PokerStars Championship Sochi: Andrei Shkerin leads after Main Event opening day

If you're a fan of Russian poker, today was the day for you. Day 1A of the PokerStars Championship Sochi Main Event drew 132 players, with the vast majority of them hailing from the home country and nearby. They included online superstar Alexander Kostritsyn, former EPT champion Maxim Lykov and Ukrainian Igor Yaroshevskyy, who recently made a deep run at PokerStars Championship Panama.

All three of those will be making an appearance on Day 2 but it is Andrei Shkerin who ends the night with the Day 1A chip lead. Shkerin will be taking 144,400 through to the next day. Until the last few hands of the evening, it looked as though live circuit regular Mikhail Rudoy would be your overnight chip leader. He acquired a good portion of his 141,100 stack when Konstantin Pogodin shoved pocket tens at the same time Rudoy was holding aces. A ten-less flop, turn and river pushed Rudoy into a chip lead that he would only relinquish at the very end of the day.

8G2A0586_Andrei_Shkerin_PCSochi2017_Neil Stoddart.jpgAndrei Shkerin

Elsewhere, Team PokerStars Pro was well represented by Luca Pagano, Chris Moneymaker and Felipe Ramos. Unfortunately for Pagano, he endured a terrible run of luck by first running middle set into top set before eventually busting with pocket aces.

Ramos was another casualty on Day 1A, and his exit came at the hands of Moneymaker. The two were sat next to each for the entire day, frequently battling it out in small pots and chatting away. With only a few hands remaining in the day, Ramos flopped top pair top kicker at the same time as Moneymaker flopped a set. All the chips went into the middle and at the end only one Team Pro remained. Chris Moneymaker will take 115,300 through to Day 2.

Some 72 players made it through the day and a larger field is expected for Day 1B tomorrow. As always, the PokerStars Blog will be on hand to guide you through what is sure to be another exciting day of action here in Sochi.

Click here for full chip counts. -- RJ

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12pm: Ramos out
Level 8 - Blinds 400/800 (ante 100)

Felipe Ramos, having lost a big hand to Max Lykov late in the day, sought to go big or go home on the last hand of the day. He had A♥J♥ but Chris Moneymaker called with pocket nines. The flop brought a jack... and a nine, to send Ramos out. That concludes play for the day. A recap of events will appear here very shortly. -- SB

11:55pm: Ramos takes late hit
Level 8 - Blinds 400/800 (ante 100)

With 20 minutes left on the day Felipe Ramos just took a hit against Max Lykov. On a board that featured two eights Lykov bet, leaving the decision to Ramos. He tanked, then called, only to see Lykov turn over queen-eight for a set.

Ramos drops to around 20,000 while Lykov now has 90,000. - SB

11:50pm: Rudoy sits still at the summit
Level 8 - Blinds 400/800 (ante 100)

It's still very much open to doubt who is going to end tonight as chip leader, but it seems very likely to be a player on Table 2. Since Daniyar Aubakirov's table broke, some of the big stacks that had assembled there have now headed over to that other table, where they have greeted Mikhail Rudoy face to face.

Rudoy has soared up to 165,000 over the past level--thanks to that aces versus tens hand described below--and it's likely that he was responsible for the vacant seats that have recently been filled. (Michal Majewski is one of them who has gone to Rudoy's table. Majewski has about 80,000.) With 30 minutes left on the day, there's still time for a clash.

Actually Vitaliy Li also has a stack over there--although he just lost some of it to Artem Vezhenkov. Li opened to 1,800 and Vezhenkov three-bet to 5,400. Li called.

They saw a flop of J♠4♣9♦ and Li checked. Vezhenkov bet 4,600 and Li folded. -- HS

11:40pm: Zhadinsky moving on up
Level 8 - Blinds 400/800 (ante 100)

Artsiom Zhadinsky was doing his thing again. He had out in front of him a bet of 45,000 (all-in, although I missed seeing the triangle) on a board of K♦2♥K♠T♠9♥. His brow was furrowed dramatically, although any tension was surely being dealt with by the massage therapist rubbing his shoulders. He was up against Sergey Trenin who mucked, leaving Zhadinsky to do the other thing he does, which is to take his time stacking his chips, which remained a mess for several hands more.

He's up though, to... well, anywhere between 100K and 130K. - SB

11:35pm: Vadim gets a smacked Botosan
Level 8 - Blinds 400/800 (ante 100)

Vadim Botosan just made one of the tightest folds of the day in a big pot against Natan Chauskin. Was it the correct move? Why don't you read on and decide for yourself...

It all started when Botosan raised to 2,500 and Chauskin called. Then there was a bet of 3,200 on the 7♦7♣2♦ flop and Chauskin called again. The 6♥ turn didn't slow Botosan down and he fired out 7,000. However, instead of just calling (or folding!) Chauskin now said those powerful two words, "all in".

Botosan had 25,000 remaining and a tricky decision to make. He tried to get a read on Chauskin, but nothing was coming. Someone at the table called the clock. Botosan had already made up his mind however, and folded pocket kings face-up. Chauskin said something in Russian and started laughing.

Was he bluffing? Did he have quads? Your guess is as good as ours. Whatever he had, he now has over 60,000 in chips as play nears a conclusion. - RJ

11:25pm: Kakhnazov working quickly
Level 8 - Blinds 400/800 (ante 100)

Vladimar Shashkov opened to 2,000 but watched Nadar Kakhnazov three-bet to 5,800 from the button. Shashkov called.

They were heads up to a flop of 5♥3♠Q♣ and Shashkov check-called Kakhnazov's bet of 5,600.

The K♦ now fell on the turn and Shashkov checked again. Kakhnazov's bet of 13,200 was good enough this time.

Kakhnazov was one of the last to register today, but has built his stack to 90,000. There's about 40 minutes left in the day, with registration open until the start of Day 2. -- HS

11:20pm: Finally a win for Ramos
Level 8 - Blinds 400/800 (ante 100)

Felipe Ramos was jubilant. "First hand all day I'm gonna win against him," the Team PokerStars Pro said, pointing around the dealer from Seat 9 to Igor Arekin in Seat 1.

The thing was, there was not yet a showdown, nor had Arekin folded his hand. But Ramos was absolutely sure he had seen enough in his opponent's actions to correctly predict victory.

We were actually only pre-flop, but Ramos had a big four-bet out in front of him. He had opened from under the gun, Arekin made it 4,000 from UTG+1 and Ramos made it 9,600.

Arekin was in the tank for quite a while, with Ramos peeking around the human obstruction to look at his opponent. Then Arekin must have cracked because Ramos pointed to reporters and said, "I'm going to win one!"

Sure enough, Arekin folded and Ramos shot his hands into the air, as though crossing the line in the 100 metres at the Olympics.

Arekin still has 40,000 after that, much of which appears to have come from Ramos over the past few hours. Ramos still has around about the same. -- HS

11:15pm: Rudoy awakening
Level 8 - Blinds 400/800 (ante 100)

Mikhail Rudoy opened for 1,900, about to make his pocket aces pay as well as could be hoped. Vitaly Li called a few seats along before Konstantin Pogodin raised to 5,100 in the big blind. Rudoy paused for a moment before four-betting to 11,200. That was good enough to get Li to fold but Pogodin was feeling bullish, and shoved. Rudoy snap called.

Rudoy A♠A♦
Pogodin T♦T♣

The board ran 6♠6♣K♥9♦6♥ to send Pogodin to the rail. Rudoy meanwhile is up to 150,000. - SB

11:10pm: When Team Pros COLLIDE*
Level 8 - Blinds 400/800 (ante 100)

Chris Moneymaker and Felipe Ramos are not contractually obliged to be buddies at the table but, judging from the hoopla and chatter emanating from Table 7, the fellow Team Pros are getting along like a house on fire.

That didn't stop them battling away in a recent pot. Moneymaker opened the action to 1,800 and Ramos called. A K♠2♥J♣ flop brought an 1,800 bet from Moneymaker that was swiftly called by Ramos. They both checked the 2♠ turn amidst much chuckling.

The river offered hope for some action - it was A♦. Moneymaker now bet a straight 2,000. As Ramos reached for chips he said, "I think we might both have the same hand."

He was correct; both flipped over Ace-Ten! It was a chopped pot and it was probably for the best - it would be a shame if a little game of cards got in the way of this ensuing bromance.

Felipe Ramos: 50,000
Chris Moneymaker: 57,000

*Or, 'When Team Pros Chop It Up Gently.' - RJ

11:05pm: Slowly getting through them
Level 8 - Blinds 400/800 (ante 100)

The tournament board shows us that 132 players have so far entered Day 1A of this Main Event, with around 85 of them still seated. Kiryl Radzivonau is one of the players recently eliminated. -- HS


Kiryl Radzivonau: Out

11pm: Viva shot clock indeed
Level 8 - Blinds 400/800 (ante 100)

Sometimes in poker the hands you want to play through to a showdown fall agonizingly short. Like this one which was also agonizingly long.

When I remembered that I was actually in Sochi to work, and not to stand around in a tournament room daydreaming, I caught up with the hand when Kovalenko had 12,500 in front of him (a four bet?) and Andrei Skvorcov had 21,200 (a five bet?). Now Kovalenko had a decision to make.

So we waited, and I'll admit I drifted off again. Then I heard something and looked up to see Ramin Hajiyev in the nine seat grinning. What did he just say? "Viva Shot Clock"? He had a point.

Eventually time was called. Kovalenko paused, then folded, and the chips were pushed to Skvorcov. Would have been nice to see the hands. - SB

10:55pm: Ramos on the rampage
Level 7 - Blinds 300/600 (ante 100)

Team PokerStars Pro Felipe Ramos hasn't had it all his own way today but he's making a strong sprint for the Day 1A finish line. The Brazilian just took down two pots in a row to take his stack to a near-average 37,000.

The first was won when Ramos bet both flop and turn to force Tsogtjargal Yadamjav to fold. The second had a bit more depth to it as Ramos called a raise from Oleg Bychkov and also called 2,200 on the Q♥9♣6♦ flop. The 3♥ turn was checked through before Bychkov again checked the 2♣ river. It looked an innocuous card but brought about a 5,500 bet from Ramos.

Bychkov ummed and ahhed before finally putting in sufficient chips to call. It wasn't a good decision; Ramos showed Q♠J♠ to win the pot, and carry on his mini-rush.

Bychkov is struggling on 15,000 as the day nears a conclusion. - RJ

10:50pm: Wake the sleeping giant
Level 7 - Blinds 300/600 (ante 100)

There are surely tells everywhere in today's field, so long as you have any idea how to read them. I'm pretty sure Aleksey Egorov's body language told a story, for instance. But maybe, on second thoughts, it belied nothing more sinister than a very late night last night.


Aleksey Egorov: In wake mode

The hand started with a raise to 1,500 from Robert Askarov and a three-bet to 3,900 from Roman Kundasov on the button. Egorov, in the big blind, put out a four-bet to 7,500 but then immediately laid his head, face down, onto his arms. It was though he had been gripped by sudden narcolepsy.

Askarov folded, but Kundasov called.

The flop brought the J♦4♦7♣ and maybe the dealer jogged Egorov to life. Either that or this was all a big act. He opened his eyes, brought his head back to its "awake" setting, and moved all-in for his last 19,200.

Kundasov folded immediately to the sleeping giant. -- HS

10:45pm: May as well be talking Russian
Level 7 - Blinds 300/600 (ante 100)

With a field very heavily dominated by local players, it stands to reason that there's no "English only" rule being enforced. In fact plenty of pots are played out entirely in Russian, which adds an extra level of intrigue for reporters. If someone throws out a couple of big chips and verbally announces the precise size of their bet, we have to wait until the dealer gives them change to figure out exactly what they're wagering.

