PokerStars Returns to Live Poker with EPT Sochi

PokerStars Returns to Live Poker with EPT Sochi

Remember live poker tournaments? Remember the European Poker Tour?

PokerStars hosted an EPT event that wrapped up this weekend in Sochi, and it went well. Casino Sochi implemented precautionary measures. Players and staff were careful. And they finished the live series.

EPT Sochi 2020 was originally on the calendar for March 20-29, 2020. Of course, that little coronavirus pandemic swept the globe in early 2020 and forced PokerStars to cancel the event. The EPT has been on hold – as have been nearly every other live tournament series in the world – since the abrupt stop in March.

Before a second wave of the Covid-19 virus grabbed hold of Europe, PokerStars went for it and offered the EPT Sochi in October. And it was a success.

Changing the Schedule

When PokerStars planned the March EPT Sochi 2020, it offered a RUB175,000 (approximately $2,200) buy-in Main Event with a RUB150,000,000 (approximately $2.35M) guarantee.

Considering players’ hesitation (or inability) to travel and play poker in a live setting, PokerStars rescheduled its EPT Sochi action for October 2-11. And that Main Event kept the same buy-in but removed the guarantee.

In 2020, nothing is guaranteed.

The schedule for the October EPT stop offered a solid lineup of 25 tournaments, both NLHE and PLO. Players had a wide range of buy-ins and structures from which to choose.

EPT National Results

One of the highlighted events of the series was the EPT National, which required a RUB77,000 buy-in and unlimited reentries. There were three starting flights, which resulted in these totals:

–Total entries:  508 entries (included 302 unique players)

–Total prize pool:  RUB34,493,200

–Paid players:  76

Only 76 players remained to start play on Day 2 with Yuriy Brechalov in the lead. Each was guaranteed a payout at that point.

Brechalov was one of 10 players who did make it through to the final day, though he was no longer the leader. Alik Zazyan was atop the leaderboard, followed by Anatolii Zyrin. However, play was volatile, and Zazyan was the first to bust on Day 3, while Zyrin stayed active and took over the lead five-handed. He ultimately faced Almat Idrisov heads-up, Zyrin with pocket tens that beat the 9-8 suited of his opponent.

1st place:  Anatolii Zyrin (Russia) RUB6,686,400

2nd place:  Almat Idrisov (Kazakhstan) RUB4,195,800

3rd place:  Yuriy Brechalov (Russia) RUB3,003,000

EPT High Roller

The EPT Sochi High Roller event brought players with big bankrolls to the tables. The buy-in was RUB371,000, and players were allowed a single reentry. When registration closed, this was the tournament info:

–Total entries:  90 (included 76 unique players)

–Total prize pool:  RUB30,555,000

–Paid players:  13

Day 2 started with 52 players still in action, but registration had not closed at that point. As that second day progressed, the field thinned until the final 13 players were in the money. Play continued until only seven remained with Viktor Kudinov in the lead.

The final table played out with Kudinov losing his lead and being the first to exit. Ultimately, Yakov Fokin and Pavel Kireev made it to heads-up, and the two made a deal for the cash but played on for the remainder of the prize pool and the trophy. Fokin earned it.

1st place:  Yakov Fokin (Russia) RUB7,450,100

2nd place:  Pavel Kireev (Russia) RUB6,300,000

3rd place:  Arseniy Karmatskiy (Russia) RUB3,727,500

EPT Sochi Main Event

The Main Event required RUB175,000 to play, and everyone could reenter one time per flight if they so desired. There were three starting flights, but registration for all remained open until the start of Day 2. When the staff finally tallied the numbers, they were:

–Total entries:  637 (included 428 unique players)

–Total prize pool:  RUB98,722,260

–Paid players:  95

Day 2 pulled in the final reentries and, soon after, saw enough people to bust to get the top 95 into the money for at least RUB291,200. Not long after that, play stopped for the day with 85 players and Denis Kushnerov leading the pack.

The next day’s plan was to get closer to the final table. They did that, as numerous players exited to leave just 24 in the mix. Former EPT champion Mikhail Kovalyuk was that night’s chip leader. Day 4 played to the final table as Kushnerov busting in 12th place and Kovalyuk in tenth.

Gleb Ershov led the all-Russian final table of eight players, but short-stacked Aleksandr Denisov had the most experience in poker tournaments by far and took home a spade trophy in a PLO event earlier in the series. Viktor Tkachenko was second in chips and Ruslan Bogdanov in third.

Final table action was an exciting display of poker. Denisov couldn’t do much with his short stack, but Aristov worked his shortest stack into one that kept him in to four-handed play. Ultimately, Ershov busted after Aristov, and Tkachenko and Bogdanov battled for hours of heads-up play. The two had agreed to a chop, but the title and extra cash was all-too important. Finally, Bogdanov and his pocket sixes held to the J-9 of his opponent, and the tournament ended.

This was the list of final table payouts.

1st place:  Ruslan Bogdanov (Russia) RUB15,984,500

2nd place:  Viktor Tkachenko (Russia) RUB14,490,000

3rd place:  Gleb Ershov (Russia) RUB8,312,500

4th place:  Sergey Aristov (Russia) RUB6,367,900

5th place:  Egor Turubanov (Russia) RUB5,044,900

6th place:  Vladislav Naumov (Russia) RUB3,929,100

7th place:  Nikita Kuznetsov (Russia) RUB2,863,000

8th place:  Aleksandr Denisov (Russia) RUB1,956,500


About Jennifer Newell

Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. Since then, her freelance writing career has taken her from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back to her hometown of St. Louis, where she now lives with her two dogs. She continues to follow the poker world as she also launches a new subscription box company and finishes her first novel. Jennifer has written for numerous publications including and has followed the US poker and gaming market closely for the last 15 years. Follow Jen on Twitter

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