WSOP 2011: Katchalov hides in the long grass

wsop2011-thumb-blog.pngEugene Katchalov watches impassively as the action kicks off on his table. A raise to 800 is three-bet to 2,200, there are two callers before the original raiser bumps it up once more to 7,200. Now his opponent raises again, a five-bet to 17,000. The two callers scarper but the original aggressor moves all in (just a six-bet shove, then) to make it 27,000 total. Instant call. Now, even I was able to guess the hands here: kings for the at-risk original raiser, and aces for the younger man two seats along. The aces held on a 8♣9♠6♥3♠6♠ board.

As the victor sprang out of his seat and high-fived his friends behind the ropes, the dealer pushed the bulging pile of yellow 1,000 and orange 5,000 chips across the table. No-one seemed to give a moment's thought for the loser, who sloped off, his WSOP dreams dashed for another year.

Katchalov, meanwhile, remained stock still, left elbow digging into the padded table rail; head resting in the cup of his hand. The Team PokerStars Pro from Ukraine, who lives in the US, sits with exactly the same number chips as he had when he started more than six hours ago.


Eugene Katchalov

If you didn't know better, you might think this was a player who was a little shy, playing uber-tight poker in order to try and progress without too many unpleasant confrontations.

Another hand. Two more players are at it. A three-bet is called and there is action on the flop and turn before one of them gives up in disgust, slapping his cards down on the table. Again, the dealer quietly shovels the pot across the table, and again Katchalov sits motionless; expressionless. He even looks a little bored by it all.

Where was the Eugene Katchalov that records suggest should be a loose aggressive maniac who bullies and fights his way to final tables? Surely his recent WSOP bracelet, winning $122,000 in the $1,500 7-card stud event, together with numerous other live successes, including the Super High Roller at the PCA ($1.5million), not to mention online scores at PokerStars (a WCOOP bracelet in 2009) were the product of a man who did not like to sit still.

Here's the thing, Katchalov has achieved all of that (we didn't even mention his fourth place in this year's WSOP $1,500 limit shootout) with the coolness of a cucumber in a very cold fridge. He does not like to mix it up in pot after pot, a style characterised by the likes of Sam Stein, who also won a bracelet here this year as well as final tabling the PCA main event.

Instead, he'll be more selective. Heaven help anyone who gets in his way when he does get involved, though. Then the aggression kicks in big style. His stack today suggests he is yet to find that opportunity. What works in his favour, is that any players who do not know him will not have a clue what are they are in for if they tangle.

Katchalov is the ultimate predator waiting silently and patiently like a lion in the long grass. And judging by the wild action at his table, there are one or two gazelles with plump rumps that might very soon be sliced into bits.

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Team PokerStars Pro Jose "Nacho" Barbero

Daniel Negreanu quoting Eckhart Tolle "In the proximity of death, the whole concept of ownership stands revealed as ultimately meaningless."

"If I feel tired I sit in the seats on the main stage and take a nap. The crowd wakes me up for the all-ins."

JustinBonomo @WSOPTD A huge WSOP controversy arises today. All entrants got free Dear Foam slippers - unless they started in the Tan section!#RiotsSoon

Dario Minieri is now up to more than 60,000.

A total of 72,966 players took part in the 2010 World Series of Poker, which is more than the entire number of players in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 combined.