That was never quite established in the following pot featuring Roman Korenev, but it wasn't one of the biggest we've seen anyway.

It started with a limp on the button from Vadim Kim, then a limp in the small blind from Vadim Deputatov and a check in the big blind from Korenev. Then they saw a flop of T♦K♠2♠ and Deputov flicked out a 1,000 chip and announced a bet in a language I did not understand.

Korenev then threw out two 1,000-denomination chips and announced he was raising in a language I did not understand. The dealer repeated the sound to Kim and Deputov, but I was still in the dark. Kim folded but Deputov called, putting a 1,000-denomination chip forward. They each then got 200 in chips back.

The 8♥ came on the turn and Deputov checked. Korenev threw a blue 5,000 denomination chip forward and announced a bet size again. But again, your guess is as good as mine. (Which is to say, not very good.)

Deputov folded though. So it was obviously enough to get the job done. -- HS

10:40pm: Red alert! Red alert! Red alert!
Level 7 - Blinds 300/600 (ante 100)

It's very much been the Daniyar Aubakirov Show on Day 1A of this Main Event. Seemingly every pot he's entered has come back to him with a little extra on top. And now, as we play the penultimate level, he appears to have picked up two backing singers to create the ultimate Sochi Poker Boy Band.

Aubakirov has been rocking a bright red hoodie all day, and now he's flanked by Denis Chiginev and Michal Majewski, both looking equally majestic in bright red outfits. Chiginev and Majewski are doing OK, on 45,000 and 34,000 respectively, but it's very clear who the lead singer of this troupe is. Aubakirov has a whopping great 135,000. Sing on boys, sing on! - RJ

10:30pm: Check, check, check, check, check, check, check, bet, fold, fold, win!
Level 7 - Blinds 300/600 (ante 100)

Timur Bubnov opened for 1,300 which got two callers - Igor Signaevsky on the button and Vitaly Karayan in the big blind.

The flop came J♥J♣Q♦ which took the steam out of the hand. That was checked three-ways, as was the 3♣ turn card. On the 2♣ river Karayan checked before Signaevsky figured he'd better do something. He did, betting 3,400 which was good enough to win the hand. - SB

10:25pm: Needle in the hay
Level 7 - Blinds 300/600 (ante 100)

With a level and a bit left on the day, it's usually about now that we start to look for a chip leader with a view to keeping him in our sights. (And yes, it's going to be a "him". There are no women in today's field.)

However there's every indication that it's going to be tricky today. Not only are there a handful of players hovering around the 100,000 mark, with none pulling clearly ahead, but several big-ish stacks are still playing a lot of pots meaning things could change rapidly.

Not so long ago, Dmitrii Grinenko was among the leaders, but he was pegged back by Oleg Sklyanov. But he has just won back-to-back small pots to indicate his reluctance to accept defeat.

In the first, Grinenko opened to 1,200 from under the gun and Vitaly Karayan three-bet to 3,600. Grinenko called out of position and the rest of the table left them to it.

They both checked the 3♥3♠5♦ flop, then Grinenko fired 2,500 at the Q♥ turn. Karayan gave it some thought, but let it go.

On the next hand, Sklyanov opened the hijack and Grinenko called in the big blind. Then Grinenko led 2,300 at the flop of A♣5♠8♦ and that was enough.

On the subject of former leaders, Vladimir Medvedev is still playing poker too. He just took a pot from Ulrich Jungen and Anatoliy Filonenko, but it also wasn't enormous.

Jungen opened to 1,600 from the button and Medvedev called in the small blind. Filonenko also called in the big blind and that took them to a flop of 7♥8♣9♠. They all checked.

The turn was the 9♣ and Medvedev's bet of 3,000 was called only by Filinenko. However, his bet of 7,000 after the Q♦ river was called by nobody. And so Medvedev moves back to around 72,000. -- HS

10:20pm: Zhadinsky wins on the nod
Level 7 - Blinds 300/600 (ante 100)

How do you get a read on the man who is looking back at you, wide eyed and nodding at you - not in agreement, but to the music being piped into his head from one headphone bud. In the case you don't.

This is Artsiom Zhadinsky, who in addition to the unconventional appearance also plays with his stack all over the place, the remnants of past hands won and yet to be stacked up. It adds up to an air of bewilderment, which is not exactly easy to play against.

As Vladimar Shashkov discovered.

On a flop of 5♠J♣6♥ Zhadinsky, having talked briefly to a massage therapist, seemed to come back around to the idea that he was still in the hand. He checked, as did Shashkov.

The turn was the 4♠. Zhadinsky bet 2,000 which Shashkov called for the 4♣ on the river. A check and a wide-eyed grin from Zhadinsky, which Shashkov checked back. Zhadinsky flipped over T♠6♠, a hand that seemed to fit his persona entirely. It was good.

Judging by his chips, still in a pile in front of him, Zhadinsky is up to between 30,000 to 60,000. - SB

10:10pm: Kostritsyn picking on the little people
Level 7 - Blinds 300/600 (ante 100)

Alexander Kostritsyn is arguably the most accomplished player in today's field. If you don't believe me, take a scroll down this page and read all about his accolades in much detail below. Despite tournament success and cash game millions, Kostritsyn's table isn't backing away from challenging him. It's not going very well for them, but they are showing plenty of moxie.

The latest pretender to put up a fight was Iurii Simonov. Kostritsyn raised to 1,200 (he's been raising a lot), only for Simonov to three-bet in position to 3,000. When the action was folded back to Kostritsyn he casually threw in three 5,000 chips. It was enough to put Simonov all in. With just 12,000 behind Simonov carefully considered his options before eventually folding to fight another day. Perhaps next time he should choose another opponent...

Simonov is on a lowly 12,000 while Kosritsyn sits pretty on 50,000. - RJ

10pm: Turn that grin upside down
Level 7 - Blinds 300/600 (ante 100)

Pocket fours played a big part in a fascinating hand between Felipe Ramos and Chris Moneymaker earlier, and they were out again in force during a passage of play just after dinner.

On Table 5, Dmitrii Grinenko and Oleg Sklyanov were at a flop. The 8♠2♠A♣ were on the felt. Sklyanov checked, Grinenko bet 4,000 and Sklyanov jammed for another 22,200. (There was only about 4,000 in the pot.)

Grinenko, wait for it, grinned. Then he called.

Grinenko had J♠9♠ for over-cards and a flush draw, and he was actually in great shape against Sklyanov, who had 4♦4♥ and was probably praying for a fold.

However, the turn was the 8♥ and the river was the 6♦ and that doubled Skylanov. It left Grinenko with a grimace and 33,000 chips.

On a neighbouring table, Roman Rychkov was in a pot with erstwhile chip leader Daniyar Aubakirov. Actually, Aubakirov is probably still out in front, but there are a few players now breathing down his neck with similar sized stacks to his 105,000.

In this one, the two players were at a flop of T♥4♠Q♦ and Aubakirov checked. Rychkov bet 2,000 and Aubakirov raised to 6,000. Rychkov called.

The turn brought the J♠ and both players checked. Then the 5♣ came on the river. Aubakirov checked and Rychkov bet 10,000. Aubakirov didn't waste too much time in calling, but he mucked upon seeing the 4♥4♣ in Rychkov's hand.-- HS

9:55pm: A turn bet you don't often see....
Level 7 - Blinds 300/600 (ante 100)

An interesting hand just played out on Table 5 that warrants examination. It began with Igor Yaroshevskyy raising to 1,700 from early position. He was met with a call on the button from Dmitrii Grinenko (remember him) and also by Vladimir Demenkov in the big blind (who is merely a bit part player in today's scene).

The flop was 8♥4♠5♣ and Yaroshevskyy c-bet 1,700. Grinenko called and Demenkov got out of the way (see, no need to focus on him). The board paired on the turn with the 8♦ coming into play. This time Yaroshevskyy slowed down and checked.

Here's where things got unusual. With approximately 8,500 in the middle, Grinenko made a pot-sized bet of that very same amount. In an age of poker players betting one-third pot routinely, it was a throwback to the golden age of the poker boom where big bets were in vogue.

Yaroshevskyy looked surprised at the size of the bet and, with 24,000 in total in his stack, it was a tournament-defining decision for him. Eventually he gave up his hand with a wry smile and 'Big Bet' Grinenko took it down.

Grinenko is now on 65,000 while Yaroshevskyy slips to 24,000. - RJ

9:45pm: Moneymaker in action again
Level 7 - Blinds 300/600 (ante 100)

Chris Moneymaker was back in action again shortly after the restart. He opened for 1,500 in middle position which Andrey Sakolishch raised to 4,500 in the small blind. Moneymaker called and they saw a flop.


Both players checked that for a 4♣ turn card. Sakolishch bet another 4,000 which Moneymaker called for the river card 4♥. More checking. Sakolishch turned over A♦Q♦. Moneymaker looked at it, made a "that beats me" face, and mucked his hand.

He drops slightly to 55,000, while Sakolishch is up to 65,000. - SB

9:35pm: Break's over

Cards are in the air for two more levels before we pack up for the night. -- SB

8:20pm: Dinner time

Time to get some grub. We'll be back in 75 minutes, so join us then. --JS

8:15pm: Nosov no more
Level 6 - Blinds 250/500 (ante 75)

Maksim Nosov called from the button and Alexander Kostritsyn did the same from the small blind. Ihar Soika decided to make it 2,100 from the big blind and Nosov moved all-in for a little bit more: 2,850.

Both players called and Nosov was a board away from elimination. The flop came 3♥9♠A♥ and Soika bet 1,200 when checked to. Kostritsyn called and a 6♣ came on the turn. Both players checked and checked again when the A♠ came on the turn.

Nosov turned over K♥4♥, Kostritsyn mucked and Soika tabled the winning hand with K♦Q♦. Nosov hit the rail while Soika chipped up to about 40,000. --AV

8G2A0625_Alexander_Kostritsyn_PCMON2017_Neil Stoddart.jpg

Hit for Kostritsyn

8:10pm: Jungen hits the river
Level 6 - Blinds 250/500 (ante 75)

Vitaliy Beter raised to 1,500 under the gun and Ulrich Jungen called to see a paired 8♣8♥2♥ flop. Beter continued for 1,500 and Jungen called before the 6♣ turn.

Beter seemed to be a fan of the 1,500-chip wager, betting the same amount on the turn. Again Jungen called and the K♦ arrived on the river.

Beter checked on the end and Jungen quickly fired 2,000 into the middle. Beter called it off but couldn't beat Jungen's K♠T♠.

Jungen moves up to 42,000 in chips while Beter is left with 16,000. --BK

8:05pm: Rumblin' stomaches
Level 6 - Blinds 250/500 (ante 75)

We can hear the growling all the way from the media room. Players are getting hungry, and their stomaches are letting 'em know it's time to eat.

Luckily for them (and us - reporters need food too, y'know) we're around 15 minutes from the 75-minute dinner break. --JS

8pm: Moneymaker needles Ramos
Level 6 - Blinds 250/500 (ante 75)

Chris Moneymaker and Felipe Ramos just played a pretty big pot against one another, with Moneymaker winning just about everything about it, including the post-mortem chit-chat.

I only arrived at the table to see Moneymaker raking in chips and Ramos shaking his head, but this is what was weird about it: Ramos was holding two kings and showing them to Moneymaker. Moneymaker returned by showing his 4♣4♥.

"Three fours!" Moneymaker said, but Ramos told him there wasn't a four on the board. "Was there not a four out there?" Moneymaker said innocently. It quickly became apparent that Moneymaker knew full well about the absence of fours.

"I got bluffed," Ramos admitted.

"I know you're good enough to fold," Moneymaker said. "I wouldn't do it to anyone else."

