From Backgammon Champion to Gold Bracelet Winner

Arkadiy “Kamsky” Tsinis Wins Latest WSOP Title

Ukrainian-Born Game Master Wins $1,500 Buy-In Hold’em Championship

Kamsky Rakes-In $540,136 Pot

Tsinis Chooses National Anthem of Native Country as Protest to U.S. Government Policy against Online


Russian-Born Michael Blanovsky Finishes as Runner Up

Full House at the 2011 WSOP-- Tournament Attendance Running Ahead of Last Year

39 Gold Bracelets Won – 20 More Still to Go


What’s going on over in the Ukraine?  

What is it about this particular Eastern European country that has now created a third gold bracelet champion at this year’s World Series of Poker?

To wit – why not Belarus?  Why not Poland?  Why not Romania?  Why not the Czech Republic?  Why not Slovakia?  Why not Slovenia?  Why not Latvia?  Why not Lithuania?  Why not Estonia?  Why not Bulgaria?  Why not Serbia?  Why not Croatia?  Why not Bosnia?  Why not Albania?  Why not Georgia?  Why not Uzbekistan?  Why not any number of other nations which -- to date -- have not produced a single poker champ amongst them?  Ever. 

What makes a nation of some 65 million – 99.99 percent of whom probably had never played poker until about ten years ago -- suddenly the producer of so much poker talent?

Feel free to discuss.

In the meantime, consider the most recent new development.

Arkadiy “Kamsky” Tsinis became the latest Ukrainian WSOP champion when he won the $1,500 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em championship, held at the Rio in Las Vegas.

Tsinis overcame a huge field size totaling 2,192 players en route to his first gold bracelet victory.  This marks the third WSOP event won this year by a player of Ukrainian origin.  The first was Eugene Katchalov, who won the $1,500 buy-in Seven-Card stud championship.  The second was Oleksii Kovalchuk, winner of the $2,500 Six-Handed No-Limit Hold’em title.  Tsinis makes for the Ukrainian trifecta, with another 19 gold bracelet events still to be played in 2011 (not counting 7 more gold bracelet events coming up at WSOP Europe, in October in Cannes, France).

What’s remarkable about another Ukrainian winning is that prior to this year, no Ukrainian in history had ever won a gold bracelet.  Zero.  Now, suddenly – there are three.  To be quite clear – Tsinis now lives in Las Vegas.  He resided for many years in New York, where he hung out with many fellow expert gamesmen, including Ylon Schwartz who watched the final table from the rail.  But like so many people originally from that region of the world, there seems to be something in the DNA of those from the former Soviet Republics which creates extraordinary talent in all games – most notably chess, backgammon and now poker.

Perhaps just as fitting was the fact that Tsinis’ victory occurred on what could technically have been the busiest gold bracelet day in WSOP history.  For the first time four gold bracelet tournaments were expected to end on the same day.  Two of the events had been scheduled to end the previous day.  But the large field sizes and slow play mandated an additional day of competition.  The previous two winners from the day were from Russia and France – which have each also produced a record number of winners this year.

Like the Ukraine, Russia was also in position to crown its own third WSOP champion in 2011.  The runner up to Tsinis ended up being Michael Blanovsky, who is originally from Vladivostok, Russia.   The heads-up match between the two Eastern Europeans lasted more than three hours and stretched into an unscheduled fourth day of play.

It’s becoming clearly apparent there is a seismic shift going on in the poker world.  While the United States enjoys enormous advantages in terms of overall WSOP numbers due to being the host nation, the fact is – other nations are disproportionally ahead of all the rest in terms of accomplishments.  It’s also now clear that the Ukraine is one of those nations which continues to mature as a poker market.  That’s a scary prospect – unless you happen to be Ukrainian. 

For a comprehensive recap of Event #38 including the official report, please visit the portal page HERE.


The 2011 World Series of Poker $1,500 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em champion is Arkadiy “Kamsky” Tsinis, from Las Vegas, NV.

Tsinis is a 34-year-old self-described game player, poker player and financial analyst.

Tsinis was born in the Ukraine.

Tsinis immigrated to the U.S. with his parents at the age of 16.  His family settled down in New York City.

Tsinis graduated from Baruch College, which is part of the City University of New York (CUNY).  He earned his degree in finance and economics.

Tsinis’ parents were initially not happy with his pursuit of game playing.  His father is an engineer.  His mother is a doctor.  But they have since come to support his career decision and dedication to gaming. 

