EPT8 Berlin: Inside the black and white world of Vlad Geshkenbein


In terms of charismatic EPT winners few can rival Vladimir Geshkenbein for just serious-holy-cow-shove-that-and-up-yours non-conformity.

The Russian, who today wears the same leather jacket and t-shirt he wore when he won the EPT Snowfest main event last year (although not the hen-night-on-a-weekend-to-Ibiza cowboy hat), bagged up the chip lead on Day 1a, although thanks to some creativity from Cengiz Ulusu, is now some way off the lead. With a big stack, the 23-year-old is the type that could easily change that.

If you grew up in the cold war Geshkenbein is the type of man you expected to see parachuting into your front garden, eating your dog and then your rose bushes. We met in the smoking area, a room adjacent to the tournament area which, thanks to three days of activity, is now entirely in black and white, and which turns passers-by into 20-a-day Marlboro fans.

Vladimir Geshkenbein

Geshkenbein usually looks like he's staring through you, even more so in the nicotine gloom. Had there been whisky available, and had it not been considered impolite (he had after all, offered me a cigarette), he would no doubt have drunk straight from the bottle, perhaps offering me the first swig.

He inhaled on his cigarette and prepared to bat my questions away, way over my head and into the distance. How had the day started?

"Pretty good," he replied. "Poker wise, pretty good."

I decided against asking how things were going non-poker wise, and focused more about his style of play.

"Uh, maniac," he said.

And his style of personality?

"Maniac," he said. "I don't know, I like to do try unorthodox things, both in life and poker."

This is true. During EPT Snowfest Geshkenbein became the first finalist to attack his opponents on Twitter during the game, primarily his heads-up opponent Kevin Vandersmissen, with whom he would later share a bottle of €600 Dom Perignon. Still, Geshkenbein left an impression; a volatile talent, with expensive tastes and the prize money to pay for it.

But will poker always be Geshkenbein's drive? It seems life outside poker is as important to the Russian as life in it.

"I started to study (civil engineering) a few months ago," he said. "I'm playing poker, I love the game and I get paid to play tournaments so why wouldn't I play?" So poker now and civil engineering later? "Yeah that's my plan."

God knows what he'll go on to build; lunar bases perhaps, or hollowed out mountain retreats. Either way he's a player to enjoy watching in the present, just in case he turns his back on poker to try being a maniac at something else.

Stephen Bartley
@StephenBartley in Berlin