Tuesday, 31st January 2023 06:50
Home / Features / The future is bright. The ‘FutureofMe’ is Alex Kulev.

When you write about online poker as much as we do, it’s always exciting to see an unfamiliar screen name rise through the ranks. We might not know the player’s real name yet, but we know that if they continue to crush as much as they have been, it’s just a matter of time.

For a while, that’s how we felt about the screenname “FutureofMe”.

The mysterious player, who played under the flag of Ireland, enjoyed some massive scores on other poker sites, and took down their first World Championship of Online Poker title in 2021, winning $68,766. From there, they became a regular in the high stakes tournaments on PokerStars.

Then, in 2022, FutureofMe won a second WCOOP title, a $5K High Roller worth $113,572. But this time, not only did we know his real name… we had pictures.

His name? Alex Kulev. A 27-year-old Bulgarian living in Dublin, and potentially a future poker superstar.

A future superstar

“Those titles really mean a lot,” Kulev tells me in the Players Lounge of the Hilton Park Lane. “SCOOPs and WCOOPs are the things that most inspire me. I think they’re the pinnacle of poker. I know for some of the experienced high rollers it’s the big live events, but for me right now, it’s online because that’s where I play more and focus more on.”

Alex Kulev: the face behind FutureofMe

There aren’t many players who have enjoyed such a rapid rise up the ranks as Kulev has. In two and a half years he’s gone from playing £2-£5 live cash games to the biggest online tournaments running regularly.

“Things are passing quickly right now but the WCOOP win is something I can look back on with pride, that I won such a prestigious event against players I respect,” he says.

He’s in town for the European Poker Tour (EPT) London and he’s got a busy schedule planned for the next couple of days: two £25,000 buy-in single-day tournaments. 

Welcome to the big leagues. 

A serious distraction

Kulev was born and raised in Bulgaria but moved to South Africa with his family when he was entering adolescence. When the time came for him to pick a university, he fulfilled a long-held desire to move back to Europe and settled in Dublin, where his poker journey began.

He began playing live cash games around the city and his new hobby became a convenient way for him to support himself while studying. “I fell in love with poker,” he says. “But unfortunately, towards the end of my time at university, it was becoming a very serious distraction.”

Kulev was studying Economics and International Relations, a subject he enjoyed in the beginning. But after a while, his fondness for poker eclipsed it. He decided to focus more on poker, simply because he enjoyed it more. “I found it more interesting,” he says.

“Cash is challenging but it doesn’t allow you to express yourself.”

That was around the beginning of the covid pandemic, and with no more live cash games to play, Kulev switched to online poker.

Switching to Online Poker

“I played online cash for around three or four months and while I was playing I’d play some tournaments on a Sunday,” he says. “Slowly but surely, cash games were drying up but tournaments were booming. Every single one was breaking guarantees, and I began enjoying tournaments more.

“Cash is challenging but it doesn’t allow you to express yourself, especially online,” he continues. “You play 100 big blinds, and you’re constrained by rake, your position etc. but tournaments allow you to find creative ways to play, and that’s what attracts me to them.

“Cash players play in tougher games, I agree with that, but they only play one thing. 100 big blinds effective, that’s their bread and butter, and they do that day in and day out, while tournament players are faced with so many different situations and that’s what makes it more challenging, the uncertainty of having a new spot come up which you haven’t practised before.”

Kulev at EPT Barcelona

From cash games to tournaments

So Kulev started practising. A lot. He began grinding online tournaments hard, while also studying every day.

“In the beginning, I was just marking hands, thinking about hands, that’s how I developed my game,” he says. “Make mistakes, think about the mistakes, and try to be better next time.”

Then he added training tools to his routines. “I was perhaps more experienced playing deep-stacked compared with most tournament players at lower stakes, which I was playing at the time,” he says. “But I was particularly weak at ICM, as you don’t have that in cash games.”

As he’d already built a solid bankroll, Kulev would have been forgiven for jumping straight into the high-stakes scene. But instead, he took a more conservative approach, maintaining an average buy-in of around $50, to begin with.

The start of something big

He remembers a session where he was playing cash games and had one tournament on the side. He ended up winning it for $15K. “It was just massive to me and gave me a lot of confidence,” he says.

That was on a Saturday. Inspired, he decided to play a big session on Sunday, and things went well. He started playing higher and higher, as high as his bankroll allowed, and he simply hasn’t stopped since.

“I’ve been very fortunate,” he says. “It has been really quick. I’ve had downswings, of course, but I’ve just been able to keep playing higher and I’ve been fortunate enough to perform. But I’ve also been lucky to have had the scores that I’ve had. It definitely feels quick.”

A routine for success

During big online series like WCOOP and SCOOP, Kulev will play six days a week, taking Fridays off. He tries to study every day. “I only do an hour of study a day, but the most important is that I do it every single day so I have a routine. It gives me confidence.”

Outside of the series, he’ll play Thursdays and Sundays, with three days of study each week. “Finding a balance between playing and studying is the key,” he says. “I get things wrong all the time but I try to explain it to myself, and then I can implement it in different spots.”

“I’ve been lucky to have had the scores I’ve had. It definitely feels quick.”

But right now, Kulev has stepped away from the monitors and is here in London for the EPT. He still considers online poker his prime focus, but over the past year, he’s enjoyed getting his feet wet in the live high rollers. 

Returning to bricks and mortar

He’s had some fantastic brick-and-mortar results, too. At the World Series of Poker in 2021, he finished runner-up to former PokerStars Team Pro Leo Margets in the $1,500 Closer event, good for $232,920, but agonisingly close to a bracelet. “I was incredibly lucky just to get to that point,” he says. 

His biggest live cash on the EPT circuit came from a fifth-place finish in a €10K 6-Max event at EPT Barcelona for €49,470.

“I still feel very inexperienced when it comes to live poker,” he says. “The players I face in the high rollers are the same I play against all the time online, but I still have a lot to learn and improve on.

“Most of the people I play against in live high rollers know who I am now though, which is nice. The fields are very challenging. I accept that those players are far more accomplished than me. I just want to be able to compete with them.”

Back to his online haunts

When EPT London wraps up, Kulev will return to Dublin and to the online poker streets. That’s where he currently feels most at home. But you can expect to see him at all of the PokerStars live events in the near future, including the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) and PokerStars Players Championship (PSPC) in January.

“I’m a horrible satellite player but I was able to win my first qualifier package for the PCA,” he says. “I was probably going to be there anyway, but it definitely helps.

“I find the game very exciting right now. I want to play higher and higher and compete against the best. I’m sure that hunger will not be there forever, but right now I want to use it as much as I can, compete against the best, and see how it goes. The challenge is what I look forward to. Learning and having fun.”

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