Prior to playing poker professionally, Tsinis was ranked in the top 40 of the best backgammon players in the world.  He competed in both tournaments and for money.

Tsinis is a master chess player and backgammon player.  He believes both games provided him with an excellent foundation on which to build his poker skills.

This marks the eighth consecutive year Tsinis has attended the WSOP.

Prior to this victory, Tsinis’ best previous WSOP finish was 11th place.

For his victory, Tsinis collected $540,136 for first place. 

Tsinis almost did not play in this tournament.  He was not even registered until three hours after the tournament started.  His best friend Ylon Schwartz talked Tsinis into playing and coming in late.  When Tsinis sat down, he had about 30 big blinds remaining.  His late arrival certainly did not impair Tsinis in any way.

Tsinis was cheered on to victory by several supporters, mostly from New York.  In his entourage was “Falafel,” (a.k.a. Michael Natanzon) who is the top ranked backgammon player in the world.

According to official records, Tsinis now has 1 win, 1 final table appearance and 11 in-the-money finishes at the WSOP.

Tsinis currently has $686,000 in career WSOP winnings.

Tsinis is to be classified as a semi-professional poker player (in WSOP records and stats), since he has been playing poker seriously for some time, but also relies on other sources of income.

Tsinis made a bold political decision following his victory.  When given the choice as to which national anthem to play for his gold bracelet ceremony, Tsinis stated he preferred not to have the American anthem, opting instead to have the Ukrainian anthem played.  Tsinis made things very clear he meant no disrespect toward the US, where he now resides.  But he was adamant that the U.S. government’s stance against online poker made him want to use his influence to shed light on this issue and to make it clear he was not in favor of representing an authority which has been a detriment to many people within the poker community.


On how it feels to win a WSOP gold bracelet:

“It’s an accomplishment.  It’s closure.  How many people over 30 years can say they have won a gold bracelet?”

On deciding to go with the Ukrainian National Anthem at his gold bracelet ceremony, instead of the USA which is where he now resides:

“I am very proud of my country, now that I live here.  But with the state of online poker and the way it is right now – I think at these poker events we should all boycott (the U.S. anthem), not to show disrespect in any way -- but to show the politicians and point that with regards to poker, they should do something about this issue.  Another reason for this decision is because when I first came to the US and people would ask where I am from, more than half of them did not even know where the Ukraine is.  So, I want to put Ukraine back on the map.  We had two other Ukrainian people win (at the WSOP).  So this is a year when we are going to do big things.”

On Ukrainian chess and backgammon culture now turning towards poker:

“There is no money in any of the other sports, besides poker.  That’s why so much talent is coming out not just from Ukraine, but from Russia and the whole of Eastern Europe.  There is no way they can make this kind of money in any kind of job that a normal 21-year-old does.  Now, they start at 18 or even 15, and some of these kids are geniuses.  Poker offers a lot of them opportunities.  They put all their minds and resources together, and now they are winning left and right.”

On how chess and backgammon helped him to become a better poker player:

“Oh, it’s huge.  Chess is not so much a gambling game.  But backgammon is, so just being a gambler gives you a huge advantage over a normal player.”

On how his parents will react to his WSOP victory:

“For me, and for my parents, it’s a major thing.  My parents were not happy about this (playing games) at first.  But they were following me on the computer.  They got to see what was happening back on the East Coast.”

On how poker pro Ylon Schwartz helped him in this tournament:

“Just talking to him constantly and him putting me in the right mind set helped me.  He gave me lots of help with the right strategy.”


The official final table was comprised of the top nine finishers.

The final table contained no former gold bracelet winners.  This was the 11th final table so far this year which has no former WSOP title holders.

Four nations were represented at the final table – France (1 player), Great Britain (1 player), Ukraine (1 players) and the United States (6 players). 

The heads-up match between Arkadiy Tsinis and Michael Blanovsky was a supreme test for both players.  Tsinis enjoyed the chip lead most of the way.  In fact, he had a 7 to 1 chip advantage when play was suspended and players were forced to return for a fourth day.  But Blanovsky fought back and not only took the chip lead, he had a 2 to 1 advantage at one point.  Tsinis was all in for his tournament life at one point, with pocket sevens versus two overcards.  He survived, doubled-up and went on to win the tournament.

The runner up was Michael Blanovsky, from Staten Island, NY.  This was his second time to cash at the WSOP.  He has mostly played in cash games up to this point in his poker career.  Blanovsky is originally from Russia.  He immigrated to Israel before finally making the US his home.

