Vladimir Shchmelev knows what it's like to get close to victory, only to see his dream perish.That's happened seven times previously at the WSOP, which were occasions when Shchmelev made it all the way to a final table of a gold bracelet event, ultimately ending with a feeling that the mission wasn't quite finished.However, on the night of June 27th, Shchmelev erased those demons of disappointment from years past, prevailing in the $3,000 buy-in Pot-Limit Omaha High-Low Split tournament.Shchmelev topped a field of 435 players, winning his first gold bracelet following 15 previous cashes. First place paid $279,094 in prize money.Shchmelev came closest to a win back in 2010, when he finished second in the $50,000 buy-in Poker Players Championship, one of the most prestigious titles in the game. Even though he banked close to a million dollars for that finish, and enjoyed a monster year with four final table appearances, leaving Las Vegas with no gold bracelet proved to be both a disappointment as well as a motivator for future competition.Shchmelev appeared to be repeating his pattern of going deep again this year, by finishing eighth in Event 13. He cashed once more, but certainly couldn't have been pleased with his results by the time he registered for this, the 46th gold bracelet event on the schedule.However, this time everything broke Shchmelev's way. He handled the final table with relative ease, ultimately defeating another accomplished pro heads-up, gold bracelet winner Mel Judah.Afterward, Shchmelev was swarmed by his Russian friends who knew that this victory meant to the man who have come close so many times.Shchmelev is a 40-year-old poker pro from St Petersburg, Russia. He is married and has two children. Shchmelev graduated with a degree in physics from Leningrad University. He would have pursued that career but noted that the pay for academics and researchers in Russia could not compare with what he made playing poker, particularly as he started to enjoy success.Shchmelev becomes the first Russian to win a gold bracelet at this series, and fifth European champion to be crowned, so far.MEET GOLD BRACELET WINNER – VLADIMIR SHCHMELEV
Name: Vladimir Shchmelev
Current Residence: St. Petersburg (Russia)
Birthplace: St. Petersburg (Russia)
Marital Status: Married
Occupation: Professional Poker Player
Previous Occupation: Physicist
Education: Degree in Physics (Leningrad University)
WSOP Cashes (including this event): 16
First WSOP Cash (year): 2007
WSOP Final Table Appearances: 8
WSOP Wins (with this victory): 1
WSOP Career Earnings: $1,705,341INTERVIEW WITH THE CHAMPION
WSOP: How does it feel to win your first WSOP gold bracelet?
Shchmelev: I am very happy. This has been a long time for me to wait. I am very relieved.
WSOP: Does having to wait for this victory make this one sweeter?
Shchmelev: If I won the gold bracelet before, I do not think I would have been as happy as now.
WSOP: You played in this event with several other Russian players, including two others who made it to the final table. Can you talk about the presence of three Russians in this finale?
Shchmelev: We are friends away from the table, but we do our best to play sharp poker when we are at the table. It does not matter who our friends are when the cards are dealt.
WSOP: Back in 2010, you had a great year at the WSOP, with four final table appearances and a runner-up finish. Can you talk about 2010 as opposed to what's happened this year?
Shchmelev: I played better this time.
WSOP: Any final thoughts about how you feel after winning?
Shchmelev: I am extremely happy. My family back in Russia were rooting for me. So, that is the most satisfying thing to me.ODDS AND ENDSGold bracelet winner Mel Judah finished second.“Miami John” Cernuto cashed. This was the 55th in-the-money finish for his career, which ranks 18th on the all-time WSOP list.