They filled in most of the gaps. The flop was 2--6--9 with two club and Moneymaker bet 2,500. Ramos raised to 6,000 and Moneymaker called.

There was an off-suit seven on the turn and Moneymaker check-called Ramos's bet of 7,000. Then on the J♣ river, Moneymaker bet 20,000 and Ramos folded, admitting he put Moneymaker on the flush.

Both of them still sit with more than 40,000, but Moneymaker insisted that the last time he's going to do that kind of thing today. I for one am dubious. --HS

8G2A1040_Felipe_Ramos_PCSochi2017_Neil Stoddart.jpg

Was Ramos bluffed?

8G2A0997_Chris_Moneymaker_PCSochi2017_Neil Stoddart.jpg

Or did Moneymaker have it?

7:55pm: Check, check, check, check, check (repeat)
Level 6 - Blinds 250/500 (ante 75)

Another hand that's best summed up using only the detail.

A bet of 1,000 from somewhere, called in four places, meaning five players would see the flop.


Dmitrii Grinenko checked
Igor Signaevsky checked
Vitaly Karayan checked
Igor Yaroshevskyy checked
Alexandr Prysev checked.

The turn came 8♦

Grinenko checked
Signaevsky checked
Karayan checked
Yaroshevskyy checked
Prysev checked

The river came 3♥

Grinenko checked
Signaevsky checked
Karayan checked
Yaroshevskyy checked
Prysev checked


Grinenko 9♥8♥
Signaevsky 9♣8♣
Vitaly Karayan mucked
Yaroshevskyy A♠8♠
Alexandr Prysev 7♣7♥

Err, let's see. Someone must have won the hand. --SB

7:50pm: Pavlenko hits the nuts
Level 6 - Blinds 250/500 (ante 75)

Denis Pavlenko was in desperate need of a double-up after dropping to just 4,200 - and that's exactly what he got courtesy of Ihar Solka.

Pavlenko shoved over Solka's initial raise and was called. It was a straightforward affair with Pavlenko's A♥J♥ versus Solka's 9♦9♣. The K♥Q♦2♣ flop gave Pavlenko a ton of outs before the T♥ on the turn gave him the straight to seal it.

Pavlenko more than doubles up to 12,000 whilst Solka drops a little to 43,000. --RJ

7:45pm: Kim catches a lucky break
Level 6 - Blinds 250/500 (ante 75)

Kazakhstan's Vadim Kim is still in the hunt after getting the last of his chips in the middle in terrible shape but spiking a miracle.

Sergey Trenin kicked things off preflop with a raise to 1,100 before Kim moved all in from the cutoff for 5,100. It folded back to Trenin and he snapped it off with a monster.

Kim: K♣J♣
Trenin: K♠K♦

Kim needed a lot of help and he received immediate service on the J♥6♥J♠ flop. Needing only to fade the case king to keep his Main Event alive he managed it as the Q♠ turn and river 8♣ river signalled his double up.

Trenin on the other hand drops to 37,000 in chips. --BK

7:40pm: A dip from up high
Level 6 - Blinds 250/500 (ante 75)

Daniyar Aubakirov has been in or near the lead for some time, but recently took a hit.

Michal Majewski opened to 1,200 from under the gun that hand and Denis Chiginev called from the small blind. Aubakirov was on the big blind and called, bringing a7♥9♦Q♥ flop. Action checked to Majewski and he bet 1,600.

Chiginev folded, Aubakirov called and a 7♦ came on the turn. Aubakirov bet again and this time Majewski upped the bet to 2,500. Aubakirov called and an 8♦ completed the board. Aubakirov checked again and Majewski made it 5,000. This time Aubakirov raised to 13,400 and Majewski quickly called.

Aubakirov turned over 6♥6♦, but Majewski had him beat with K♦Q♦. Majewski already had him beat with a pair of queens on the flop, but he improved to a flush on the river. Aubakirov dropped to 105,000 --which is still one of the bigger stacks in the room-- and Majewski chipped up to about 73,000. --AV

7:35pm: Rude boy Rudoy
Level 6 - Blinds 250/500 (ante 75)

Mikhail Rudoy is not exactly a household name, but after finishing 10th in the EPT Barcelona Main Event a few years ago, for a career high €77,600 payday, he has become something of a regular face on the tour.

He's not doing so badly here either, and has at least doubled his starting stack. He also just made Gevorg Aleksanyan regret a speculative three-bet from the small blind.

Rudoy opened his button, making it 1,200 to go, and Aleksanyan three-bet to 4,200 from the seat to his left. Rudoy took a glance at Aleksanyan's stack and, learning it was about 30,000 strong, moved all-in for a covering 65,000.

Aleksanyan gave it a moment's thought, then folded. --HS

7:30pm: Pair versus pair and the bigger pair wins
Level 6 - Blinds 250/500 (ante 75)

Arutun Saakyn moved all in with pocket fives and a quick call from Mikhail Korotkikh looked ominous. When Korotkikh flipped over pocket nines those suspicions were confirmed.

A harmless K♦4♦7♣Q♠9♠ runout eliminated Saakyn as his Russian tablemate moved up to 42,000. --RJ

7:25pm: Losing more than winning
Level 6 - Blinds 250/500 (ante 75)

There might be a more fallacious poker maxim than "Deuces never loses" but it's difficult to remember at time of writing. Certainly there was no evidence to support the claim on the following hand.

Arutun Saakyn opened to 1,300 from under the gun and Natan Chauskin called from a couple of seats along. Ulrich Jungen also called in the big blind and the dealer gave them the A♠9♦Q♦ flop to ponder.

Jungen checked, but Saakyn bet 3,000. Chauskin called and Jungen folded.

The J♣ came on the turn and both players checked. Then the 6♥ completed the board.

Both players checked again and Saakyn turned over 2♦2♣. Just as the players around the table prepared to say, "Двойники никогда не проигрывают", Chauskin showed his J♦7♦ to prove again that двойки (deuces) do actually sometimes проигрывают. --HS

7:20pm: Ladies see Sakolishch stack some
Level 6 - Blinds 250/500 (ante 75)

We caught the end of a preflop raising war between Vyacheslav Bondartsev and Andrey Sakolishch where the final raise came from Bondartsev in the big blind for around 7,000. Sakolishch called from the cutoff and the dealer fanned a flop of 6♣4♠9♠.

Both players checked and the 3♥ landed on thee turn.

Bondartsev picked up the aggression again with a bet of 5,500 and that was called by Sakolishch. Just like the flop it was checked through on the 5♠ river and Bondartsev showed A♣K♦ for just ace high. Sakolishch's Q♣Q♦ was good and he eclipsed the 50,000-chip mark.

Bondartsev, however, is back to 27,000. --BK

7:15pm: Ramos has no lady luck
Level 6 - Blinds 250/500 (ante 75)

Chris Moneymaker opened for 1,000 in the hijack which Felipe Ramos immediately raised to 2,700 in the cut off next to him. Waiting for both of them was Anton Brazhko who'd found aces and shoved with his last 2,925. Moneymaker and Ramos both paid the extra, and saw the flop.


Moneymaker checked to Ramos, then folded when Ramos bet 1,500. Ramos had pocket queens, but they didn't improve against Brazhko's aces. The turn came 7♦ and the river 9♠ to give Brazhko a fortuitous triple up. --SB

7:12pm: Short stack scrimmage
Level 5 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

It's turning into jam city out there.

Blinds are picking up and short stacks are trying to stay afloat or go on a permanent dinner break. Natan Chauskin moved all-in from late position two players called a raise to 1,200. All three opponents folded that hand and Chauskin rose a bit, but is still looking for some more chips.

Over at another table there was a 5♥[3]7♥7♣board and about 19,000 in the pot. Artsiom Zhadinsky was in middle position and asked Alex Watson how much he had.

"About 20,000," Watson said.

Zhadinsky decided to make it 6,000 and Watson promptly moved all-in. Zhadinsky shook his head and went for the fold instead.

Right next to them, Felipe Ramos bet enough to Igor Arekin's tournament life at risk. There was about 3,800 in the pot of a J♠4♥4♠ flop that hand and Ramos bet 3,100. Arekin called and an A♥ came on the turn. Arekin only had 11,375 behind and Ramos peeked over at his stack. Then the Brazilian Team Pro bet a handful of chips worth 25,000, more than enough to put Arekin all-in.

Arekin didn't want to go all-in though. Ramos took down that pot and the three short stacks survived to make it to the next level, making their situation even more tenuous. --AV

NEIL9777_Chris_Moneymaker_Felipe_Ramos_PCSochi2017_Neil Stoddart.jpg

Two smiley Team Pros

7:10pm: Aubakirov continues to push
Level 5 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

Kazazhstan's Daniyar Aubakirov isn't letting up. He has consolidated his chip lead over the past level or so and sits with around 135,000.

With a stack like that, it's no wonder that players aren't too willing to tangle. With Aubakirov in the small blind, all the table-mates before him folded pre-flop, allowing Aubakirov to raise to 1,200.

Michal Majewski called in the big blind, but possibly thought he should have folded.

The flop brought the Q♣2♥8♥ and Aubakirov obviously bet. This was 1,500. Majewski called. Then the 6♣ came on the turn and Aubakirov showed no sign of slowing down. He bet 2,400 and Majewski let it go. --HS

7:05pm: Totskiy off the slope
Level 5 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

Ivan Totskiy has barely had more than his starting stack all day long - and he just lost his remaining shrapnel in a classic race versus Denis Chiginev.

The money was all in before the flop and it was Totskiy's ace-king up against the pocket nines of Chiginev. The flop, turn and river failed to produce an ace or a king and so Totskiy's day comes to a premature end.

Chiginev is plodding along on 45,000. --RJ

7pm: Chiginvev chipping up
Level 5 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

After a preflop limp, next-to-act David Laka Calzada raised to 1,500. Next-to-next-to-act Denis Chiginev cold-called and the limper stuck around before a flop of K♣9♦2♣.

It was checked to Calzada and he continued for 1,600. The bet was met with a quick raise from Chiginev who popped it up to 4,100.

The limper quickly folded but Calzada called to see the 9♠ turn card pair the board. A final check from Calzada prompted an all-in jam from Chiginev for 16,300. That got the job done as Calzada folded and fell to 30,000 while Chiginev raked in the pot and climbed to 35,000. --BK

6:55pm: Moneymaker chip winner
Level 5 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

Another pot goes Chris Moneymaker's way. On a board of J♣T♣K♦9♥ Vyacheslav Bondartsev of Kazakhstan bet 1,600 into the pot, which Moneymaker had his eye on. So he raised to 4,000, which Bondartsev called to see the 6♦ river card.

Sensing that maybe this hand wasn't going to go his way, Bondartsev checked this time around, allowing Moneymaker to bet another 12,000. Bondartsev quickly folded, leaving the pot to Moneymaker, who moves up to 56,000. --SB

6:50pm: Moron
Level 5 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

The PokerStars Championship Sochi Main Event just got a bit angrier and a bit more moronic. Yep, Kiryl "angrymoron" Radzivonau is one of the new arrivals.

The tournament board shows 115 players seated of 132 who entered today. --HS

6:45pm: Poker trivia
Level 5 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

A pot between Konstantin Tolokno and Ilia Mikhailov got all the way to the river with the very minimum possible invested in it. Here's a trivia question for you: what specific circumstances must have occurred for that statement to be true?

Think for a minute.

Here's the answer.

Action folded to Mikhailov in the small blind and he completed. Tolokno then checked.

Both players then checked the flop of 9♣6♥A♣. And they checked the turn of 3♣. They reached the river, which was the 4♠, and Mikhailov checked again.

Tolokno had had enough of this. He bet 500 and Mikhailov folded.

