– Hello Pasha! Congratulations on a huge win. This is not only your first bracelet, but also the first bracelet won by a player from Moldova. Do you think this will somehow affect the development of poker in your homeland?
– I looked, and they wrote about it in the Moldovan news. In general, many friends who are not connected with poker congratulated me. I don't think that this will somehow affect the popularity of poker in Moldova, although someone may be interested. Despite the fact that the threshold for entry into poker has increased a lot in 10 years, in countries like Moldova or Russia it is still profitable to become a regular since the average salary is quite low. For some in Switzerland with an average income of €4-5k, you will already seriously think about whether it is worth playing poker now. And we are still fine.
– Did any of the non-poker media contact you?
Nobody tried to contact me. But in 2018, when I won the WPT in Miami, Komsomolskaya Pravda called me on my home number. They talked to my mom and asked her questions. And now, after winning the bracelet, they staged the same interview and pretended that this conversation was just now.
– Where are you staying this year?
For the duration of the World Series, we almost always rent a house. This time for four – me with my wife Masha and Arseny Karmatsky with his wife Ksyusha. When Wynn has a shorter series in the winter, we stay at a hotel. But coming for almost two months, it is much more convenient to live in a house.
– Isn’t it hard to chat with poker players all day at the tables, during breaks, at dinner, and then come home and discuss hands again?
– I’m lucky that Masha doesn’t play poker at all, so I hardly discuss hands with her. But sometimes it happens with Arseny. But the series should be like that – all the attention to poker. When we meet somewhere, all communication usually comes down to hands. I think it's ok. Everyone wants to feel this atmosphere, and then they leave and live their own lives.
– Like in a children's camp
– How did the start of the World Series turn out for you, was there anything interesting?
– The most interesting was the $10k Mystery Bounty tournament. I played this format for the first time at the WSOP and was able to cash. The atmosphere is different from ordinary tournaments – they set up a huge screen with a chest, if you knocked someone out – you come up and press the button, the chest starts shaking and the whole room is watching. When it was the minimum amount drops, everyone celebrated, because the big bounty is still in the game. Plus, the dynamics at the tables are completely different, people are fighting for knockouts, and you constantly have to watch who you cover and who you don’t. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to knock anyone out. I busted in a flip, TT against AK, and the king came on the river.
– Let's talk about Millionaire Maker . What happened in the early days?
– In general, everything went very well. The first day I can’t remember anything interesting, but on the second day, I was constantly moving from one table to another. In a tournament with 10,000 players, you rarely crossed paths at the tables with familiar regulars. Of course, it took a lot of luck – for example, cracking aces with AK for a third of my stack. Before that, the opponent lost a few hands very disappointingly, such as kings to aces, AK to KK. And so, he got aces. I raise and he's like, "Okay, that's it, I'm tired." And went all in. Obviously, he has a very good hand, but he had about 20 bb, AK in such situations is not to be folded. I rivered a straight. It turned out that this was not my last victory over aces in the tournament.
It was hard to play this tournament, it started every day at 10 AM. Yes, some days we finished early, but it took a long time to fall asleep, so I didn’t get enough sleep for the whole tournament, I slept for six hours at best. Just before the final day, I slept well and was already more cheerful.
Luck is not always about winning flips. You make a bluff and the person folds, you hit the nuts, and your opponent has a very strong hand and must pay. There were many such situations.
– What do you need to do to get there? You already said at least get enough sleep.
– Probably, it won’t take long to reach this point.
In terms of money, of course, I went over a lot, but I have been trying to win a bracelet for a very long time. The last series I had two second places, one online – I went heads-up with a 4-1 lead, but still lost. And then in one of the last tournaments of the series, 6-max for $10k, I also failed to manage a heads-up lead for a bracelet. I already thought: “Well, maybe this is it.” But no. And now I finally got the bracelet.
The final table, by the way, turned out to be stronger than you expect from such a tournament. There were young and understanding guys. I won’t say that it’s a very tight final, but for such a tournament it’s much higher than average.
Do you remember the key hands?
– Everyone already knows about how I cracked aces, so I'll tell you about the important one, after which I became the chip leader. I was dealt Aces against AQ. A young reg opens early, I 3-bet with Aces on the button. The flop came A-high with a flush draw. I bet small and got called. The turn was a queen and the flush hit. Check-check. The river was a blank, and Villain bet big, 75% of the pot. I decided that if I shove, he won’t pay me with weaker hands, this is still the final table. Considering ICM, it seems to me that calling was the only play. Some of my fans wondered why I just called. The famous German in the pink hat, in my opinion, was also surprised.
After this hand, I started to break away a little bit and build a stack. So that was the key. And when the aces shoved, even if I had lost, I would still have the chip leading stack.
– Didn't you feel sorry for the dude in the pink hat?
– It's a pity, I don't like to win from well behind like that. Of course, you always want to win the hand, but you want to rely much more on the skill, and not on pure luck. But here's how it worked there. It's a pity for my opponents, but it's nice to add chips to the stack.
– Do you have rituals to attract good luck, lucky T-shirts, or something else?