The third-place finisher was Randolph Lanosga, Jr. from Colorado Springs, CO.  He is a 56-year-old realtor.  This was Lanosga’s best WSOP finish, to date.

The fourth-place finisher was Pietermichae DeGoede, from Reims, France.  He came close to becoming the fourth French WSOP champion this year.

The fifth-place finisher was Paul Nash, from Kingsbury Tamworth, UK.  He is a 38-year-old online poker pro.  This is the second time Nash has attended the WSOP and was his first time to cash.

The sixth-place finisher was Perry Lin, from Hoboken, NJ.  He is a manager of medical devices and a recreational poker player.  He holds a degree from Washington University of St. Louis. 

The seventh-place finisher was David Rounick, from Harberth, PA.  He is a 36-year-old investor.

The eighth-place finisher was Ryan LaPlante, from Brainerd, MN.  He is a 21-year-old poker pro who plays under the name “Protential.” 

The ninth-place finisher was Christopher Homan, from Augusta, GA.  He is a 24-year-old medical student in Georgia.  Homan is a graduate of Auburn University.   

Final table play began at 8:30 pm on a Friday.  Played concluded about eight hours later (playing time wise) at 4:30 pm, on Saturday afternoon.  The final table was stopped at 3:30 am on Friday due to the late hour, and continued the next day with the heads-up finale.

When final table play began, Perry Lin had the chip lead, with Michael Blanovsky in second place.  The remaining players were all down by greater than a 2 to 1 margin.

The final table was played on ESPN’s main stage.  The new final table set this year is getting raves in terms of design and appearance.  No stage in the history of poker has ever looked as spectacular.  Viewers will be able to see ESPN’s coverage again once the WSOP Main Event begins in July.

Action was streamed live over  Viewers can tune in and watch most of this year’s final tables.  Although hole cards are not shown, viewers can follow an overhead camera as well as a pan-shot of the table.  The floor announcer provides an official account of the action. 


The top 216 finishers collected prize money.

Among the former gold bracelet winners who cashed in this tournament were the following:  Robert Cheong (12th), Jordan Smith (54th) and Kenny Tran (55th).

Tournament results are to be included in all official WSOP records.  Results are also to be included in the 2011 WSOP “Player of the Year” race.

“WSOP Player of the Year” standings can be found at HERE.


This tournament attracted 2,192 entries. 

This is the 930th gold bracelet awarded in World Series of Poker history.  This figure includes every official WSOP event ever played, including tournaments during the early years when there were no actual gold bracelets awarded.  It also includes the 16 gold bracelets awarded to date at WSOP Europe (2007-2010).  Moreover for the first time ever, one gold bracelet was awarded for this year’s winner of the WSOP Circuit National Championship.

The official WSOP gold bracelet ceremony takes place on the day following the winner’s victory (or some hours later when the tournament ends very late).  The ceremony takes place inside The Pavilion, which is the expansive main tournament room hosting all noon starts this year.  The ceremony begins at the conclusion of the first break of the noon tournament.  The ceremony usually starts around 2:20 pm.  The national anthem of the winner’s nation is played.  The entire presentation is open to the public and media.  Video and photography is permitted by both the public and members of the media.

Tsinis’ gold bracelet ceremony is set to take place on Sunday, June 26th.  The national anthem of the Ukraine will be played in honor of his victory.  This marks the third time this year that the Ukrainian anthem will be played. 


The tournament was scheduled to be played over three consecutive days/nights – which ran into a fourth day due to the late finish.

Day One began with 2,192 entries and ended with 298 survivors. 

Day Two began with 298 players and ended with 23 survivors.

Day Three began with 23 players, which played down to the final two.

Day Four began with 2 players and played down to a winner.

The tournament officially began on Wednesday, June 22nd at noon.  The tournament officially ended early Saturday afternoon, June 25th at 4:30 pm.


Through the conclusion of Event #38 the 2011 WSOP has attracted 49,271 combined total entries.  $78,510,210 in prize money has been awarded to winners. 

