PokerStars Championship Sochi: ₽8.31 million awaits National Championship winner

Outside the exquisite Sochi Marriott Krasnaya Polyana hotel and casino, there are a few things amiss. There's a large swimming pool, empty of water and people; idyllic mountains for skiing, sans snow; a festive market, vacant of tourist hustle and bustle.

It makes sense, though; it's out of season here in beautiful Sochi, after all. But there arepeople here. Just venture into the casino if you don't believe me.

Sochi Casino and Resort_24May17.jpgSochi Casino and resort

After several days of action, just 39 players remain the PokerStars National Championship; the opening event that kicked off the first ever PokerStars festival in Russia. The ₽66,9000 buy-in (almost $1,200) attracted a healthy field of 756 players (including 251 re-entries), and that created a prize pool of ₽43,999,200.

The winner of this thing will bank 8.31 million rubels (roughly $147K), and the player leading the pack coming into Day 3 today is 22-year-old Russian Vladislav Zhukov. After qualifying for this tournament - his first ever live tournament - for just $5 online, the recreational player from Voronezh and his girlfriend packed their bags and headed for the mountains. He's now guaranteed at least ₽180,500.

PSC_Sochi_Manuel_Kovsca_Vladislav Zhukov 3.jpgVladislav Zhukov

While 83 per cent of the field were Russian, there are a few names remaining that you might recognise. Most notably, the one and only three-time LAPT champion Nacho Barbero is still in with 676,000 chips. EPT13 Barcelona 20th place finisher Sergei Chantcev is coming back today (with 962,000), as is UK grinder Harry Lodge (427,000).

Here's a look at what the final table will be playing for:

18,310,000 RUB
25,060,000 RUB
33,590,000 RUB
42,710,000 RUB
52,150,000 RUB
61,625,000 RUB
71,166,200 RUB
8798,000 RUB

Team PokerStars Pro Felipe Ramos arrived in Russia early to play a bit of SCOOP in Sochi prior to this event. He made it through to yesterday's Day 2, but unfortunately for the Brazilian he'd bust before the bubble.

The 39 players will take their Day 3 seats shortly, and they won't stop until someone is crowned a champion. And while that person won't be able to celebrate with a swim in the pool or a mountain ski, they can celebrate with some more poker.

The PokerStars Championship Sochi Main Event kicks off at midday tomorrow.

Jack Stanton is a freelance contributor to the PokerStars Blog.