The first time Antonius played in the WSOP Main Event he was 22 years old, and someone by the name of Chris Moneymaker changed the landscape of the game for good. The Finnish youngster could’ve never foreseen what was about to unfold, as he benefitted enormously from the growth of the game’s popularity through winning big in the cash games and growing his personal brand to superstar levels.

This week, after a six-year hiatus from the largest tournament in the world, Patrik Antonius is making a serious run in the Main Event.

“This event is really special, it’s really fun and I’ve been very stupid not playing this event for six years,” Patrik Antonius smiled after bagging up a big stack worth nearly 300,000 after Day 2C.

“Patrik, Patrik, just a quick photo?” an eager fan asked as Antonius at the end of Day 2C of the 2018 WSOP Main Event.

Antonius smiled and obliged, casually gathering his belonging, and taking his time with the group of nearly 15 fans that had waited patiently for him on the rail.

Due to his long absence from the big tournaments, it’s easy to forget that Patrik Antonius is one of the biggest celebrities in poker. Along with the likes of Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey, and Gus Hansen, the tall Finn draws a big crowd on the rail wherever he plays, but his fans and followers are seeing a far different player these days compared to the era in which he built up his name and reputation.

With a persistent eye for every detail of the game, dashing good looks and unrealistic good posture, Antonius was always known and assumed to be, a cold-blooded killer at the table with little interest in the social aspects of both the game and life.

Patrik Antonius is all smiles on Day 3 of the WSOP Main Event, chatting and socializing with the players at his table.

But those were just assumptions based off appearances on the biggest televised cash games and highly competitive tournament final tables. Warranted assumptions, as his private lifestyle and choosing cash games away from the spotlights over tournaments for many years, didn’t give the public much access to the Finn.

The 2018 version of Patrik Antonius is about much more than his former perceived persona, as since returning to the spotlight he’s shown his deep passion for the game through Instagram, and voiced his opinions on how to grow the game and increase its popularity.

“I think I’ve been looking at it from a bad perspective these last couple of years,” Antonius reflects on choosing Bobby’s Room over the Amazon Room, “Because what could be more fun than making the final table in this event and playing for big money in the end?”

The Finn is quick to admit that his recent success in tournaments, most notably finishing second in the Super High Roller Bowl China event for $3.3 million, adds to a reignited love for this format, but that it’s also just a nice change of pace from his usual cash game grind.

Sitting on a big stack, more than 15 years of experience at the highest level, an intimidation factor that only a select few in poker can benefit from, and a natural talent for the game, it almost seems unfair that even Antonius dreams of winning this tournament.

“It would be a dream to make the final table, and even just making the final table in this event would be like winning any other big event.”

While there’s still a long road to be traveled before hoisting the most coveted prize in all of poker, it’s not unrealistic to think that even a dream this big can become reality for Patrik Antonius.

Watch the WSOP Main Event live on PokerGO and ESPN daily until a winner is crowned on July 15. Subscribe right now to PokerGO and enjoy more than 100 days of live poker every year, on top of an extensive on-demand library that includes every episode of Poker After Dark featuring Patrik Antonius. Want more Patrik Antonius content, listen now to the part 1 and part 2 of the Heads Up with Remko Podcast. 

Patrik Antonius, 2018 WSOP Main Event