Tuesday, March 8, 2016 2:07 AM Local Time
Igor Kurganov is the champion of Event #14 at Bally’s Las Vegas. Kurganov defeated a pro-heavy field of 101 players in the $3,250 High Roller event, winning $90,899 and his first gold ring. The victory also netted him 50 points in the season-long race to claim one of the at-large seats in the WSOP Global Casino Championship.
The champ is a 27-year-old pro from St. Petersburg, Russia, though he now makes his home in London. In the middle of an extended poker trip in the United States, Kurganov dropped into Bally’s to play the week’s biggest buy-in. Despite a long list of poker accomplishments, this WSOP Circuit territory is still a bit unfamiliar to him. “It’s hard to chase these people,” he said complimentarily. “They usually have seven rings or something.” He glanced down at his own ring to finish the thought. “This is a start, though.”
Kurganov entered Day 2 with a below-average stack, but he found an early double when his ace-king beat an opponent’s pocket kings. “I was right on the cusp where I would catch my flight if I busted,” he said. “So it was kind of like a win either way. But then I won the hand, so that was a real win. From then on, I had a very playable stack.”
A short while later, Kurganov took the chip lead in a big cooler of a confrontation against Tom Kearney. Kurganov was dealt ace-queen and Kearney pocket sixes, and the ace-queen-six flop brought plenty of action. Another queen on the turn gave Kurganov the lead with queens full, and Kearney paid off two more streets of value before seeing the bad news at showdown.
From then on, it was pretty much “smooth sailing throughout,” as the winner said in his postgame interview. Kurganov entered the final table with more than one third of the chips in play, and just about 90 minutes later, it was all over. Arkadiy Tsinis was the last man standing between Kurganov and the victory, but he was unable to overcome the 10:1 chip disadvantage he faced entering the final duel.
While his poker accomplishments are certainly an integral part of his life, Kurganov emphasized the need for balance too. “I’ve been traveling a bit much lately,” he said. “I’ll be spending more time at home over the next couple months. It’s something I’m craving after so much travel.”
When asked to elaborate on that craving, Kurganov was quick to explain. “It’s hard to do other things when you’re on tour. When you’re home, you can educate yourself on all the other amazing things that there are in life. I just try to learn as many things as I can about business, finance, philanthropy…”
Kurganov’s desire for the deeper things in life has led him down a charitable path over the last few years. As the co-founder of a movement called Raising for Effective Giving (REG), Kurganov is part of a team spearheading the notion of effective altruism in poker. He was more than happy to explain the thought process that started him down this path of charity:
“Most of us like to see our relatives or friends receive a gift and see the smile on their face,” he said. “Everyone has it to some degree. I’ve always felt quite a bit of empathy for people in bad situations. The thought of effective altruism really motivated me when I stumbled on it. It was the first thing in charity that I saw to be along my lines of thinking. It’s a lot of mathematics and scientific process.”
There’s a balance and a sense of well-roundedness evident in his words, both of which can be rare traits among poker players. It didn’t always come easy, though. “I found balance by not having it,” he remembered. “In 2010 and 2011, I was playing as much as possible. At some point, you catch yourself enjoying it less or being burnt out or not finding the motivation anymore. You desensitize yourself from winning and losing. It doesn’t mean that much emotionally anymore. When that's the case, you need to find other motivation.”
He must be doing something right. Kurganov has been playing poker professionally for less than a decade, but he’s already amassed more than $10 million in career earnings, with huge results scattered all across the globe. This latest win is his first career cash on the WSOP Circuit, and it comes with a piece of gold jewelry and more than $90,000 in cash.
Monday, March 7, 2016 10:49 PM Local Time
Arkadiy Tsins moves all in from the button for about 225,000, and Igor Kurganov finds a hand good enough for a quick call.
The board runs out , and Tsinis can not catch up. Kurganov wins the pot and the tournament with a pair of queens. Arkadiy Tsinis finshes as the runner-up, earning $56,182.
Kurganov collects $90,899 and his first gold ring. A recap of his victory will be published shortly.
Monday, March 7, 2016 10:43 PM Local Time
Barry Hutter open-shoves the button for about 430,000, and Igor Kurganov calls in the big blind.
The flop gives Hutter a momentary lead with a pair of aces, but the turn swings the pendulum right back to Kurganov, who has the only club. Hutter is still drawing live to a full house, but the river seals his fate as the third-place finisher.
Igor Kurganov - 2,770,000
Arkadiy Tsinis - 260,000
Barry Hutter - Eliminated in 3rd place
Monday, March 7, 2016 10:33 PM Local Time
Monday, March 7, 2016 10:27 PM Local Time
Level 21 concludes, and the three remaining players are taking an abbreviated break. Play will resume in just a couple minutes, as soon as all three are back in their chairs.
Monday, March 7, 2016 10:21 PM Local Time
Arkadiy Tsinis opens the button to 35,000, and Barry Hutter three-bet shoves for just over 400,000 in the blg blind. Tsinis quickly calls all in for just less, and the cards are on their backs.
Another ten on the flop is good news for Tsinis, but Hutter is drawing live after the turn of the board.
"Split," Igor Kurganov predicts/commands from the other end of the table.
Sure enough, the river is the , and they both play the board to chop the pot. Tsinis is less than thrilled with the result as he pulls his bet back.
