2008 World Series: Ivan Demidov

ivan-demidov.jpg24,400,000 chips

Ivan Demidov is the form player coming into the final table, having used his break from the World Series to play in, well, the World Series. Demidov returned to Europe after his heroics in Las Vegas and made the final table of the World Series Europe Main Event in London. He finished third, earning more than $600,000, and became the first player to make WSOP final tables on both sides of the Atlantic. He added this notable score to a near-$40,000 cash for 11th place in this year's WSOP $1,000 hold 'em event, and a string of smaller successes, including third in a side event at the Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic in 2007.

Demidov is at the forefront of a sensational boom in popularity of poker in his native Russia, alongside the Team PokerStars Pro Alex Kravchenko, who came fourth in last year's WSOP Main Event. Known as "Soul" on PokerStars, Demidov only started playing poker in 2006, but is already a professional and heads to the WSOP Final Table second to chip leader Dennis Phillips, with more than 24 million in chips.

A math graduate from Moscow State University, the 27-year-old cites Kravchenko's success as inspiration for his switch to full-time poker after a prior career as a semi-professional Starcraft player. While he’s not playing poker, he enjoys skiing, white water rafting and scuba diving.

Demidov begins final table play with 24,400,000 in chips.

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