That was a tiny pot, but Tolokno has anything but a tiny stack. His 95,000 is one of the biggest in the room. --HS

6:40pm: Four-bet thriller
Level 5 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

Now that we've got the harmless jabbing of the early levels out of the way there are big pots happening everywhere one can see.

This one began to brew nicely when Nikolay Prokhorskiy put in a four-bet to 7,000 after being initially put to the test by Pavel Kovalenko. He eventually called and the two of them went to a T♥K♠Q♦ flop.

Prokhorskiy wasn't put off by the call and now fired 5,500. It was called and the two saw the 8♦ turn. This time it was checked around. The river was 6♦. Just when it looked like this hand might be running out of steam, Prokhorskiy announced all-in. It was a bet of 18,000. Kovalenko had him covered but not by much. He surrendered his hand and was greeted by a big smile from Prokhorskiy, and some excited chatter.

Whether it was excitement at getting away with one or disappointment at not getting called, we shall never know. What we do know is that Prokhorskiy now has 42,000, and Kovalenko now has 45,000. -- RJ

6:35pm: Lykov in need of chips
Level 5 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

Earlier today I saw Alexey Bilyuchenko watching videos on his giant iPad. They were blooper clips, or pratfalls, and one featured a small boy watching a friend successfully tackle a padded post (like those you'd use for rugby training or for American football).

This boy then tried to do the same, just as the responsible adults in charge--unaware that this kid was running at the post to take his turn--moved it out of the way. The boy performed a perfect flying tackle, only with no obstacle to grab onto.

It was funny, even as a parent, who typically watches such videos through the eyes of someone anticipating a panicky drive to the emergency room. But Bilyuchenko didn't flinch. Not even a smile.

None of which had any bearing on the tournament. But it did throw a spanner in the works where Max Lykov's dinner was concerned.

Lykov had ordered food, but sitting in seat five opposite the dealer, had no room for a side table, unlike Bilyuchenko, who had no such problems. He also looked like a man not prepared to make way for Lykov's refreshments.

Neither did Dmytro Samoilenko in the other direction for that matter, who showed little concern for Lykov's stomach when the waitress arrived to address the situation.

Besides, there was a hand to play and a board showing 7♦9♥5♣8♣. Lykov had bet 1,000 before the waitress had arrived, and Samoilenko had called in the seat next to him. Konstantin Pogodin meanwhile had raised to 3,500, which Sergei Ananev called. Lykov and Samoilenko both folded.

No chips for Lykov, in more ways than one. --SB

8G2A0935_Max_Lykov_PCSochi2017_Neil Stoddart.jpg

Lykov's hangry

6:30pm: Grinenko gets Yaroshevskyy to fold
Level 5 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

Once again Dmitrii Grinenko was all in on the river and once again he was putting a tablemate to a decision for their tournament life.

It was J♣8♠T♣Q♦9♥ face up in the middle and while the pot had roughly 15,000 in it, Grinenko shoved all in for effectively double that with enough to cover Igor Yaroshevskyy's 32,000 behind.

Yaroshevskyy's gave it some thought but in the end he decided against it, surrendering his hand before the pot was awarded to Grinenko.

Grinenko has had a good start to proceedings here - he now sits with 77,000 in chips. --BK

6:25pm: Chatting up Yaroshevskyy
Level 5 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

There was so much talk, yet we understood so little. Well, none of it actually.

It was a relatively small bet in a relatively small pot, but Igor Yaroshevskyy was having a hard time calling. Vladimir Demenkov was chatting Yaroshevskyy's ear off though and the tablemates would occasionally laugh. Yaroshevskyy was mostly quiet.

The hand started when Demenkov raised to 1,000 from the button and Yaroshevskyy called from the big blind. The flop came J♦5♣6♥ and both players checked. The turn brought a 9♦ and Yaroshevskyy bet 1,000. Demenkov called and a 9♠ completed the board.

Yaroshevskyy checked and that's when Demenkov bet 1,700. That's when Yaroshevskyy tanked and Demenkov started talking. After a few minutes of constant Russian chatter --which we failed to understand-- Yaroshevskyy eventually folded.

Demenkov seemed a bit disappointed and showed Yaroshevskyy's a consolation prize, a 9♣. Demenkov chipped up to about 57,000 while Yaroshevskyy's dipped to 38,000. --AV

6:20pm: Elementary, my dear Watson
Level 5 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

Vadim Deputatov limped from under the gun. There's been a lot of limping in this tournament so far. But Sergey Trenin raised to 700 from the cutoff and then Alex Watson called in the small blind. Deputatov looked disgusted at what had happened, but called.

Three players looked at the flop of 2♥T♥8♥ and Watson checked. Deputatov bet 1,00 and Trenin folded quickly. But Watson said "Raise" and plonked 26,500 over the line. That covered Deputov.

If Deputov had looked disgusted at the start, he was positively outraged now. He folded to preserve his tournament life, vowing revenge. --HS

6:15pm: Jungen slows down Medvedev
Level 5 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

Ulrich Jungen raised to 950 under the gun and Vladimir Medvedev three-bet to 2,000 from one seat along. Medvedev was the early chip leader in this tournament, quickly boosting his stack past 100,000, but has since been cut back a bit. At the start of this hand he had about 70,000.

Both players are still in their starting seats, which means that Jungen has had a closer look than anyone else at Medvedev's game. And he wasn't scared because, after everyone else folded, Jungen paid the extra to see a flop.

His chips bought him a peek at the 6♥9♥6♣. Jungen checked, Medvedev bet 3,000 and Jungen called.

Both players then checked the K♥ turn. That meant the 5♣ came for no extra investment. Jungen cut out a bet of 3,350 and Medvedev folded immediately. --HS

6:10pm: Skvorcov sent home by Hajiyev
Level 5 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

Andrei Skvorcov has left the tournament area after bricking the world to see Ramin Hajiyev's underpair hold.

The board read 3♠5♣4♥Q♠ and after Skvorcov checked it over to Hajiyev, the latter pushed 20,000 into the middle which was enough to cover Skvorcov.

Skvorcov slammed in a call for his tournament life with K♠6♠ for a flush draw and open ended straight draw, and saw that he could also spike a king to win when Hajiyev turned over 2♣2♦. Unfortunately for Skvorcov the 8♣ river couldn't save him.

He departs as Hajiyev lifts to over 50,000 in chips. --BK

6:05pm: Tots up to a playable stack
Level 5 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

Ivan Totskiy and Daniyar Aubakirov have been going at one another all day, with the Kazakhstani Aubakirov getting by far the best of it. He's sitting on an almighty, possibly-chip-leading stack of 130,000 while Totskiy started this hand with a miserly 5,000.

The two were in the blinds and action was folded to Aubakirov, who limped. Totskiy saw an opportunity to shove his approximately 12.5 remaining big blinds into the middle and was instantly called. Aubakirov had K♠4♦ but Totskiy had him pipped with pocket sixes.

The 6♦5♥T♦4♥4♣ board was kind to both players, but Totskiy's full house defeated the trip fours of Aubakirov, giving him a much-needed double-up.

Totskiy is now playing 12,000 but that's a long way away from the imperious 130,000 towers to be found on Daniyar Aubakirov's side of the table. --RJ

6pm: Pagano perishes with aces
Level 5 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

Luca Pagano is out, and after losing in a set-over-set confrontation earlier, he can now add "aces cracked" to his tale of Sochi woe.

Pagano had only 4,500 in his stack but it looks like the money went in on a flop of 7♦A♦T♦. Pagano's A♥A♣ was top set, but Andrei Shkerin's Q♦J♦ was a flopped flush with a draw to the royal.

Pagano had outs to a full house, but the 4♦ turn didn't help and neither did the K♠ river. --HS

NEIL9630_Luca_Pagano_PCMON2017_Neil Stoddart.jpg

Pagano's prayers unanswered this time

5:55pm: Halfway point
Level 5 - Blinds 200/400 (ante 50)

Back to work. They'll play another two levels, then take a dinner break before returning for a final two. --JS

5:35pm: Eyes on the clock
Level 4 - Blinds 150/300 (ante 50)

With just a few short minutes until the next scheduled break, the players on Table 10 already have one foot out of the door.

One hand between Georgi Koev and Konstantin Kazaev was testament to that. The two were in the blinds and saw a 9♦J♥J♦ flop. It went check-check. The Q♦ was checked around too, as even the players involved in the hand were beginning to lose interest.

The 7♥ river sparked fireworks with raise after raise and it all ended....oh wait, who are we kidding? No it didn't. Koev checked, Kazaev made a small bet and Koev folded. Mercifully, the players are now on break and presumably will be refuelling their power poker engines as we speak.

Koev will take 33,000 into the break while Kazaev is playing 46,000. - RJ

5:30pm: Team Pros stick together
Level 4 - Blinds 150/300 (ante 50)

That's not a new boy scout motto that PokerStars sponsored players have to repeat before they get a badge. I'm simply letting you know that Felipe Ramos, the third Team Pro to enter on Day 1A, has just taken his seat. And he's been plonked right next to Chris Moneymaker.

This could get interesting. There's no such motto as "Team Pros don't battle". --JS

5:25pm: Vishnyakov caught out
Level 4 - Blinds 150/300 (ante 50)

Mihail Vishnyakov was just witnessed attempting a courageous river bluff but unfortunately for him it didn't work out quite as he'd hoped.

There were only two active players by the time we caught the action and when Vishnyakov was led into for 5,600 on a board of 7♥K♦2♣K♣T♣, he decided it was time to make a move, raising it up to 16,750.

Despite the third club landing on the river, Vishnyakov's tablemate quickly flicked in a call with K♠9♦ for trips, which was way the best of it against A♦8♦ for stone cold nothing.

Vishnyakov was left licking his wounds and now has only 23,000 in play. -- BK

5:22pm: Yaroshevskiyy from the big blind
Level 4 - Blinds 150/300 (ante 50)

Alexandr Prysev opened for 700 in early position and action folded around to Vladimir Demenkov on the button. He called.

Igor Yaroshevskiyy was in the big blind, complete with headphone and sunglasses. He raised to 3,200 and waited to see what would happen. He got a call from Prysev, but a fold from Demenkov.

The flop came T♦Q♣A♠.

With the action checked to him, Prysev bet 3,500 which Yaroshevskiyy called for the 6♦ turn card. Prysev, who I think was grinning, checked, as did Yaroshevskiyy for a J♠ river card.

This time Yaroshevskiyy bet 1,300. Prysev called, but his A♥T♥ couldn't top Yaroshevskiyy's A♦Q♥. Yaroshevskiyy is now up to 42,000. - SB

5:21pm: Kos that's how I roll
Level 4 - Blinds 150/300 (ante 50)

Luca Pagano and Alexander Kostritsyn are two of the more notable names in the field today and they just played a big hand that ended with the all-in button being put into play on the river.

Pagano started it by raising to 650 before Kostritsyn, sat directly to his left, made it 1,650. Everyone else folded and Pagano called when the action was back on him. Pagano then check-called 1,400 on the 6♠8♠A♥ flop and did the same when Kostritsyn bet 3,600 on the 3♦ turn.

There was approximately 13,500 in the middle when the 3♣ came on the river. Pagano checked a third time and now Kostritsyn exercised his all-in option. It was a bet of 16,500. Pagano didn't look happy about it and folded after a minute of thought.

After dropping to 26,000 in this hand, Pagano then tweeted the following sombre update:

Kostritsyn, meanwhile, is now on 34,000. -- RJ

5:20pm: One of Russia's best
Level 4 - Blinds 150/300 (ante 50)

Another of Russia's finest poker exports of recent years is Dmitry Yurasov, and he's now in among it here on Day 1A.

Not surprising for someone with $1.2 million in live cashes (including EPT Main and High Roller third-place finishes), he's doing rather well too.

