Foreign interest in Russia's biggest ever tournament
Twenty-seven-year-old poker professional Peter Vlasenko was crowned Russia’s Poker Tsar after he won $84,000 in the inaugural PartyPoker.com St. Petersburg Open in Russia in late May. The event at the Golden Garden Casino boasted the biggest prize pool in Russian poker history with over $500,000 up for grabs over four days.
Vlasenko, who plays online under the name Peter_Russ, was promoted to Peter the Great as he swept aside the challenges from hard-nosed pros from around the world. “I normally only play high-stakes limit games online and this was my first tournament of this kind,” said the 27 year old. “This is the biggest win I have had in a single day by far.”
Vlasenko is encouraged by the rise of Russians in the poker world, something that also impresses veteran pro and World Series of Poker bracelet holder Mel Judah, who was in attendance. He has played a lot in Russia and insists that in the future they could take the game by storm. “Poker has come on leaps and bounds,” he says. “I can see the Russian players becoming a real threat in the future just like how Scandinavians are now.”
There were plenty of foreign competitors in the tournament but the final table featured five Russians and British semi-professional David Rudling, a 39-year-old IT consultant from Essex, England. Rudling has been on the scene for a while and won £50,000 (about $95,000) last year in London’s famous poker den in Leyton. Of 35 players who qualified online for the tournament through PartyPoker.com, the top finisher was Tom Strathoff, 26, from The Hague in The Netherlands and Thomas Greaux, a 24-year-old internet hotshot from Little Ferry, NJ. Of the 35 online qualifiers, 14 qualified for absolutely nothing through freerolls.
Most of those who flew to St. Petersburg all discussed the same issue. As Jon Pallis, an internet qualifier also from The Hague put it, “A lot of the Russians played very aggressively but sometimes you just think that because they look like mean dudes around the table and you can’t understand what they are saying.”
PartyPoker.com spokesman Warren Lush said: “We’re delighted to be involved with an event that boasted the biggest prize in Russian poker history and congratulate Peter on his win. For the first time in a long time none of the internet qualifiers made the final table. This alone suggests that Russia could be a poker superpower in the future.”