RPT St Petersburg: From Russia with love
Let's be honest, starting a new poker tour is a bit of a leap into the unknown. You do know the destinations will appeal, and you do know the event organisation and format will be second-to-none. What you don't know is just how many players will take the trouble to find out for themselves by signing up.
When PokerStars sponsored the Russian Poker Tour, it did so in the belief that this new series of events would be a popular addition to the poker calendar. Sure enough, as the tour kicked off in St Petersburg this week, it became clear that the confidence was well placed.
Side events were well attended, and the main event, which kicked off at 3pm local time last night, exceeded all expectations by attracting 201 players, each paying $5,000 for the chance to take down the first RPT title.
Among them were a merry band of PokerStars qualifiers, two members of Team PokerStars Pro - Vanessa Rousso and local favourite Alex Kravchenko - plus PokerStars sponsored player Ivan Demidov, the Russian who made the final table of the 2008 WSOP Main Event in November.
The size of the field took organisers by surprise, with tournament director Thomas Kremser agreeing to move to a ten-handed format at the start of play in order to fit everyone in. Even then there was a list of alternates waiting for their chance to join the action.
But with many bust outs in the early levels, they soon got to sit down. Early fallers were popular Russians Sergey Rybachenko and Alexander Kostritsyn, who would not add to his $1.7 million in tournament cashes.
Kravchenko (33,000), Rousso (10,900) and Demidov (38,700) all made it through with 69 others to today's Day Two, when overnight chip leader Oleg Suntsov will return with an 85,600 chip mountain to lead the charge to the final table.
If you can read Russian, or even if you can't but have a penchant for words that make no sense all, then you can try and follow the action as it happens over at PokerStars' Russian blog. The prize payouts can be found here, and we'll put up the offical list of overnight chip counts just as soon as we have them.