He was under the gun and opened to 800, which was called by Denis Peganov in middle position, Yehor Filipenko on the button, and Nikolay Baryshnikov in the small blind. The dealer spread a K♠J♣8♠ flop, but the pot remained the same as it checked through.

That took 'em to the J♠ turn, pairing the board and putting three spades out there. Yurasov led for 2,000 this time when it checked to him, and only Filipenko on the button called to see the A♦ river. Yurasov fired again for 5,000, and after a two-minute tank Filipenko made the call.

Yurasov turned over the Q♦T♦ for a rivered broadway straight, which was good enough to win ass Filipenko mucked, dropping to 58,000. Yurasov, despite only being in for less than 45 minutes, is already up to 50,000. --JS

5:10pm: Getting fancy
Level 4 - Blinds 150/300 (ante 50)

Mihail Vishnyakov was trying to get fancy with seven-four suited but it didn't work.

The hijack opened to 750 and Vitaly Li called from the button. Vishnyakov was on the small blind with 7♥4♥ and decided to three-bet to 2,800. Both players thought, called and the flop came 8♥4♣T♠. Action checked to Li and he bet 3,500. Only Vishnyakov called and a J♦ came on the turn.

Li had about 14,500 behind and Vishnyakov was done pushing his luck with 7♥4♥. Both players checked and then checked again when the 8♠ came on the river. Vishnyakov tabled his air while Li showed K♣T♦ for a pair of tens. The hand put Li up to about starting stack while Vishnyakov was left with 47,500. --AV

5pm: More for Merzhvinskiy
Level 4 - Blinds 150/300 (ante 50)

We arrived on a flop of K♣6♦8♦ to see three-handed action involving Ricardo Tavares (cutoff), Ruslan Yakimov (button) and Alexandr Merzhvinskiy (big blind).

Merzhvinskiy and Tavares checked it through to Yakimov who made it 700 to go. Merzhvinskiy had other ideas and he came in for a raise to 2,500. Tavares cold-called and after Yakimov let it go the dealer turned the 2♣.

Merzhvinskiy loaded up again and this time his bet of 5,100 was enough to take it down. Following the hand Merzhvinskiy now has 33,00 at his disposal. -- BK

4:56pm: Never limp
Level 4 - Blinds 150/300 (ante 50)

Okay. I'm just going to provide the basics here, because that's all you need.

Oleg Sklyanov limp
Alexandr Prysev limp
Timur Bubnov limp
Vladimir Demenkov limp
Vitaly Karayan raise 2,500
Sklyanov fold
Prysev fold
Bubnov fold
Demenkov fold

Karayan wins hand. -- SB

4:55pm: Six is a crowd
Level 4 - Blinds 150/300 (ante 50)

Poor old Alexey Bilyuchenko. As Rodney Dangerfield would have said, "He getsa no respect. No respect at all."

Bilyuchenko opened under the gun to 650 and picked up no fewer than five callers: Dmytro Samoilenko (UTG+1), Konstantin Pogodin (cutoff), Sergei Ananev (button), Gevorg Vazgenovich (small blind), and Aleksey Egorov (big blind).

The crowd all took a peek at the 6♣9♥7♦ flop, which checked to Ananev on the button. He made it 2,000 in an attempt to shrink the field a little, and it worked. Vazgenovich was his only caller.

They saw the 5♦ on the turn, which put four to a straight and a diamond draw out there, and both decided to check it. The river then came the J♦, completing any flush draws.

Vazgenovich was either trapping with a flush or trying to dodge paying any more money to one, as he checked fifth street. But when Ananev fired again for 5,500, he seemingly had no choice but to pay him off. However, he'd muck and look up to skies in frustration when Ananev rolled over the A♦9♦ for a flopped top pair and rivered flush.

He's up to 35,000, while Vazgenovich isn't hurt too badly, sitting with 32,000.

And original pre-flop raiser Bilyuchenko? He's still looking for a little respect. --JS

4:50pm: Five-bet banter
Level 4 - Blinds 150/300 (ante 50)

Aleksey Egorov opened under the gun, and Max Lykov raised to 2,000 two seats along. When the action reached Pavel Kovalenko, he four-bet to 4,600 which sent the action back around to Egorov, who promptly five-bet to 13,100.

That put Lykov in the tank until he eventually folded. Kovalenko looked at his A♦K♣ one last time before folding it face up. Egorov looked relived and happy, and then said something that made Lykov and a couple of the others laugh. It really did sound like top quality bants. -- SB

4:45pm: Meat and greet
Level 4 - Blinds 150/300 (ante 50)

The food served inside the Sochi Casino & Resort is really rather good. At the break, the Media Room worked their way through a smorgasbord of chicken kebabs, California sushi rolls, various forms of potato and duck spring rolls.

However, when you don't speak a word of Russian, actually ordering what you are after can be a little bit tricky. There is one loosely translated English menu (scribbled in pencil on a blank sheet of paper) that holds the answers to many gastronomic questions. And on that said menu is an item listed purely as "Russian meat".

Nobody here dared order it, but Nikolay Baryshnikov did. One hour ago it arrived over at Table 14, and what a sight it was. In no particular order here is what arrived: black and green olives, sun-dried tomatoes, eight slices of black pudding, six slices of prosciutto, six slices of bresaola and a further eight slices of some cured animal that was impossible to distinguish from a distance. It looked both wonderful and heart-stopping in equal measures.

One hour later and Baryshnikov is two thirds of the way through, with only black pudding and some tomatoes remaining. His work on the plate is currently much more successful than his work at the table, as he only 11,000 chips to go alongside his full tummy. - RJ

4:40pm: Small victories for Pagano
Level 4 - Blinds 150/300 (ante 50)

It's been hard for Luca Pagano to get something going. Victories are small and large pots get chopped.

In the last hand of Level 3, Maksim Nosov called from middle position and Pagano did the same from the hijack. Andrei Shkerin raised to 400 from the small blind, Iurii Simonov called from the big blind and the limpers came along as well. Shkerin then led out for 500 on the 9♥4♦T♣ flop and only Pagano called.

The turn brought a Q♦ and Shkerin bet 1,500. Little did he know Pagano had just hit a straight with J♦8♦. Pagano raised to 3,600 and Shkerin called with a draw, A♠J♥. The river brought an 8♥ and Shkerin hit his straight, tying him up with Pagano.

Shkerin bet 2,000, Pagano raised to 5,000 and Shkerin quickly called. Players revealed their hands for a chopped pot and Pagano's stack rose a meager blip.

The level went up--taking them into Level 4--and Pagano won a little bit more on the first hand with the new blinds.

He raised to 600 from middle position the following hand and Shkerin called from the button. Alexey Fedin was on the big blind and called as well, bringing a 7♦4♣9♣ flop. Action checked to Pagano and he took down the pot with a bet to 900.

Pagano's stack took another step in the right direction, but he's still close to average with about 35,000. --AV

4:35pm: Minakov makes some back
Level 4 - Blinds 150/300 (ante 50)

It appears that Alexandr Minakov hasn't had the best start to the day but he's fighting back after raking in a pot.

Minakov opened to 900 pre-flop and after the big blind defended they went to a flop of 5♦4♦2♠. The big blind then led out for almost full pot with a bet of 1,800, and Minakov called to see the Q♥ turn.

It was checked over to Minakov and he picked up the betting lead by firing for 3,000. The bet was met with a call and the 7♠ arrived on the river. Both players checked on the end and the big blind showed 6♥6♣ before becoming visibly frustrated when Minakov flipped over A♠Q♦.

Minakov's stack is now moving in the right direction again as he builds to 21,000. -- BK

4:30pm: Moneymaker in control
Level 4 - Blinds 150/300 (ante 50)

Chris Moneymaker opened for 750 under the gun and action folded around to Oleg Bychkov in the big blind, who called to see the flop 5♥8♦Q♠. You got the impression each time Moneymaker looked at Bychkov to this right, he was in full control of the situation. That included the flop, which was checked, and the J♠ turn card. That prompted Bychkov to bet 1,000, which Moneymaker called.

On the 5♣ river both players checked. Bychkov turned over K♦9♥ but Moneymaker had it, showing 3♣3♦.

Moneymaker is now up to around 56,000. -- SB

4:25pm: The Copy-Pasters
Level 4 - Blinds 150/300 (ante 50)

What's the collective noun for poker players in Sochi? It's not a flock, it's not a rabble, it's not a field. That's right, it's a "copy-paste". Here's a look at some of them, so you can put names to your CTRL+Vs.


Ilia Mikhailov


Vasilii Polukarov


Gevorg Vazgenovich


Mohammadjavad Haddadnia and Natan Chauskin


Konstantin Tolokno

4:15pm: Another one for Aubakirov
Level 3 - Blinds 100/200 (ante 25)

Daniyar Aubakirov can do no wrong right now. The recently-crowned MonteDam Swing WPT Amsterdam champ is taking down pot after pot, even introducing some funky over-betting to his arsenal.

In this most recent victory, Matthijs Silkeit opened to 425 and Aubakirov, who is from Kazakhstan, defended from the blinds to see the 7♦J♥J♣ flop. That checked through.

Next up was the T♠ turn and that inspired some action. Aubakirov came in with a 600 lead, but Silkeit wasn't done with this one yet. He made the call to see a river, which ended up being the Q♠. Aubakirov over-bet the pot by putting out 3,500, and that forced a fold.

Aubakirov is up to 73,000 now. --JS

4:10pm: Tashatov taken out
Level 3 - Blinds 100/200 (ante 25)

Dauren Tashatov is the latest Main Event casualty here after he lost the last of his chips to Alexandr Prysev.

The hand began with an early position raise from Prysev before Tashatov raised it up to 700 on the button. Prysev called and the flop landed A♣6♠5♥.

Prysev checked and Tashatov continued for 1,000. Prysev looked at the tournament clock, pump faked mucking his hand, and then announced that he was all-in with enough to cover Tashatov's 5,425 behind.

Tashatov didn't look happy but he still called off the rest of his stack with 7♠7♣ to see he was chasing two outs or running cards versus Prysev's A♥Q♥.

The 2♠ turn and K♣ river changed nothing and Tashatov departed while Prysev moved up to 40,000. -- BK

4:05pm: Great length and glorious intrigue
Level 3 - Blinds 75/150 (ante 25)

The official timekeeper may not have certified this yet, but trust us when we say that the longest hand of Day 1A so far has just taken place. Luckily, it was a good one too.

Daniyar Aubakirov was protagonist No 1, and he started the whole thing by raising to 450 from the cutoff. Ivan Totskiy re-raised to 1,225 on the button and the blinds got out of the way.

Bear in mind that the action was happening at an acceptable pace at this point. Aubakirov kept the tempo flowing with a four-bet to 3,250. It was here that time began to stand still.

Totskiy waited, touched his cards and then touched his chips. He looked like calling, and then he looked like folding and then he looked like raising. Before long, he went back to looking like folding. Several minutes went by, with both Aubakirov and the rest of the table seemingly content just to sit and watch in silence.

Finally, eventually, Totskiy acted and it was worth the wait as he five-bet to 7,000. Aubakirov obviously didn't get the memo as he called quickly.

The A♣A♠3♦ flop brought much intrigue and promised fireworks. Aubakirov decided to instigate the action now, betting 4,000 into the near-15,000 chip pot. There was a minute of deliberation before Totskiy called.

Aubakirov bet again when the turn was 7♣, this time for 6,000. Totskiy now fiddled with his cards and chips in complete silence for approximately five minutes. Nobody called the clock and nobody looked likely to. Tick tock, tick tock. And - eventually, mercifully - a call.

The river was Q♠. Aubakirov wasn't going to stop now and he bet 9,000 into a pot that had ballooned up to approximately 36,000. You can probably guess what happened next. We waited. Waited a little bit longer. And then waited for five minutes more. At this point, the table had had enough and finally called the clock on Totskiy.

