As documented yesterday, Kyiv is the furthest flung destination we have visited on the European Poker Tour to date. Not if, like, you live in Ukraine, but, well, you know what I mean. One of the great things about the EPT, however, is that it remains a magnet for poker’s top stars; a title is one of the most sought after in the game and you can’t stop a poker player travelling in their attempts to enter the role call of winners.
So it is that in Kyiv today, the field has taken on a familiar EPT complexion. There is the usual raft of PokerStars qualifiers, there is a large and vocal contingent of local players and yes, there are the superstars. Here’s a brief introduction to some of the players in the field today:
Dario Minieri, Italy, Team PokerStars Pro
After a relatively lean World Series for the pocket dynamo this year, Dario Minieri has returned to the happy stomping ground of the EPT. Still considered to be one of poker’s new crop of talent, he already has a veteran’s list of honours: he has made three final tables on the EPT, among five cashes, and continues to thrash through the online games. He has a World Series bracelet from 2008 and made the final table of the first WPT event to be held in Italy in May.
Ivan Demidov, Russia, Team PokerStars Pro
If Ivan Demidov never played another poker tournament after the summer of 2008, he’d still go down as one of the best the game has seen. That was the year in which he battled through to the final table of the World Series Main Event, then used the break before the November Nine showdown to make the final table of the World Series Europe. He would go on to take third in London and second in Vegas, good for about $6m.
Katja Thater, Germany, Team PokerStars Pro
Like her Team PokerStars Pro teammate Minieri, Katja Thater also has a World Series bracelet and a string of exceptional results in major tournaments across the world. She made an EPT final table in Warsaw on season four, has made two World Series final tables (including the one she won) and is in confident mood coming into this new season.
Shaun Deeb, USA, PokerStars passport winner
Shaun Deeb, known online as, waitforit, “shaundeeb” is the best online tournament player in the world. He won the PokerStars tournament leaderboard two years running and currently sits atop the online tournament rankings. He also won the WCOOP Main Event and has now been furnished with a PokerStars passport, which allows him to translate his online form to the live environment. We, along with plenty of follows on the online message boards, will be following Deeb closely.
Leo Fernandez, Argentina, Team PokerStars Pro
Arguably travelling further than anyone else to be here, the Team PokerStars Pro Leo Fernandez has made the journey half way round the world from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Kyiv, Ukraine. Fernandez was a star on the Latin America Poker Tour and has three World Series cashes. He marked his EPT debut with a cash at the PCA in January.
Vlad Zguba, Ukraine, Team PokerStars Pro
He’s as new to us as he will be to many of you, but the new Team PokerStars Ukraine Pro comes highly recommended. This is his home EPT and big things are expected.
Vitaly Lunkin, Russia
If proof was necessary of the exceptional boom in poker in the CIS, Vitaly Lunkin would be the man to point to. On the back of Demidov’s dominant World Series of 2008, the 2009 renewal belonged to Lunkin. He won the $40,000 anniversary hold ’em tournament for close to $2m and then came fourth in the $50,000 HORSE event, jousting with and bettering the best and richest players in the world.
Alexander Kostritsyn, Russia
Another phenomenally talented young Russian player, with results to prove it. By the time Kostritsyn was cashing six times in the 2008 World Series, he was already the Aussie Millions champion, good for nearly $1.5m. He then won the HORSE event in 2009 in Melbourne and followed up with another couple of cashes this summer in Vegas.
John Kabbaj, UK
Another bracelet winner at this year’s World Series, John Kabbaj has been at the top of the British game for several years, so much so that victory in the $10,000 pot-limit hold ’em event in Vegas was widely considered to be long overdue.
Among others we’ll be following closely are:
Andrea Benelli, Italy
Liya Gerasimova, Russia
Darren Mould, UK, PokerStars qualifier
Stuart Rutter, UK
Dragan Galic, Croatia
Nicolas Levi, France
Tristan Clemencon, France
David Sonelin, Sweden
Christoph Halle, Germany
Pier Paolo Fabretti, Italy
Don’t forget you can’t follow the action level-by-level on the level-by-level post(s). And somewhere on this page there’s a link to the fastest, most accurate chip counts in town. See if you can find it.