Through the conclusion of this tournament, the breakdown of nationality of gold bracelet winners has been:

United States (24)

Canada (4)

Great Britain (3)

France (3)

Ukraine (3)

Russia (2)

Through the conclusion of this tournament, the national origin (birthplace) of winners has been:

United States (20)

Canada (4)

Great Britain (3)

France (3)

Ukraine (3)

Russia (2)

Israel (1)

Honduras (1)

Indonesia (1)

Germany (1)

Through the conclusion of this tournament, the home-states of (American) winners have been:

California (5)

Nevada (3)

New York (3)

Texas (2)

Illinois (2)

Florida (2)

New Jersey (1)

Tennessee (1)

Connecticut (1)

Indiana (1)

Maryland (1)

Virginia (1)

Michigan (1)

Through the conclusion of this tournament, the breakdown of professional poker players to semi-pros and amateurs who won gold bracelets has been:

Professional Players (30):  Jake Cody, Cheech Barbaro, Eugene Katchalov, Allen Bari, Harrison Wilder, Matt Perrins, Sean Getzwiller, Viacheslav Zhukov, David Diaz, Andrew Badecker, Tyler Bonkowski, Brian Rast, John Juanda, Aaron Steury, Darren Woods, Jason Somerville, Bertrand Grospellier, John Monnette, Elie Payon, Mark Radoja, Chris Viox, Dan Idema, Andy Frankenberger, Chris Lee, Sam Stein, Mark Schmid, Jason Mercier, Mikhail Lakhitov, Fabrice Soulier and Mitch Schock.

Semi-Pros (5):  Sean R. Drake, Amir Lehavot, Oleksii Kovalchuk, Eric Rosawig, Arkadiy Tsinis

Amateurs (4):  Geffrey Klein, Foster Hays, James Hess, Kirk Caldwell

Since tracking first started in 2005, this year’s WSOP has the greatest disparity of professionals winning over semi-pros and amateurs than any year recorded, so far – with 35 out of 39 events being won by pros or semi-pros.

Through the conclusion of this tournament, the victories of 8 of the 39 winners (21 percent) marked the first time the new champion had ever cashed at the WSOP.

Every WSOP held over the past 11 years has included at least one multiple gold bracelet champion (meaning two or more wins within the same year).  The last year the WSOP was comprised exclusively of single-event winners was back in 1999.  The record for most multiple gold bracelet winners within a single year was in 2009, when five players managed to win two or more titles.  So far, no player has yet won two gold bracelets (this year).

The streak of consecutive male WSOP gold bracelet winners has now reached 197 consecutive events.  Aside from the annual Ladies Poker Championship, the last female player to win a WSOP tournament open to both sexes was Vanessa Selbst, in 2008.  The longest “cold” streak for female players occurred between years 1982 and 1996, when 221 consecutive open events passed without a female champion.

The highest finish by any female (open events) at this year’s WSOP was accomplished by two players.  Maria Ho finished second ($5,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em).  Kim Nguyen, who also finished as runner up ($1,500 buy-in Six-Handed Limit Hold’em).

The highest finish by any defending champion at this year’s WSOP was by David Baker, who finished in sixth place after winning the previous $10,000 buy-in No-Limit Deuce-to-Seven Draw Lowball World Championship.

New tournament records set at the 2011 WSOP (to date):

Biggest Heads-Up tournament prize pool in history ($3,040,000) – Event #2

Largest live Omaha High-Low Split Tournament in history (925 entries) – Event #3

Largest live Six-Handed tournament in poker history (1,920 entries) – Event #10

Biggest Deuce-to-Seven tournament prize pool in history ($1,184,400) – Event #16

Largest live $1,500 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament in history with single day start (3157 entries) – Event #18

Largest live $1,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament in history with single day start (3175 entries) – Event #20

Largest consecutive-days starting field sizes in poker history (combined 6,332 entries) – Event #18 and Event #20

Largest live Pot-Limit Omaha tournament in poker history (1,071 entries) – Event #22

Largest Mixed-Game (Eight-Game Mix) in poker history (489 entries) – Event #23

Largest Seniors tournament in poker history (3,752 entries) – Event #30

Biggest Seniors No-Limit Hold’em championship prize pool in history ($3,376,800) – Event #30

Largest single-day live tournament start in poker history (3,752 entries) – Event #30

Largest consecutive-days starting field sizes in poker history (combined 6,580 entries) – Event #30/Event #32 (broke Event #18/Event #20 record from earlier in 2011 WSOP)

Largest four-consecutive days field sizes in poker history (2,500+3,752+2,828+3,144 =12,224 entries) -- Events 28, 30, 32, 34, June 16-19, 2011

New player records set at the 2011 WSOP (to date):

The 35-year span between Artie Cobb’s first cash in this event (1976) and most recent cash in the same event (2011) represents the longest time span in WSOP history.  He accomplished this in Seven-Card Stud High-Low Split (Event #25).

Phil Hellmuth added to his record as the individual all-time leader in cashes (81) and final table appearances (42).