This spurred him into action and, to the disappointment of the various onlookers who had gathered around the table, he mucked his hand.

Twenty-five minutes, one clock called and zero showdowns granted Aubakirov the pot and Totskiy a place on the Hurry Up List.

Aubakirov is now soaring on 57,000 and Totskiy drops to 15,000. -- RJ

4pm: Five to the flop
Level 3 - Blinds 100/200 (ante 25)

Sometimes someone bets, another player three-bets and four players call. That just happened on Table 17 where Max Lykov is the player most easy to identify, although every hand today has been a lesson in learning new names and new faces.

The hand opened with a raise from Pavel Kovalenko in early position, before Konstantin Pagodin raised to 1,500 from the seat next to him. That was called by four other players, including Lykov in the small blind, and Kovalenko. They saw the flop.


That was checked five ways for the A♣ turn card.

The action was checked to Pagodin who bet 2,500 this time, getting three callers, including Lykov and Kovalenko. That brought the river card 6♣.

Lykov checked to Kovalenko, who bet 12,200. Pagodin took his time but eventually folded, and the action reached Lykov again. He paused, then folded his K♦T♦ face up. A big pot for Kovalenko. - SB

3:55pm: Another protector
Level 3 - Blinds 100/200 (ante 25)

The amount of card protectors has risen by 50 percent.

Igor Dimitrijevic joined the small club of players with card protectors with a tiny firefighting dog. The little figurine is decked out in a firefighter's hat and a red shirt, but it has no black spots despite appearing to be a dalmatian.

A quick Google search reveals that Russian dalmatians do in fact have spots so we have no clue of the brave canine's breed. --AV

3:50pm: I told you not to meddle with him!
Level 3 - Blinds 100/200 (ante 25)

Earlier on (at 2:05pm) I told you how Vladimir Medvedev had taken an early chip lead, and that he wasn't to be meddled with.

Natan Chauskin didn't get the message.

After Melvedev opened to 400 from the UTG+1 seat, one player called before Chauskin called on the button. They went to a 5♠2♣J♦ flop, which went check check before Chauskin came in for a 1,100 bet. Melvedev called, while the other player folded.


Vladimir Medvedev

Heads up to the turn, it came the A♥ and Melvedev checked again. This time though, Chauskin checked it back. The dealer put down the 2♦ to complete the board, and she paired it in the process. However, Melvedev checked and Chauskin checked again too.


Natan Chauskin: Send him a telegram

The chip leader showed his A♦5♦ for a turned top pair to go with the deuces on board, and the next thing I knew the J♥ was flying through the air towards the table. A clearly frustrated Chauskin was ahead on the flop obviously.

If only someone had told him to read the PokerStars Blog. Luckily for Melvedev, he didn't. Melvedev has 82,000 now. --JS

3:45pm: Grinenko sends one home
Level 3 - Blinds 100/200 (ante 25)

Dmitrii Grinenko just received a huge boost to his stack after moving all in on the river to get full value and knock a player out.

With the board spread 5♣J♥6♦9♦8♥ Grinenko checked in the hijack seat before the cutoff bet 3,000 into a pot of close to 15,000. Grinenko then moved all-in over the top with enough to cover his opponent's 24,000-chip stack.

The two exchanged some words in Russian before the cutoff made the call only to be shown the nuts. Grinenko held Q♥T♦ for a straight which was ahead of his tablemate's 9♠7♣ for a smaller straight.


Dmitrii Grinenko: Grinning

Now Grinenko sits with a very healthy 65,000 in chips. -- BK

3:40pm: Up and down for Moneymaker
Level 3 - Blinds 100/200 (ante 25)

First Chris Moneymaker won a pot.

Tsogtjargal Yadamjav raised to 400 and the poker legend from Tennessee made it 1,200 from the small blind. Yadamjav called and Moneymaker continued on the 2♥5♣T♦ flop for 1,000. Yadamjav raised to 2,000, Moneymaker called and a 4♦ came on the turn.

Moneymaker slowed to a check and Yadamjav bet 2,600. Moneymaker looked down at his stack and then raised to 4,500. It was good enough to take down the pot. Yadamjav folded and dipped to 37,500 while Moneymaker chipped up to 37,5000.

Then he lost a pot.

Aleksey Vyatkin raised to 600 the following hand and Vyeneslav Bondartsev called from middle position. Oleg Bychkov three-bet to 2,200 from the cutoff and Moneymaker called from the big blind.

Action checked to Bychkov on the 2♥7♦7♥ flop and he bet 2,500. Moneymaker and Bondartsev called while Vyatkin let his hand go. The turn brought a 9♦, a round of checks and a J♦ completed the board. Bondartsev bet 5,300 and only Moneymaker called. Bondartsev then tabled 7♣6♣ for trip sevens and Moneymaker mucked.

The hand put Bondartsev up to 55,000 while Moneymaker dipped back to less than starting stack. --AV

3:35pm: The high roller switch
Level 3 - Blinds 100/200 (ante 25)

One of our notable names here in Sochi, Orpen Kisacikoglu, is out. We've just been informed he busted either just before the break, or quickly upon his return.

Never mind though; we've got a new high roller regular who has just this second taken his seat at Kisacikoglu's former table. Russia's very own Roman Korenev has $1.3 million in live earnings to date, which include EPT final tables and Macau high roller scores. In March, Korenev finished third in the PokerStars Championship HK$80K High Roller for HK$1.23 million ($159,188). --JS


Dmitry Chop, left, and Roman Korenev

3:30pm: Karayan back to square one
Level 3 - Blinds 100/200 (ante 25)

Vitaly Karayan just won a hand that restored his stack to the original 30,00. It started with five players, and ended with just him, talking the pot on a board of 7♠J♣7♥T♠Q♠ with a series of bets that one by one put off a series of challengers. - SB

3:25pm: Kovalenko climbing
Level 3 - Blinds 100/200 (ante 25)

Pavel Kovalenko picked up pocket aces and scored himself some chips from Alexey Bilyuchenko who held pocket jacks.

It was already a bloated pot by the turn with the board showing 2♣8♥4♠6♦. After Bilyuchenko checked his option, Kovalenko made it 10,000 to go.

Bilyuchenko called and the 5♥ rolled off on the river. It was checked to Kovalenko again and while he looked intent on betting, he ultimately decided against it and checked behind.

Bilyuchenko tabled J♥J♣ and likely thought he was good as Kovalenko paused, before finally revealing his superior A♥A♣. The aces held and Kovalenko climbed to 41,000 while Bilyuchenko dropped back to 22,000 in chips. -- BK

3:20pm: A two-step plan
Level 3 - Blinds 75/150 (ante 25)

The game of poker can look awfully easy at times. The latest case in point came over at Table Pagano/Kostritsyn but didn't involve either of this illustrious pair. Instead, it was Denis Pavlenko who took the starring role.

Vadim Ibraev raised to 475 under the gun and it was folded around to Pavlenko in the big blind. After looking at his cards he re-raised to 1,250 and was called. The flop was K♦T♥3♥. Pavlenko took his time before eventually counting out a bet of 2,900. It was good enough to force Ibraev to relinquish his hand.

In two easy steps, a three-bet and a continuation bet, Pavlenko gave us a reminder that when things are going well poker really is a very simple game indeed.

He moves on up to 34,000 and his victim in this hand, Ibraev, hovers around the same point. - RJ

3pm: Away they go again
Level 3 - Blinds 100/200 (ante 25)

We're into Level 3 now. Remember, there are eight in the day.

2:45pm: Fast start from Medvedev
Level 2 - Blinds 75/150

Level 2 is just ending, bringing us to the first break of the day. Vladimir Medvedev has had a very good time of it. He has about 90,000 already--so many blue chips, in fact, that when a neighbour asked him for change of a 500-denomination chip, Medvedev accidentally gave him 25,000 (five blue 5,000 chips). The mistake was quickly noticed and rectified.

Denis Davydov is also doing pretty well at the moment. He has around 65,000. -- HS

2:40pm: Straight to the river
Level 2 - Blinds 75/150

Ivan Arbatskii just hit the absolute gin river card to win a nice pot from Anatoliy Filonenko.

Arbatskii opened under the gun for 400 and was three-bet to 1,100 by Filonenko on the button. Arbatskii made the call and they saw a 6♣6♠7♣ flop, on which Arbatskii check-called a 1,150 c-bet.

To the turn, it came the 9♦ and that checked through to the 8♦ river. Arbatskii checked a final time, before he called Filonenko's 2,000 river bet. Arbatskii turned over his Q♦Q♠ for an overpair to the board, but that was no good; Filonenko had the 5♥5♣ for a straight and took it down.

Filonenko has 23,000 now, while Arbatskii drops to 32,000. --JS

2:35pm: Big bet sees off a hoodlum
Level 2 - Blinds 75/150

Daniyar Aubakirov has had an excellent opening two levels, increasing his stack to over 40,000 before this hand occurred. Aubakirov raised to 375 and his only caller was the hoodie-wearing Ivan Totskiy on the button. The two saw a T♠9♣2♣ flop and it got very interesting.

Aubakirov continued his aggression by continuation betting 700. Only this time Totskiy wasn't content just to call, instead making it 1,600 in position. After a short think Aubakirov put in the necessary chips to call and the 4♣ came on the turn, completing a possible flush. At this point Aubakirov turned aggressor again and put out 4,200 chips. Despite raising the flop, Totskiy barely gave the turn bet a moment's thought before throwing his hand away.

Aubakirov moves up to 48,000 and Totskiy drops a little to 33,000. - RJ

2:30pm: Speedy stuff
Level 2 - Blinds 75/150

Relatively speaking, Artur Ibragimov's thinking time at the end of this hand was an eternity. But in real terms, it was only about 25 seconds. The thing was, the whole hand took place at notebook-scorching pace. Seriously, this was arguably the fastest hand of poker I've ever seen.

It started with a call from Andrey Chernyy in the cutoff, which prompted a call from Ibragimov on the button, a call from Denis Davydov in the small blind and then a raise to 500 from Rafal Magdziak in the big blind.

Chernyy and Ibragimov called instantly but Davydov folded quicker even than that.

The dealer put the 4♠J♠8♥ on the flop and Magdziak instantly led for 500. Chernyy folded immediately, but Ibragimov called on the button.

The turn brought the T♣ and another immediate bet of 1,000 from Magdziak. Ibragimov called without a moment's hesitation.

The 3♦ completed the board and Magdziak bet 3,000. Again, this was absolutely instantaneous.

For the first time since the start of the hand, Ibragimov now actually gave it a bit of thought. But he called and Magdziak shook his head as he exposed his A♥Q♦.

He was right to be negative. Ibragimov showed his Q♠J♣ and that was good.

"Nice call," Davydov said. -- HS

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2:25pm: Tikhonov takes from Vishnyakov
Level 2 - Blinds 75/150

Sergey Tikhonov has moved back to over starting stack with a combination of some preflop and postflop aggression.

It seemed like a raising war had already transpired before we arrived at the table, with 1,500 in chips in front of Mihail Vishnyakov, and Tikhonov sitting with 3,700 in the middle.

Vishnyakov flicked in a call and the flop was spread 4♥5♠3♣. It was checked to Tikhonov and he announced a bet in Russian and tossed in a 5,000-denomination chip.

That was enough to scare off Vishnyakov who folded and dropped to 42,000 while Tikhonov took his stack up to 34,000. -- BK

2:20pm: Always check for flushes
Level 2 - Blinds 75/150

Orpen Kisacikoglu raised to 375 from under the gun. A 375 raised had become the table's favorite preflop raise. Three more players called and a 5♠T♣9♥ flop hit the board. Kisacikoglu bet 1,000, one player folded and Mohammad Amini Nadjafian called from the cutoff.