Monday, March 7, 2016 10:04 PM Local Time
Igor Kurganov opens the button to 35,000, and Tom Kearney three-bet shoves for 296,000 in the small blind. Kurganov appears to do some quick math, then calls to put Kearney at risk.
The first four cards are clean for Kearney on the board, but the river gives Kurganov the knockout with a pair of kings.
Igor Kurganov - 1,900,000
Tom Kearney - Eliminated in 4th place
Monday, March 7, 2016 10:02 PM Local Time
Dylan Wilkerson opens the button to 33,000, and Igor Kurganov three-bet shoves with his big stack. Wilkerson smirks when the action returns to him.
"What do you have?" he asks.
"More chips than you," Kurganov smiles back. The two have been exchanging friendly banter for the past few hours, but this will be their final exchange of the day. Wilkerson eventually calls all in for 421,000, and he's flipping for his tournament life.
The board runs out , and Kurganov wins the race to earn yet another knockout.
Igor Kurganov - 1,600,000
Dylan Wilkerson - Eliminated in 5th place
Monday, March 7, 2016 10:02 PM Local Time
Monday, March 7, 2016 9:54 PM Local Time
Igor Kurganov opens the button to 25,000, and Barry Hutter three-bets to 94,000 in the big blind. Kurganov calls.
The flop comes , and Hutter continues for 73,000. Kurganov calls without much delay. The turn brings the and a check from both players, and the completes the board on the river. Hutter takes pause, then moves all in for about 270,000. Kurganov gives it just a cursory look, then folds.
It's not an enormous pot, but it's likely the largest one Kurganov has lost so far. He's still comfortably over a million chips despite that little dent, but Hutter has finally started to close the gap a bit.
Barry Hutter - 620,000
Igor Kurganov - 1,165,000
Monday, March 7, 2016 9:38 PM Local Time
Bryn Kenney moves all in for 48,000, and action folds to Igor Kurganov. "Let's run it," Kenney prods, and Kurganov obliges him with the call.
There's a six on the flop, and the board seals Kenney's exit.
It's going to be hard to beat Kurganov today from the looks of it. He's collected a few more of the chips in play, reducing the field to five players with that knockout.
Igor Kurganov - 1,350,000
Bryn Kenney - Eliminated in 6th place
Monday, March 7, 2016 9:35 PM Local Time
Barry Hutter opens the pot with a raise, and Bryn Kenney three-bet shoves for about 270,000 on the button. Dylan Wilkerson calls all in for 204,000 in the big blind, and Hutter folds out of the way.
The board runs out , and Wilkerson's kicker plays to earn him the double-up.
Dylan Wilkerson - 450,000
Bryn Kenney - 65,000
Monday, March 7, 2016 9:29 PM Local Time
Arkadiy Tsinis opens with a raise to 30,000 under the gun, and Jeff Coburn three-bet shoves for about 175,000 in the big blind. Tsinis calls quickly, and it's aces versus queens once again.
The board runs out , and Tsinis earns the knockout with aces full.
Arkadiy Tsinis - 545,000
Jeff Coburn - Eliminated in 7th place
Monday, March 7, 2016 9:18 PM Local Time
Barry Hutter opens with a raise in early position, and Darren Rabinowitz three-bet shoves for about 175,000 in the big blind. Hutter calls instantly, having Rabinowitz slightly covered.
The board runs out blanks, coming . Rabinowitz can not catch up, and he's eliminated in eighth place. Hutter is now second on the scoreboard, but he and the rest of the table are still far in trail of Igor Kurganov.
Barry Hutter - 460,000
Darren Rabinowitz - Eliminated in 8th place
Monday, March 7, 2016 9:14 PM Local Time
Tom Kearney opens to 25,000 in early position, and Igor Kurganov defends his big blind.
The flop is , and Kurganov check-calls a continuation bet of 22,000. Both players check through the turn, and the river brings the . Kurganov checks for the third time, and Kearney bets 26,000. After just a moment, Kurganov announces, "All in," on a check-shove.
Kearney shakes his head. "I knew that was coming too," he says. A couple seconds later, he slaps his cards into the muck, and Kurganov takes the pot.
Igor Kurganov - 1,310,000
Tom Kearney - 270,000
Monday, March 7, 2016 9:11 PM Local Time
Monday, March 7, 2016 8:54 PM Local Time
Barry Hutter opens the button to 21,000, and Jeff Coburn three-bets to 47,000 in the small blind. Michael Collins calls all in for 31,000 in the big blind, and Hutter calls the remainder to create action on the side.
Both live players check through the flop, and the turn is the . Coburn checks again, then folds to a bet of 24,000 from Hutter.
"You have the king?" Collins asks. He's at risk, and Hutter nods to confirm the bad news.
The river is the blank , and Collins is eliminated.
Barry Hutter - 380,000
Michael Collins - Eliminated in 9th place
Monday, March 7, 2016 8:51 PM Local Time
The level is halfway complete, and there has been a noticeable shortage of action so far since the players returned from dinner.
In the most significant pot so far occurs between Barry Hutter and Dylan Wilkerson as the former opens to 21,000 in middle position. Wilkerson defends his big blind, and they both check through the flop. Wilkerson check-calls a bet of 19,000 after the turn, then check-folds after the river.
Other than that, stacks are still very close to where they were when the after-dinner session began.
Monday, March 7, 2016 8:26 PM Local Time
Monday, March 7, 2016 8:21 PM Local Time
The final table is seated, and the cards are back in the air with 5 minutes left in Level 18.