No, I change shirts every day.
Is it possible to win a big tournament without luck?
– No, even a small one will never win without luck. In any case, you should be raising often, bluffs should get through, and the nuts should be paid off.
– So you mean that you need to train not for skill, but luck? How can I get luckier?
– I think you just need to treat others normally so as not to spoil the karma. By the way, I had a wonderful support group – they cheered me up, made chants. Perhaps I got better hands at the final table thanks to them.
– You played Millionaire Maker for five days. How do you manage such live poker marathons?
– In this tournament, there was not even enough time to sleep. I played, had dinner, drank beer, looked through my phone, because I could not sleep. And in the morning you have to go to play further! I won’t say that I managed to recover the way it should be done in an ideal world. In general, live marathons are hard for me, maybe age is already taking its toll. Although if you look at Negreanu, it seems that this is just an excuse.
You should try to maintain some physical activity, but it's still hard. You are immersed in hands, you are in constant tension, you have to think about a million things at once, follow the tells. It also gets super cold in the room. It all puts pressure on the body, it’s really hard, and you have to squeeze all the strength out of yourself. After such tournaments, a couple of days of rest is simply necessary. I actually gave myself a mini-vacation.
– Have you already celebrated the win?
– We gathered in separate groups – we met with someone at dinner, with someone in a bar. Immediately after the tournament, we went to dinner with the fans. So you can say yes.
– Is winning the first bracelet the highlight of your career?
– It's pretty important to me. I won a lot of online tournaments. The Mains at EPT didn't work out, but I have a few wins for the side tournaments. I've won a WPT, only the WSOP was left.
There are players for whom titles are not important at all, say they give out bracelets, and the main thing for them is money. I'm not like that. I am pleased to put the bracelet on the shelf, look at it, and remember. it fondly
– I read on PokerNews that you are considering buying a house. In which country?
To be honest, I just said that. I just gave out standard phrases, because I was very tired, and in general I don’t particularly like interviews. I have not yet thought about how to spend the winnings.
– Have you been somewhere, besides the casino, during this series?
– We really like escape rooms, we were here already at three. There is always a lot of adrenaline, especially when time is running out, and you have not completed the task yet, you have to use your brains.
Arseny also promised to teach me how to play squash, I've been wanting to try it for a long time.
There are a lot of shows and concerts in Vegas, but we have already been to a lot of places in previous years and this time we did not go to a single show. Maybe we'll go somewhere for the rest of the week. There's a new show on Wynn, but it's not very highly rated, and the guys who've already seen it didn't like it very much, so we'll probably skip it.
A Sphere was recently built here, in October they promise to launch some kind of show there. I don't know exactly what it will look like, but they say it will be something unique. We definitely want to get there; we will buy tickets in advance when we go to the series in Wynn.
I’m also a UFC fan, there was a fight on Saturday, but I didn’t like the ticket prices, it’s too expensive.
– How do you win $1.2 million and spare money for a ticket, haha.
The prices here are outrageous. Formula 1 will be held soon. I'm not a fan, but yesterday for fun I went to the site and saw a super-mega-ultra-vip package. Everything is included, even first-class plane tickets from anywhere in the world. How much do you think it might cost?
– Hmm, well, let's say $200,000.
– Nearly five times more! Two-thirds of my win or $888,000! You can, for example, spend the winnings in this way. It would definitely be a great story.
How will you recover after Vegas?
– We have already bought tickets to Oslo. We have never been to Scandinavia and decided to visit Norway. We have not planned anything yet, but we want to climb mountains, look at the fjords and enjoy nature. I'll give myself a week of good rest from poker.
– Who, in your opinion, is the most unfortunate player of this series?
– I chose Phil Ivey in the GipsyTeam draft, but for some reason, he has not had a ton of deep runs. I rooted for him both in the Players Championship and in the hyper turbo that Hellmuth won, and Phil busted out sixth. I don't know if he can be called the most unlucky, but I would really like him to bring me more points.
– But I chose you in the draft and I was not mistaken
– Well, the main thing there was not to choose me initially, and not to replace me out of disappointment. I scored 0 points for half of the series, I couldn’t even make a min-cash anywhere. I think a lot of people may have replaced me. And here it was necessary to be lucky, to manage not only to buy but also not to sell.
– Who do you think has been the player of the series?
– Of the obvious choices – Chris Brewer. If one of our players makes the final table of the main, then this honorary title will go to him.
– And how did your Main Event end?
– I busted out after dinner on the second day. The first day ended with a stack slightly less than the starting one, then I was moving up and down. Was up to 90bb and then lost in a 3-bet pot flush to flush. I had 1.5 bb left, from which I went up to 7 bbs and left for dinner. Already started planning a comeback. Came back from dinner but couldn't get up again. It's a shame. It is clear that the stack is super short, but in the Main, it is quite possible to spin it up.
– What should you definitely do in Vegas if you come here for the first time?
- Go to the Grand Canyon, fly in a helicopter over the night Vegas scene, and go to some shows. And try not to lose your bankroll in blackjack or craps.