On Sunday night 61,072 players entered the MicroMillions Main Event with hopes of turning a modest $22 buy-in into a six-figure score. Some had bought in direct, others had satellited in. In the North-West of Russia, nestled next to where the mouth of Northern Dvina River spills into the White Sea, sits Arkhangelsk. Among its 350,000 residents - little more than five times the number of people that were playing the Main Event - one player, 28-year-old Aleksandr 'axel397' Malgin, had decided to buy-in direct.
A former casino dealer and now a deputy operations director for a construction firm, Malgin had no time to satellite in: he was too busy having an argument with his girlfriend. He almost didn't play, a decision both Malgin and his girlfriend would have regretted, as he told the PokerStars Blog's Russian correspondent Andrey Maksin in an exclusive interview.
Malgin went on to win $140,062.92 by taking down the MicroMillions $1m guaranteed Main Event. You can read about his victory here and find out more about the record-breaking MicroMillions here.
Read the highlights of the interview with Aleksandr 'axel397' Malgin below.
PokerStars Blog: Do you remember how you were introduced to PokerStars?
Aleksandr 'axel397' Malgin: A poker variation, called No-Limit Hold em, reached our wonderful city at some point. In 2007, our casino began actively promoting this new game to the masses. I do not remember exactly how I got introduced to PokerStars - but for me, this room was always my favourite when I played. I got tipped off by my friends about it. We played freerolls and indulged ourselves!
PSB: Being a deputy director is quite a serious position. What brought you to the casino?
axel397: It just so happened that I got a job at a casino when I was a student, at the age of 18, hence my adaptability to the game. Everybody defines gambling differently, including poker players. I personally do not consider poker as gambling.
PSB: So you used to be a dealer?
axel397: Yes. It was a fun time!
PSB: Did you buy-in direct or qualify via satellites?
axel397: I made a buy-in straight away. And I was not sure whether I would play. I had a fight with my girlfriend, stayed at home, began to play and won.
PSB: An interesting turn of events: this fight turned out to your benefit in the end.
axel397: Things are not as simple as they look, I think!
PSB: What was your girlfriend's reaction when you won $140,000?
axel397: She does not know anything yet. I gave her flowers, chocolates and a lot of affection today. She says I am behaving strangely, but I will soon reveal my secret to her!
PSB: How do you think she will react?
axel397: I think she will be over the moon and from now on will be more understanding where poker is concerned. The main thing is not to get carried away with the game!
PSB: How did the tournament go for you in general? Can you remember any of the key moments?
axel397: I played without much effort and stay relaxed. I always play depending on the situation, on the players next to me. I never make stakes according to the book and always keep an open mind. I got dealt a flash royal today. I was very happy to be honest. There was one draw which I could have lost and the end result would have been less happy, but I got lucky and won!
PSB: You had a lot of luck, including that argument with your girlfriend.
axel397: Yes, it is quite surreal if you think about it.
PSB: At the final table, why were you not ready to talk deals until there were just three of you left?
axel397: The first attempts to make a deal came when there were nine players left, but I was the only one to say no. It was not so interesting for me as I was the chip leader. I knocked out three or four people and when there were three of us left I thought that it was time to share and gave the command, which they kept asking me to do. My English is not that good but I did manage to explain to them that I would not accept less than I wanted and that we would continue to play. Everyone agreed to my terms.
PSB: Which of your final table opponents afraid of?
axel397: Probably of no one, although there was one player with five stars who took a long time thinking things over. But it was his manner of thinking things over like that that betrayed him to me.
PSB: What emotions did you feel when it was all over?
axel397: Deep inner joy, a feeling of complete satisfaction. Despite not having slept I went to the swimming pool and felt even more energized.
PSB: Do you have a dream that this prize money could help come true?
axel397: This may sound quite clichéd but I would like to travel to a sunny paradise with my girlfriend to rest my soul and body.
PSB: What advice would you give future champions? What should they be focussing on if they want to become a MicroMillions champion?
axel397: In my opinion, you need to learn to control yourself in any given situation. It all depends on us, our endurance and patience, you should not rely on your luck all the time, you need to learn how to think, how to analyze things, and everything will work out then. And PokerStars will help you with that!
Rick Dacey is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.