Anaras Alekberovas was the dark horse of the final table last season, made darker perhaps because the spotlight was directed firmly at the Finns Ilari Sahamies and Joni Jouhkimainen. But while Alekberovas could never match them for sparkle (he had no sequined trilby for a start), he impressed with his play. A silent and lethal style which, combined with his oddness, left a lasting impression.
Part of that impression was of a man comfortable in himself, rocking the “confused genius” look of intense focus, no doubt harking back to his days as a chess champion in his native Lithuania. Now in the more public world of live poker, his appearance is at odds with the outfits of his fellow players. Alekberovas stands out.
Between hands a friend stopped by to say hello. They shook hands, Alekberovas keeping his leather elbow patch at a strict right angle. There’s something of the late 80s about him, with the formality of the 1950s. Thick curly hair, some sort of shave, and a well cut jacket in a colour that, when shown on an old box-style television, would remain the same colour regardless of how many valves broke to remove the red, green or blue.
Not much has been written about much since his performance here 12 months ago, possibly because his surname is so difficult to spell. He says very little, presumably so as not to interrupt the series of voices in his head busy reducing every mathematical calculation down to a simple “bet, raise or fold.”
But while certain Finns can claim to have made a breakthrough last year, Alekberovas can claim the same. Months after his Barcelona performance, he won a €3K event in Dortmund and added more than €100,000 to his career earnings since. To top it off he was also EPT Qualifier of the Year for Season 9.
For all this though, the most obvious things about Alekberovas today is his chip stack. Alekberovas is playing pots. He’s also winning pots.
After a series of hands, from which Alekberovas seemed to come out best, the latest, against Estonian Madis Muur, took him to more than a million chips.
Alekberovas check-raised from the small blind on a jack-high flop featuring two clubs. On a blank turn, Alekberovas bet 111,000, which Muur tank-called for a third club on the river.
Alekberovas, still, occasionally blinking, bet small, a sinister-looking bet which put Muur on hold. He passed, Alekberovas raking in another pot with his long fingers. Others said a few words. Alekberovas meanwhile will let his chips do the talking.
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Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter.