaragua for a month where I plan to learn kite-surfing. I’ve lived a year in Mexico, another in Australia, half-a-year in Thailand, and have a ton of friends around the world, many of them from poker.

In my career, I’ve always put experiences and traveling above all else, which I think is a big reason I have way less money to my name than I should and why I’ve never managed to consistently beat the highest stakes, but life is short and I’ve always wanted to make sure I’ll have lots of fun stories to tell my grandchildren. If I had to quit poker right now and get a job, I’d still consider myself very lucky when it comes to the last seven years.

PocketFives: What else do you do away from poker?

Miikka Anttonen: Apart from traveling, I do a lot of sports. I love the gym and do climbing and bouldering semi-seriously. I have a girlfriend and try to have some sort of social life, which is often hard with games running in the middle of the night in my time zone, so I only play five days a week. I’m also a keen writer and have my first book coming out very soon. It’s an autobiography of these years and has created a lot of interest in the poker forum, so let’s hope it becomes successful.

PocketFives: Do you still play cash games and live tournaments? How have those been going?

Miikka Anttonen: Lately, I’ve taken up cash games for educational purposes: Eight-Game and PLO mostly. I try to get a little better at all of the games and really enjoy the challenge they provide. I just took third in the Finnish Online Poker Championships of Eight-Game and it’s nice to be able to play other games during WCOOPs, SCOOPs, the WSOP, and so on. I still consider NLHE MTTs the only game where I’m a favorite to win, though, but hopefully that will change in the future.

I love live poker. Between 2009 and 2011, I cashed in 40% of tournaments I entered and racked up roughly $250,000 worth of winnings with a $100,000 investment. In the last three years, I’ve bought in for $250,000 and cashed for $5,000. Live poker has been one expensive hobby, but there’s no feeling like being deep in a live tournament, in my opinion, so I guess I’ll keep on donating.

PocketFives: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Miikka Anttonen: I’ve been a CardRunners coach for three years now and it’s something I still really enjoy. Among my biggest weaknesses is a lack of consistency; for some reason, I don’t seem to be able to play my A-game very often at all. But, I’m pretty good at analyzing hands outside the tables and the things I’m good at in poker are the ones that don’t come naturally for most MTTers, so I really feel like I have a lot to give in the form of video-making.

I have a new video coming soon talking about off-the-felt stuff and mistakes to avoid in the crazy poker life we all lead because a large portion of my career has been full of don’t-try-this-at-home stuff, especially money management-wise. That should be an interesting one.

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