WCOOP 2014: Will Russian players continue to thrive?
You may not pay as close attention to online results in the same way we do. You may not pore over the box scores from SCOOP or MicroMillions. But even a casual glance will give you the impression that players from one particular country seem to be enjoying a glorious period achieving great results.
It was once the case that players from the United States dominated (now absent for understandable reasons). Then it was the Swedish, then Germans and then players of various other nationalities. No though there's no mistaking that online poker, and results of the major online tournaments, are dominated by players from Russia.
To take this year's SCOOP for instance, from 62,986 Russian entries (the most of any country) there were 12 winners from Russia, with a further 22 players finishing either second or third. In MicroMillions the results were even more striking. Across 100 events there were 206,746 Russian entries (nearly 100,000 more than Germany), with 16 winners, while 39 others finished either second or third.
So what's behind this dominance? And can we expect to see similar scenes in WCOOP which starts this weekend?
Aleksandr Elenskii has reported on poker for the Russian media for the past few years, both European Poker Tour events and online. He offered a few reasons for this boom, starting with the pragmatic.
"First of all, there are very many Russian players who play," said Elenskii, emphasising that by sheer numbers alone Russian players should be winning their fair share of titles. But he went on to explain what was behind this success, a grassroots community that is now in full bloom.
"The top Russian players, they all know each other," he said. "Not in person but on social media networks. They all have blogs on the largest Russian forum. But they don't share their thoughts and doesn't discuss any strategy."
Instead, Russian players get together on Skype to talk about the game.
"That's where they discuss strategy and share their thoughts," said Elenskii. "Maybe the biggest reason [for their success] is because they talk to each other and discuss hands. And because they're all friends, they meet each other here and at live tournaments."
So, it turns out Russian players owe their success to the same thing other boom nations do - a vibrant poker community that talks incessantly about the game, discussing strategy in depth until their game improves. The result of that is now everywhere.
"That's the reason I guess."
Players to look out for during WCOOP 2014
Veeea - more than $2 million won on PokerStars and currently the highest rated Russian player on Pocket Fives (that's good for top ten in the world).
MAMOHT_T - currently ranked second in Russia on Pocket Fives (eighth in the world) with earnings of nearly $3 million on PokerStars.
Mikhail "Mikleler" Semin - one of the best players in the game right now, Mikleler has close to $900,000 in earnings on PokerStars, with much more earned in live events.
Anatoly "nl_profit" Filatov - has won more than $1.1 million on PokerStars with an additional $900,000 earned in live tournaments.
Aleksandr "NoPlanB" Mordinov - ranked number five in Russia according to Pocket Fives, he is a few dollars short of $1million in earnings on PokerStars.
Ravic85 - ranked number six in Russia according to Pocket Fives he has more than $770,000 in tournament winnings on PokerStars.
Best of the Russian speaking rest:
Roman "Romeopro" Romanovskyi - As Elenskii put it: "He thinks he's the best and probably is the best." Romeopro is ranked the top player in Ukraine by Pocket Fives with more than $2.5 million won on PokerStars, and a further $750,000 won on Full Tilt Poker. He also has an EPT Deauville €2k side event title to his name from 2012.
Psyhoagromor - Ranked fifth in Ukraine he's won more than a million dollars on PokerStars.
Just some of the names that may become familiar in the coming weeks as WCOOP returns. For more details on the upcoming WCOOP series check out the website for details of all the events, as well as information about past winners and statistics.
Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.