Pavel Ignatov raised to 3,000 from the button and both remaining players called. An A♥ came on the turn and all three players checked. The river brought a 2♥ and a 5,000 bet from Ignatov. Kisacikoglu called and Nadjafian folded.

Ignatov quickly turned over 5♣5♥ for a set of fives. Kisacikoglu shook his head and looked at his cards for a few seconds and then folded. A few players laughed at Kisacikoglu's lengthy folded and he joked that maybe he had a flush and he had to make sure.

But Kisacikoglu didn't have a flush and dipped to 25,500 while Ignatov chipped up to 42,000. --AV

2:15pm: A short stack fights back
Level 2 - Blinds 75/150

It's still early days here on Day 1A but it must be a little disconcerting to drop below 10,000 when you start with a lovely, shiny 30,000 chip stack. That's the situation Maksim Nosov found himself in when he limped under the gun in a recent hand.

The small blind, Alexey Fedin, called and so did Vadim Ibraev in the big blind. The 9♣Q♥K♦ flop was met with a bet of 500 from Nosov and it was enough to win the hand and take him back to the 10,000 mark. He still has a long way to go to reach parity but at least the Russian is moving in the right direction - for now, at least... - RJ

2:12pm: No eights
Level 2 - Blinds 75/150

Orpen Kisacikoglu just won a small pot, but he'd have never done so if this was Macau. There were two eights on the board and he didn't have one, which usually spells bad news indeed in Asia.

But we're not quite in Asia here, so the hand played out like this:

Kisacikoglu opened to 375 in the cutoff and Aleksei Savenkov and Mohammad Nadjafian called on the button and small blind, respectively. The three then checked the 8♣8♠J♣ flop.

The turn brought the 6♦ and following Nadjafian's check, Kisacikoglu bet 575. Both opponents called.

The river was the 5♦ and all three players checked again. Nadjafian mucked without waiting to see anyone else's hand. Kisacikoglu showed his J♥9♠ and that was good. -- HS

2:10pm: From Kazakhstan to Amsterdam, it's Sochi time for Aubakirov
Level 2 - Blinds 75/150

It's been a heck of a month for Daniyar Aubakirov. The player from Kazakhstan recorded his first ever live tournament cash on the 9th May, and it happened to be a big one. Aubakirov took down the WPT Amsterdam Main Event (as part of the MonteDam Swing) for €152,600. If you're Hendon Mob is only going to have one cash on it, it might as well be a major.

But now Aubakirov is here in Sochi, looking for another major title and his second live score. He's going well so far, having increased his stack up to 54,000. --JS

2:05pm: Mustn't meddle with Medvedev
Level 2 - Blinds 75/150

We have an early chip leader for you: Vladimir Medvedev. The Russian native is up to 82,000 already, almost three times his starting stack.

Meanwhile, Team PokerStars Pro Luca Pagano is up to 45,000 now. --JS


Luca Pagano: Decent start

2pm: High level Kostritsyn
Level 2 - Blinds 75/150

The high level stuff has started. Maybe.

Alexander Kostritsyn has been fairly active at his table. In one recent hand he raised to 375 from under the gun and got a flurry of callers. Well, three. Alexey Fedin called from the cutoff, Vadim Ibraev did the same from the button and Luca Pagano went along from the big blind.

Action checked to Fedin on the 2♠T♣4♦ flop and he bet 650. Ibraev and Pagano folded while Kostritsyn called. The two remaining players checked when the 7♠ came on the turn and then things escalated drastically when the 5♠ came on the river.

Kostritsyn threw in a single 5,000 chip and Fedin quickly raised it t 15,000. Kostritsyn folded that hand, but one another against Pagano a few minutes later.

That hand also had four players go to the flop. Ibraev raised to 300 from middle position, Pagano called from the cutoff and Kostritsyn did the same from the button. Iurii Simonov made it four from the big blind and the flop came 4♥7♠K♥.


Luca Pagano and Alexander Kostritsyn

Pagano bet 550 when checked to and only Kostritsyn called. An A♣ came on the turn and both players checked. This time the river didn't bring massive bets. The 3♣ on the river brought another round of checked and Kostritsyn took down the pot with K♠T♦ to Pagano's 6♠T♦. --AV

1:55pm: The Driss Show, Part 9,213
Level 2 - Blinds 75/150

We warned you that Driss Ekadioin was going to be a character to watch in this tournament and so far he's not disappointing his fans at all. The latest Ekadioin saga involved him putting out four 25 chips under the gun in an attempt to call. The only problem is that the blinds are now 75/150. The dealer told him he had to put in 50 extra. The other players at the table told him the same, but Ekadioin wasn't playing ball, looking to the player on his left as if it was his fault the hand had stalled to a halt.


Driss Ekadioin

Eventually, the remaining 50 chips were tossed in. Mikhail Sokolovskiy also limped before Ila Mikhailov put an end to the amiability with a raise to 600. Only Driss Ekadioin called. The 8♦9♠8♣ flop prompted Ekadioin into action, betting just 150 (but correctly this time). Sokolovskiy appeared confused but tossed in the small change anyway.

A K♣ on the turn was met with yet another 150 from Driss. This time Sokolovskiy had had enough and pumped it up to 700. A call.

The river was the 2♥. As you can probably guess, Ekadioin bet out again but this time it wasn't 150, it was 400. Sokolovskiy quickly called and won the pot with K♠J♠. Ekadioin showed the A♥J♦ for an elaborate bluff (we think) that didn't come close to working.

Ekadioin has dropped down to 31,000 while Sokolovskiy is doing just fine on 35,000. - RJ

1:50pm: More pace setting
Level 2 - Blinds 75/150

There was, I admit, a certain amount of hyperbole about the earlier claim that Dmitrii Filimonov was "setting the pace". It was early on Level 1, at which point nobody really sets any kind of pace.

However, Filimonov just won another decent pot to belatedly give some credence to the earlier claim. He certainly made Matheus Duarte regret either entering the pot in the first place, or the way the board ran out.

The hand started with folds all the way round to Duarte in the small blind. He made it 450 to play.

Filimonov three bet his big blind, putting 1,350 out there, and really setting the pace. Duarte called.

The Q♥8♠J♣ flop gave Duarte caution and he checked. But Filimonov made a pace-setting 1,400 bet, which Duarte called.

After the T♦ came on the turn, both players checked. Then the A♦ completed the board. Duarte now said he liked it. At least his bet of 2,500 carried that implication.

But Filimonov threw out two blue chips, representing a raise to 10,000. An angry Duarte thought for a minute and then dejectedly tossed his cards into the muck. -- HS

1:48pm: Goncharov shuts down Shutenko
Level 2 - Blinds 75/150

Ruslan Goncharov just gained some chips after a well-timed check-raise against Dmitriy Shutenko.

The board read T♥Q♣Q♥Q♠ and after a check from Goncharov in the big blind, Shutenko fired for 1,000 from the under the gun seat. Goncharov then reached deep and made it 4,000 to go.

That elicited a snap-fold from Shutenko who relinquished his hand and surrendered the pot to Goncharov.

That sees Shutenko sink to 26,000 while Goncharov moves up to 37,500. -- BK

1:40pm: Rychkov none the richer
Level 2 - Blinds 75/150

Roman Rychkov was under the gun and got the hand started with a 400 open. That was immediately called by Japan's Ryuya Sato (UTG+1), as well as Sergey Kim on the button. Those two had just played a big hand together (see below). The blinds folded and it went three to the flop.

That came 9♥6♦4♠ and it checked to Kim. He decided to take a 1,000 stab, which Rychkov called and Sato folded to. The 7♠ then fell on the turn and it checked through to the 2♥ river. Rychkov took over the betting lead and fired 1,500 into the pot, only for Kim to come over the top to 3,500. After a little think Rychkov laid it down and has 32,000, while Kim is up to 38,000. --JS

1:35pm: Sighing Sato clipped by Kim
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

Ryuya Sato, on the button, and Sergey Kim, in the big blind, were two of four players to get to a flop of K♠4♥8♦ and they quickly became the only two who mattered.

All four checked that flop but then when three checks followed the A♣ turn, Kim bet 1,500. Sato was the only man to call.

The A♣ fell on the river and Kim now quickly bet 1,500. Sato went through all the motions of what's know as a "sigh-call", tossing chips out even though he suspected he was beaten.

He was right. Kim showed his Q♥T♦--his straight got there--and Sato mucked. -- HS

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1:30pm: Heavyweights square off
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

Two of the best-known players in this field so far are Luca Pagano and Alexander Kostritsyn. And, as fate would have it, they are sat right next to each other on Table 3.

The two have wasted little time getting to know each other, with Pagano calling a Kostritsyn 3-bet before check-folding to a bet on the Q♣K♠2♣ flop. It was only a small wound to Pagano but there will undoubtedly be bigger battles to come later today.

Kostritsyn moves up to 35,000 while Pagano continues to sit pretty on 39,000. -- RJ

1:25pm: Kostritsyn's in the building
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

While there are still only a handful of immediately-recognisable players out in the field, one of them has just taken his seat next to Luca Pagano.

If you've never heard of Alexander Kostritsyn, lemme learn you a few things, because this guy is a beast.

Playing under the screen name 'joiso', he was 2016's biggest online money winner in cash games, profiting $1.42 million on PokerStars ($600,000 more than his closest rival, Ben 'Sauce123' Sulsky). In fact, he's one of the biggest high stakes winners of all time; his Full Tilt account (under the screen name PostFlopAction) is up $4.59 million lifetime.

He also has more than $3 million in live tournament earnings, almost half of which ($1.45 million) came from winnings the Aussie Millions Main event in 2008.

And Kostritsyn, from Russia, also has more than $1.7 million in online tournament winnings.

Expect some high level stuff. --JS

1:20pm: The first level lament
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

It's a common complaint about televised poker that a game of great subtlety is reduced to a series of coin tosses for the big bucks. Highlights shows only tend to feature hands that essentially play themselves.

It's not perfect, but it's maybe better than going to the other extreme. If you watched every hand in a poker tournament from start to finish, you'd realise just how little can occur.

Here are three Level 1 hands as a case in point. These are just the first three noticed on a recent spin around the room.

Ricardo Tavares limped from the button. Ruslan Yakimov called from the small blind. Varazdat Vardazaryan checked his option. This was a Brazilian going to battle with an Armenian and a Russian.

They all checked the 7♠3♥T♠ flop. Then both Yakimov and Vardazaryan checked the 8♠ turn. However they called after Tavares bet 200.

They then checked again on the 5♦ river.

Tavares showed Q♠2♥ but Vardazaryan's A♣3♦ had that beat. Yakimov mucked.

So, that's one hand. Here's another. On Table 15, Aleksei Savenkov opened to 225 and everyone folded.

So, that's another hand. Here's one more. Hold on to your hats.

There was about 2,000 in the pot and a board dealt to the river. It was Q♦3♦T♣A♠4♠. Dmitriy Shutenko checked and Sergey Tikhonov bet 1,500. Shutenko tanked, but then called. Immediately following the call, Tikhonov mucked.

Shutenko slid his cards away too and stacked up a few more chips. He now has around 42,000.

That's what it's really like during the first level. -- HS

1:15pm: Vyatkin rakes one
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

Aleksey Vyatkin is making the most of the first level here - he has already built his starting stack of 30,000 up to 39,000.

A lot of that increase can be credited to a recent pot where the cards were spread 3♦4♠A♦K♥Q♠ and Vyatkin bet 2,200 into a pot of around 3,000.

The decision then fell on Igor Arekin, and while he deliberated for a minute or so, ultimately he folded and Vyaktin was awarded the pot. -- BK

1:12pm: Ramos imminent
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

Team PokerStars Pro is about to get some backup in Day 1A.

