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The Russian Poker Phenomenon


Poker has exploded in the past five years, not just in the United States, but all over the world. The World Series of Poker is truly a world series now. The WSOP even has a European championship to reflect poker’s international presence.

Even the World Poker Tour is getting into the act, with its highly successful European Poker Tour. One of the groups to emerge in this global poker growth is the wave of Russian players joining the ranks of poker professionals.

Russian Poker Past

It all started with Ralph Perry. While he wasn’t the first Russian ever to play poker, he was the first to make the final table of the World Series of Poker main event.

In 2002, Perry, born Rafael Perivoskin, had been a professional for ten years and cashed in numerous poker tournaments when he found himself facing American Robert Varkonyi and Brit Julian Gardner for the world championship title.

Unfortunately this is as far as he would go, as Varkonyi eventually went all the way (much to the shock and dismay of commentator Phil Hellmuth, who announced that he would let Varkonyi shave his head if he won the event). Perry would take home over half a million dollars and plenty of poker credibility, but he was one year too early.

The following year, hole card cameras were introduced for the first time. That year’s final three, Chris Moneymaker, Sam Farha and Dan Harrington, became famous household names throughout the poker world.

Russian Poker Present

It would be up to another player to fire up the imagination of Russian poker players, and that player’s name was Alexander Kravchenko. Kravchenko, a professional from Moscow, had already cashed in multiple WPT and WSOP events and even collected a WSOP bracelet in 2007, as the pot limit hold’em champion.

However, the main event that year really put Kravchenko on the map. Joining an international final six that included Canadian Tuan Lam, South African Raymond Rahme and Englishman Jonathan Kalmar, Kravchenko used his skills to earn a fourth place finish and nearly two million dollars.

Russian Poker Future

This year, Ivan Demidov has picked up the torch. The 27-year-old Demidov made the final table of the main event in 2008 and finished 3rd in the WSOP Europe championship as well. Demidov’s performance will no doubt lead the way for a torrent of Russian poker stars to follow.

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