Rui Cao vs. Patrik Antonius - $1 million Challenge Intro and Part 1 Analysis

Rui Cao will be looking for revenge in this $1 million freeze-out he proposed.
Patrik "FinddaGrind" Antonius will be hoping to show that the victory in May 2011 was not due to variance and that he is the better player of the two.

We announced on 31 January that Rui Cao and Patrik "FinddaGrind" Antonius were going to battle the following week for a cool $1 million. It was initially suggested that they'd start on Tuesday 5 February, but from the involved players chat yesterday it turns out that this did not happen. As a result, all of the games between the two during the past week-and-a-half were not part of the challenge as many, including HSDB, first thought.

However, it is now official that the challenge is underway and we explain the full details of it along with analysis and results from the first part, 2-7 triple draw, played yesterday.

Challenge Background

It is widely known that the two players have a resentful history with one another; one can say that Rui Cao has certainly been the more vocal of the two in the past. The two pros have played each other a lot online but what really stood out was when in May 2011, Antonius beat Cao for $800,000 in a single session of $500/$1,000 HU PLO. Cao then stated that although he lost such a staggering amount he still thought that he "clearly has an edge over [Patrik] in the long term" and that variance was the cause to blame. In fact, it was just 8 buy-ins that he lost, which isn't much at all in a HU PLO match, especially between two aggressive opponents.

Cao also berated Antonius when he said in his blog that the Finn was banned from the Macau big game "because he played too tight and started too many prop bets". Antonius then spoke out saying that the Frenchman couldn't accept defeat and the huge loss of their session. One thing for sure is that both players are fearless at the tables.

It now seems that Cao is looking for revenge as he offered Antonius the chance to play a challenge against him on 31 January. He wanted to play a $1 million freeze-out of a combination of three games: NLHE, PLO and 2-7 triple draw. The arrangements of the deal were done in just several minutes between the players through the conversation feature in Full Tilt. While most people are writing garbage in the chat-box, these two agreed a $1 million deal. They confirmed the arrangements of the deal before they started the challenge yesterday morning:

$200/$400 NLHE (2 tables) - First player to profit $350k

$200/$400 PLO (2 tables) - First player to profit $350k 

$1,500/$3,000 2-7 triple draw (1 table) - First player to profit $300k

As Antonius wanted to move the NLHE and PLO stakes up to $300/$600 but Cao declining the offer saying that he "don't want it to be flipping". He said that he "will be here to play everyday [and] if we put enough hours its gonna be enough time". They agreed that they will move up to $300/$600 if they are still playing the first game after three days.

Furthermore, if neither of them win the full $1 million from the other player, and the result is 2-1 in terms of the games, then the losing player will have to transfer $300k to winner (to keep it as close to a $1 million challenge as possible). They even made sure all the 'fine print' was arranged when they agreed "gentlemen rules if someone gets disconnected you need to wait as long as you can to bet".

The challenge started with NLHE yesterday (Feb 16) before moving to 2-7 triple draw as Antonius didn't like playing NLHE for long period of time. The players actually completed the 2-7 triple draw phase of the challenge and you can read further information about that match below. We will keep you updated at HighstakesDB on all of the action in this challenge.

Part 1 Analysis: 2-7 triple draw

After a short, less than one hour session of NLHEPatrik Antonius said that he couldn't continue playing that game for much longer because he doesn't like playing HUNL for long periods of time. (He was up $19.5k in the NLHE match). As a result, the two players agreed to change the game type to 2-7 triple draw, playing just one table. After just two sessions of play which lasted for a total of approximately six hours, we saw one of the players win $300,000 from their opponent. This means that one of the three formats of the challenge has already been completed, and we analyse the details of this match.

Cao has been playing much more 2-7 triple draw over the past couple of months on Full Tilt in comparison to Antonius who has been focusing on the mixed games. Cao is also friends with two of the best 2-7 triple draw players in the world, Sebastian "Seb86" Sabic and Alex "Alexonmoon" Luneau. In their most recent encounter against each other on 6 February, it would seem that Cao would be the favourite going into the match as he won $330k from Antonius in what we initially thought was the first part of the challenge (but later realised it was more of a warm-up match).

