Make it a Double for Oleksii Kovalchuk -- Two-Time WSOP Gold Bracelet Winner
22-Year-Old Ukrainian Wins Mixed-Split Event
Kovalchuk Becomes Ukraine’s First Multiple Gold Bracelet Champion
This is a ridiculous story.
It’s not to be believed.
But it actually happened.
Imagine a scenario where a novice sits down to play in a championship-level poker tournament against many of the world’s top players. He doesn’t even know the rules of the game. He lacks fundamentals. He has virtually no concept of basic strategies.
What would the chances be of this novice not only making it past the first day, but finishing in the top ten percent and cashing? Probably slim to none.
What would the odds be of this novice not only cashing, but making it all the way to the final table – competing against veteran players such as Mark Gregorich and George Danzer, who specialize in this form of poker? Again, the odds are getting slimmer.
Finally, what's the possibility of this first-time player defeating everyone in his path, and ultimately seizing a WSOP gold bracelet?
Your final answer?
You better not wager against a certain Ukrainian. If you’re as naturally talented as Oleksii Kovalchuk, the chances are actually much better than one might think.
This remarkable 22-year-old professional poker player from Kiev, Ukraine burst upon the poker scene exactly one year ago, here at the World Series of Poker, when he won his first gold bracelet. Many first-time winners are flash in the pans – rarely seen or heard from again. But in the case of Kovalchuk, everyone who witnessed his remarkable victory in the $2,500 buy-in Six-Handed No-Limit Hold’em event held last year, knew they were seeing the emergence of a new international poker star.
Proving that $689,000 victory last year was no fluke, Kovalchuk returned to the 2012 WSOP and decided to diversify his focus. This year, Kovalchuk entered new tournaments, which included games he did not necessarily believe he’d mastered, nor even understood. His philosophy was and remains – there’s only one way to learn a new game, and that’s by playing it. Preferably, playing it against the world’s very best.
In the case of Event #42, the student came to class and studied. He observed. Sure, he made some mistakes, especially the first day. But the more he played and the more he contemplated his decisions, the more comfortable he became with the games. By the second and third day, the student had become the teacher. One by one, school was out, until ultimately class was dismissed. The student with the highest grade was Oleksii Kovalchuk. Indeed, he graduated from this tournament with honors.
Kovalchuk collected the hefty sum of $228,014 in prize money. He was also presented with his second career WSOP gold bracelet. With his victory, Kovalchuk becomes the first Ukrainian in WSOP history with multiple titles.
And so, our story ends – well, kind of.
Kovalchuk's story is probably just beginning -- which does not bode well for those who will inevitably face him in the weeks, months, and years to come. The 22-year-old Ukrainian now owns two gold bracelets in only two years of play at the WSOP. None of the prior greats accomplished that before -- not Hellmuth, not Chan, not even Ungar. At this blistering pace, he’s surpassed those legends by the time he’s in his 30s.
While no one can possibly expect Kovalchuk to continue his membership in the "one gold bracelet per year club," one thing’s for sure: To someone with natural card sense and exceptional tournament instincts such as Kovalchuk, cards are pretty much cards, and poker is just poker.
And gold bracelet number two is just as sweet as gold bracelet number one -- if not sweeter.
Oleksii Kovalchuk Wins $2,500 Buy-In Mixed-Split – Seven-Card Stud/Omaha (Event #42)
Oleksii Kovalchuk became the first Ukrainian poker player in history to win two gold bracelets, after he took the top prize tonight in the Mixed-Split event at the 2012 World Series of Poker.
Glazier won the $2,500 buy-in Mixed-Split Seven-Card Stud/Omaha title – which is a combination of two popular high-low forms of poker. This was the 42nd of 61 gold bracelet events on the 2012 WSOP schedule. The three-day competition attracted a highly-competitive field of Mixed-Split specialists. There were 393 players who started with hopes of a gold bracelet victory. But it was a professional poker player from Kiev, Ukraine who ultimately enjoyed her finest poker moment on the Pavilion Stage in a Sunday night celebration at the Rio in Las Vegas.
Kovalchuk’s previous victory took place last year in the $2,500 buy-in Six-Handed No-Limit Hold’em event. He now has seven career cashes and nearly $1 million in WSOP earnings, after a $228,014 payday for this victory.
The runner-up was George Danzer, from Munich, Germany. Mark Gregorich, the longtime Split-games specialist from Las Vegas, took third.
MEET THE LATEST WSOP CHAMPION – OLEKSII KOVALCHUK
The 2012 World Series of Poker $2,500 Mixed-Split Omaha/Seven-Card Stud champion is Oleksii Kovalchuk,
from Kiev, Ukraine.
Kovalchuk is a 22-year-old professional poker player.
Kovalchuk was taught to play poker by his father. He started playing in 2007. He plays about half the time
online, and the other half in live games. Kovalchuk has played in several tournaments in Europe.
When he’s not playing poker, Kovalchuk enjoys tennis, motorsports, and chess.
This is the second year Kovalchuk has attended the WSOP. He has cashed seven times and now owns two gold bracelets.
For his victory, Kovalchuk collected $228,014 for first place.
Kovalchuk is to be classified as a professional poker player (in WSOP records and stats).
Kovalchuk is one of three Ukrainian poker champions in history at the WSOP. The first was Eugene
Katchalov, who won the $1,500 buy-in Seven-Card Stud championship in 2011. Also, Ukrainian Lenny Martin won an event last year, as well.
Kovalchuk is the first two-time gold bracelet winner in history not only from Ukraine, but from Eastern Europe.
ODDS AND ENDS
This was classified as WSOP schedule Event #42, since it’s the 42nd gold bracelet of 61 to be awarded this summer in Las Vegas. The tournament was played over three consecutive days and nights, starting on Friday at noon and concluding on Sunday night.
The total duration of the final table was about nine hours.
The final table included no former gold bracelet winners.
The runner-up was George Danzer, from Munich, Germany. He came close to becoming this year’s second German winner, following Jan-Peter Kachtmann’s victory the previous day in the Pot-Limit Omaha world championship.
Veteran split-games specialist Mark Gregorich, from Las Vegas, finished in third place.
ESPN announcer and longtime television voice of the WSOP Norman Chad finished in sixth place. This was his highest WSOP-related career finish, to date.
The top 40 finishers collected prize money. Among the former gold bracelet winners who cashed were Jeffrey Lisandro (10th), Perry Friedman (11th), Tom Schneider (13th), Allen Bari (20th), Mary Jones (30th), and Scott Seiver (33rd).
Tenth place finisher Jeffrey Lisandro is a five-time gold bracelet winner. He also won the prestigious “WSOP Player of the Year” title in 2009.
Mary Jones (30th place) won the Ladies World Championship in 2007.