Felipe Ramos just exited the PokerStars National High Roller in 13th --a finish worth ₽243,000 -- and is going to get straight back to poker. Ramos is heading back to his room for a quick freshen up and will come back down for a shot at the PokerStars Sochi Main Event. --AV

1:10pm: Driss can't miss
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

Driss Ekadioin has an unorthodox playing style - including frequently checking his cards by lifting them off the table, betting at the speed of sound and often leading out into the raiser - but it's working out rather well for him so far.

In Driss's latest exhibition he limped in for 100 and called after Mikhail Sokolovskiy, sitting to his right, made it 300. They both saw a 8♦T♣A♦ flop and Ekadioin check-called a 300 bet. The 8♣ fell on the turn and, after lifting up his cards for a sneak peek, Ekadioin now lead for 800. It was called instantly. The river was the 2♣ and Ekadioin bet again, but this time for just 500. Unfortunately, we will never know what he had as Sokolovskiy threw his hand away.

Ekadioin's turbo start to this tournament continues and he's now sitting on 42,000 while Sokolovskiy drops a little to 29,000. -- RJ

1:05pm: Russian protectors
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

Sochi is quite the novelty for a major PokerStars tournament.

It's the first time PokerStars has held a series of tournaments this scale in Russia. Players also have the luxury of playing surrounded by lush forests and clouds, in a casino nestled at the base of a mountain.

It's a serene compared to the urban settings most tournaments tend to have.

The lushness of the environment is replicated in the casino, with a luxuriously fluffy red carpet covering a lot of the casino. While we're used to fancy carpets, they're rarely so red.

There's also a lot of Russian at the table and a surprising lack of card protectors. Out of the nearly 100 players currently in the tournament, only a pair of them have card protectors.


A lesser spotted card protector

Georgy Komarov and Varazdat Vardazaryan are the only players in the tournament with pocket-sized poker buddies. Komarov has a chubby little cross-armed figurine with a broad smile while Vardazaryan has a fancy-looking red elephant.

The rest of the players will have to resort to their poker prowess to protect their hands and chips. --AV

1pm: Встряхни свой Moneymaker
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

Back in 1961, blues singer Elmore James wrote a little ditty called Shake Your Moneymaker. Then, in 1990, rock band The Black Crowes released their debut album, entitled Shake Your Money Maker. Fast forward 26 years, and hip hop artist Ludacris (featuring Pharell Williams) released a single called Money Maker, the opening line of which is--you guessed it--"Shake your money maker".

But now, in 2017, here in Sochi, Russian poker player Andrey Sakolishch couldn't shake his Moneymaker. He just lost a pot to him.

That might be a longwinded way to tell you that Team PokerStars Pro Chris Moneymaker is out in the field, but at least you've picked up some musical pub quiz trivia knowledge. Aleksey Vyatkin had opened, and Moneymaker called on the button, as did Sakolishch in the big blind, to see a T♠8♠5♠ flop. It checked to Moneymaker who made it 625, and only Sakolishch called.


Chris Moneymaker: A long way from Tennessee

The turn was the 2♥ and the poker boom starter continued for 1,100 which was called, resulting in an A♣ river. Sakolishch insta-checked, and Moneymaker fired again for 2,100. That was enough to shake off his opponent, and give Moneymaker the pot. He's up to 35,000 now.

"Встряхни свой" means "Shake your", by the way. At least according to Google translate. --JS

12:57pm: Ekadioin edging back
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

Driss Ekadioin seems to have lost a few chips early but he's fighting back after winning a three-way pot against Igor Dimitrijevic and Asylan Bakhitov.

On a board of 8♣K♥4♦J♦ Dimitrijevic checked in the small blind and Ekadioin bet for 100 from under the gun. Bakhitov was sitting in the cutoff and he wanted to play for more, bumping it up to 400. Dimitrijevic shared similar sentiments and he put in another raise to 1,100. Both Ekadioin and Bakhitov called and the dealer revealed the 6♣ river.

A final check from Dimitrijevic was met with a bet of 2,000 from Ekadioin. Bakhitov contemplated a call before making what looked like a reluctant fold, and then Dimitrijevic announced call but only threw in 200 in chips.

After he was made aware of the error Dimitrijevic asked if he still had to call, and discovering that his announcement was binding, he put calling chips in the middle to see Ekadioin table K♠5♦.

A pair of kings was the best of it as Ekadioin climbed back to 13,000 after a rough start. Dimitrijevic, meanwhile, fell to 15,500. -- BK

12:55pm: Koev shows his heart
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

A pot doesn't always have to be large to be interesting. That was the case in point over on Table 10. Georgi Koev limped in for 100 from mid-position and faced a raise to 300 from Dmitri Grimenko in the small blind. Koev called when the action was back on him.


Georgi Koev: Heart

A 2♥J♥K♥ flop prompted Grimenko to check. At that point Koev sprung into action, betting 600 and eliciting a fold from the pre-flop raiser. The moral of the story? He who has - or at least, he who represents - the hearts, wins. Both players are still sitting round about their 30,000 starting stack.

12:50pm: Filimonov sets the pace
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

As you might expect, there's been very little of lasting relevance happening in the opening stages of Level 1. But they are at least splashing a few chips around, which bodes well for the spectator.

On Table 9, it's Dmitrii Filimonov setting the pace and he just won back-to-back-to-back pots. I didn't see the first, just the fact that he was scooping in a few chips.

On the next hand, Mikhail Melkumov opened to 300 from the button and Filimonov three-bet to 900 from the big blind. Melkumov called and they took to a flop of 5♣2♠6♥.

Filimonov bet 1,500 and Melkumov folded.

Melkumov open limped from the cutoff on the next hand and Filimonov raised to 400 from the small blind. Sergey Isupov called from the big blind and Melkumov paid the extra.

The flop had all kinds of opportunities. It was T♥Q♥K♦. But all three players checked. After the 4♠ came on the turn, Filimonov bet 600 and got two quick folds. -- HS

12:45pm: Brazil's Tavares takes it down
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

While it's largely a Russian affair here in Sochi, a few internationals have made the trip. Brazil's Ricardo Tavares is one of them, and he's got off to a nice start.

After an under-the-gun limp, Oleg Poluzhnikov limped too from the UTG+1 seat, before Tavares made it 450 from the cutoff. Ukraine's Ruslan Yakimov called that on the button, as did the other two.

A 2♠8♦9♠ flop was dealt, and it checked to the Brazilian. He continued down the aggressive path with a 725 bet, which Yakimov called, as did the UTG limper. Poluzhnikov got out the way.

The K♥ fell on the turn and it checked to Tavares again. His bet was only slightly bigger this time - 750 - but it was enough to get two folds.

Vamos. --JS

12:40pm: Trenin wins at showdown without showing down
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

Alex Watson is one of the only UK players to have travelled to PokerStars Championship Sochi and he helped set up an interesting hand in the early stages of this Main Event Day 1A. Watson raised to 300 from early position, was called by Georgy Komarov and then faced a 3-bet from Sergey Trenin on the button.

The 3-bet was to 1,200 and that got rid of Watson but Komarov called. Komarov check-called 1,100 on the J♣5♥K♥ flop and the Q♦ came on the turn. This time both players checked. The T♣ river put four to a straight on the board. Komarov bet 2,000 and was quickly called by Trenin. However, we never got to see his hand as Komarov quickly mucked, allowing Trenin to scoop in the pot and leave the rest of the table in the dark as to what he had. -- RJ

12:35pm: Good news, shoddy reporting
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

The good news is that Team PokerStars Pro Luca Pagano has increased his 30,000 starting stack to 40,000 in the first half hour of this event. However, we weren't around to see how it happened.

We're keeping an eye on you, Pagano. --JS

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12:30pm: Starting strong
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

Players came to Sochi to play poker and many of them have hit the ground running.

Sergey Tikhonov raised to 200 from under the gun in the first few minutes of play and Roman Solovyev called from the cutoff. Ruslan Goncharov three-bet to 700 from the button and Tikhonov made it 1,200 to go.

Solovyev was done with the hand and folded. Goncharov still had a little more play left in him though and called. Tikhonov checked the 5♦A♥7♣ flop and Goncharov bet 1,000. Tikhonov called and an 8♦ came on the turn. Tikhonov checked again and Goncharov made it 7,000. Tikhonov thought for a bit, riffled his chips and called again. Then Goncharov took over the offensive and bet 8,000 when the Q♥ came on the river.

It was too much Goncharov. He was done with the hand and folded. Tikhonov is now up to to about 40,000 while Goncharov dipped to 20,000. --AV

12:25pm: Ibraginov trips up
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

Artur Ibraginov is stacking chips early after flopping three of a kind and getting some value from Denis Davydov.

We caught the action on the turn with the board reading 9♥7♥9♠A♣ and after Ibraginov checked from the big blind, Davydov fired for 200 from under the gun. Ibraginov made the call before the T♠ arrived on the river.

Ibraginov then took the betting lead with a 500-chip wager and after Davydov promptly called, Ibraginov showed him 9♣8♠. That was good to take Ibraginov up to 31,000 and drop Davydov to 29,000. -- BK

12:20pm: Prysev prises from Grinenko
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

A little slice of Level 1 action for you. Alexandr Prysev was under the gun and peeked down at something he liked, we assumed, because he opened the pot to 300. That was called by Dmitrii Grinenko in the hijack, and the two went heads up to a 9♣8♦A♦ flop.

Prysev opted not to c-bet, so when it checked to Grinenko he led out for 450. That bet was called and the dealer burned and turned the T♠, which Prysev would check again. Grinenko reached for yellow 1K chips and made it 2,100 to go. Call.

The 8♠ completed the board but there'd be no more betting. It went check check, and Grinenko mucked when Prysev turned over the A♥K♥ for a slow-played top pair. --JS

12:15pm: Who's here?
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

The short answer to that headline is: A lot of Russian players. We will obviously get to know many of them as stacks start to develop over the coming few days.

Sochi_Casino_and_Resort_25May17.jpgCasino Sochi

Right now, the most familiar custodians of 30,000 chip stacks are Team PokerStars Pro Luca Pagano and Orpen Kisacikoglu. But there are already 14 tables in play and many more equipped with dealers and chips and expectation for work to come. -- HS

12:11pm: The long hello
Level 1 - Blinds 50/100

The headline news from Casino Sochi is this: the PokerStars Championship Main Event is under way.

On the very stroke of 12:11pm, tournament director Toby Stone welcomed players to the first PokerStars Championship to take place in Russia and the C.I.S., promising a ₽150 million prize pool ($2.5 million approx) for this Main Event.

"We wish you the very best of success," Stone said, before instructing his dealer team to get going.

Stacks at 30,000 and blinds start at 50/100 in Level 1. We are playing eight 75-minute levels with a 75-minute dinner break after Level 6.

Follow all the action until the bitter end with us here. -- HS

11:00am: Greetings from Sochi

The PokerStars Championship has reached Sochi, the opulent and quite spectacular Black Sea resort, a Russian playground for poker players in these parts, and for those jetting in from around the world.

We're in Casino Sochi, a gold plated monument to everything that's glorious about the poker playing spirit, and the indefatigable belief that this time it will be they who walk out of this place several hundred thousand dollars to the good.

We'll have more details of what's coming up this week and next as play gets started, but first up is the Main Event, which starts at 12:00pm local time (we're two hour ahead of London, seven ahead of the US East Coast). -- SB

PSC_Sochi_Manuel_Kovsca_Branding 6_23May17.jpg

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PokerStars Blog reporting team in Sochi: Howard Swains, Jack Stanton, Ross Jarvis, Brad Kain, Alex Villegas, and Stephen Bartley. Photography by Neil Stoddart. Follow the PokerStars Blog on Twitter: @PokerStarsBlog