Rui Cao sat at the Cavern Cove table on Full Tilt at 10:30am (CET) yesterday waiting for Antonius (who now plays under the screen name FinddaGrind which is what he played as prior to being a member of Team Full Tilt) to join him as Cao decided to play 2-7 triple draw after his opponent no longer wanted to play HUNL. After a 10-15 minute break between the games, the action got underway with both players sitting with $100k each.

Antonius was able to win the first few big pots of the match and win the pot sizes in this game being on average around $15k, and some of them reaching as high as $30k or $35k, the swings can be in the six figures within a short period of time. Antonius took the lead from the beginning and was basically running over Cao, hitting his draws when needed, and getting the better side of the set-ups as such. This did not stop Cao playing his aggressive style, still trying to bluff in the spots he thought were profitable but unfortunately for him, Antonius seemed to 'nearly always' have the goods.

It was looking very bleak for the French pro, as he was down approximately $150k in just about c.45 minutes of play. This illustrates the swings in 2-7 triple draw and why many pros say that in terms of bankroll management, one needs around 1500 BB (Big Bets) for a heads-up match. Barry Greenstein has said in a recent interview that this game has so much variance that most people don't understand just how swingy this game really is.

Cao was reloading a lot and after winning a couple of 'big' hands, he went on a little heater, managing to win back over $80k in half an hour. Antonius was able to win back a small amount, c.$20k in the next fifteen minutes or so, but Cao continued with his upswing and by the end of the session, which lasted just under two hours, he was up $37,450 from the 2-7 triple draw match. The players rounded it up to $37,500 for their score-keeping.

Antonius, who had mentioned earlier in the day, that he wanted to play the mixed games as well which having been running on an almost daily basis on Full Tilt, joined the $1k/$2k table whilst Cao decided to take a break from the action. Antonius in fact carried on the downswing into the mixed games and during his three hours of play there, he lost about $95k.

The two players re-joined the same table three hours after they finished their first session there. It would seem that Cao was the one going into this session with more confidence after winning over $185k in the final hour of play in the previous session. The session started quite even at the beginning with the pots going back-and-forth between the players but after about 45 minutes of play, Cao managed to win a couple of big pots and take his lead to about $60k for the session, putting him at around $100k profit so far in the match.

Antonius stole the show for the next hour of play as he managed to win most of the big pots and was putting lots of pressure on Cao. He won c.$120k during that period of play, and although Cao fought back for a bit after that by winning nearly $50k. Antonius clawed that back from the French pro in the next fifteen minutes but Cao was not going to give up, and won another $50k straight afterwards.

Antonius seemed to be determine to not let his opponent get into another upswing like he did in the previous session. Obviously, accompanied by getting the right cards and hitting his draws, he won most of the pots, especially all of the big ones. In less than an hour, he managed to win $150k, totally running over Cao who could not respond, perhaps getting on the wrong side of the variance.

It seemed like Antonius had reached the end of his heater as Cao started to hit his draws, but unfortunately for him Antonius was hitting slightly better ones. It took the Finnish pro approximately an hour to win $50k from the Frenchman, but after that, in less than fifteen minutes and just a few hands of play, Antonius was able to win a further $100k from Cao, and ultimately win the $300k required to win the freeze-out match (and first part of the challenge).

$1,500/$3,000 2-7 triple draw: Patrik Antonius +$300k (finished)

$200/$400 NLHE: Patrik Antonius +$19.5k (still to be continued)

$200/$400 PLO: still to be played

We expect the two online phenoms to continue with their challenge today, most likely carrying on with their HUNL session. You can read up-to-date information about the challenge in this rail thread in our forum, and we will as ever keep you updated with the results on HighstakesDB. The live results section of the site can be accessed here.  

Update: Shortly after the publication of this article the challenge resumed with the PLO portion of the match. More updates will follow once play finishes - keep track on the current standings via the live results.


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