Persson vs Antonius: Analyzing the biggest pot in U.S. TV poker history

Persson vs Antonius
Terrance Reid
Posted on: February 25, 2023 09:48 PST

Memorable pots and streamed poker go together like Hellmuth and rants. Brad Booth sliding in stacks of banded bills against Phil Ivey. Tom Dwan all in with nine high and eyes drying out against the same Ivey who considered a hero call with fourth pair. Gus Hansen making quads against the full house of Daniel Negreanu and getting paid. Like all great moments of sports history, they conjure specific feelings and images in our minds.

The recent hand between Eric Persson and Patrik Antonius is now on that list of all-time great poker hands. Yes, streamed by PokerGO, it broke the record for the biggest pot in U.S. televised poker history, and that alone should solidify its spot in our collective appreciation. But, there's even more that adds to what will be its long-lasting appeal.

Hand analysis: draw versus draw for it all

If you've been in hiding, a la Chris Ferguson in the 2010s, and haven't seen the hand, let's break down the hand history together.

Playing $1,000/$2,000 blinds with a $2,000 ante, Eric Persson opened his Qh9h to $7,000 from the hijack. On the button, Rob Yong made the call with Ac2c. Patrik Antonius woke up with AhKh in the small blind. Holding dominating hearts, he three-bet to $30,000. Out of position against sticky players with a call in between, his sizing was a little small. But, something tells me he was fine getting called here with his monster, something to keep in mind.

"You know you're out of position, right?" asked Persson before quickly calling. Yong also called on the button. "I almost folded," added Persson. "So did Rob."

The action flop showed up 3h3c8h, giving both Persson and Antonius flush draws. Antonius continued for $40,000. Before he could even get the chips in the middle, you could hear Persson say, "One-forty." A snap-raise to $140,000 meant Persson planned on playing his draw aggressively, and this pot was about to get huge. Yong folded quickly.

Back on Antonius, he was in an interesting position. After three-betting from the small blind, he has more overpairs than Persson does. But Persson, the original opener who isn't afraid to play a wide range of hands, has more strong hands on this board. He could have trips or a full house much easier than Antonius could. With that in mind, he gave himself the green light to put the pressure on Antonius. The Finn had a hand he decided he couldn't fold, though, and he continued with one of the most interesting decisions of the hand. He three-bet the flop to $250,000. "Let's go," said Persson, who called quickly, ready to gamble with his two overs and flush draw for that price.

Before the turn hits, let's take a moment and think about the range of hands Antonius might do this with, it'll be important on the next street. For our analysis, three-betting both preflop and postflop, I'll give Antonius JJ, QQ, KK, AA, AhKh, AhQh, AhJh, Ah10h, Ah5h, and Ah4h. He may prefer pocket pairs without hearts to make it more likely Persson has a flush draw, but we'll give him 100% of those hands here. That is a total of 30 exact hands. Alright, with that in mind, to the turn with nearly $600,000 in the pot.

The turn brought the As, locking up the hand for Antonius. With about a 1.16:1 stack-to-pot ratio, Antonius led small for $150,000. Thinking about this card for his range, 18 of his 30 hands hate this card. If you're Antonius with pocket jacks, queens, or kings, this ace is one of the worst cards in the deck; Persson knows this. So, after about 10 seconds, he fearlessly moved all in for $692,000 effective. Unfortunately for him, Antonius had one of the other 12 hands. Still, if Persson had trips or a full house, Antonius is still behind.

"What do you have?" asked Antonius out loud.

"I have six hundred, seven hundred thousand," quipped back Persson.

Antonius decided he had too much hand to ever fold here. After 20 seconds, he made the call.

"I'm on a draw," said Persson. "Heart draw." But, then he saw Antonius has the same draw with a made hand.

"I'm dead," he said. Indeed, he ran into it this time. The biggest pot in U.S. televised poker history, a pot worth $1,978,000, would see one player go to the river drawing dead.

It's easy to read the quick notes about this hand and call it a punt. But, imagine if Antonius had kings and folded here. What would we saying if Antonius somehow had KhJh and Persson's timely aggression had taken the pot down? We tell ourselves all the time not to be results-oriented in our games, and yet the poker world tends to do it when we watch others play stakes we could never dream of. Regardless, this time, it was Antonius taking nearly a million dollars from his opponent across the table, and Persson was left with nearly no chips in one of the biggest games we've ever had the privilege to watch.

Watch for yourself below, break it down for yourself, and enjoy.

Baseless claims

The hand immediately drew the attention of the poker community. Two of the biggest names in poker, playing the largest pot many of us have ever seen, went viral immediately. Anytime we see a million dollars change hands, some people can't fathom that kind of number.

Like Persson likes to say, "Welcome to the big leagues, kid."

So, some people, who I won't give attention to here, doubted the authenticity of the hand based on "energy" at the table and other conspiracy theory-like claims.

Listen, the number of people that would have to risk their jobs and their reputations to fake this is not a small one. I have no reason to doubt that the product PokerGO gave us is exactly as it was advertised. Saying otherwise without proof is irresponsible and damaging to our community. And if you question the hand simply based on the large dollar number, trust me that hands like this play out in private, untelevised games all the time.

I believe we saw two players play a beautiful hand of poker at the highest of stakes which resulted in a hand that will join ranks of the unforgettable ones for years and decades to come.

And based on his Tweet shortly after the hand went down, Persson will be just fine.