– Hello, Stas! Tell me, when did you arrive and how long do you plan to spend in Vegas?
– I arrived before the start of the series, on May 25, and I will be here until the end. With my backer, they specifically planned it this way – to arrive in advance, prepare and play the whole series. Last year I flew to the World Series from Indonesia and for two weeks I could not shake the jetlag. It ended very dadly. This time we decided to take things more seriously.
– What was your training?
– In the spring I was in Georgia, met my mother and grandmother there, and felt really positive after being with them. I also took care of my health – I went through a check-up and went to the dentist. If you get some kind of sore or toothache in a big series, then it will be a big problem, you most likely won’t be able to play. So this time I'm ready to the maximum.
– Where did you stay?
– I live alone, I rent. When I came to Vegas in the winter, I found a good option on Airbnb and now I also decided to stay here.
It’s even more convenient for me to live alone, you can tune in to the game, and there is no constant hubbub. True, sometimes it gets boring. Although, in fact, in Vegas, you go to the tournament in the morning, and usually return at night, so you just go to bed at home.
– What interesting things happened before the summer? I saw that you have a lot of cashes, it turns out that everything went well?
It's only on paper.
As soon as I arrived, I immediately reached the final table in the 8-game tournament, together with Dukalis, but I busted out on the straight bubble. The tournament was for $3,000 and the minimum cash was around $11,000. That was how I started in Vegas. I immediately realized that it would not be easy, but it would be fun.
Then I played small tournaments in Venetian and Aria, reached the final table, but crashed out in fifth or sixth place. In general, I won quite a bit. And then there was a two-week streak with no cashes at all, and I played about 40 tournaments. ABI was not high, up to $1.5k, but still unpleasant. It got pretty expensive it turns out.
How were your first days in the $10k PLO? At some point in the final table you had half of all the chips, how did that happen?
Those who played with me know that I have such a style – I really don’t like to sit out, and wait for something, if my kung fu doesn’t work out, I’m one of the first to bust out. But if it works, then I get a lot of chips. It is doubly pleasant that it went like this in this tournament.
– Who was the strongest at the final table?
– The guys and I went over everyone and came to the conclusion that it was me. The lineup turned out to be very good for such a buy-in. Therefore, the mood was to win, and the stack size helped with that.
I have not yet studied the hands from the finals, and so much of my memory is gone because of emotions. I don't remember any crazy bluffs, just playing my game. The guys said that it was worse for me than for the rest, I also hit the boards worse than my opponents.
– I saw the hand with J976. Will you talk about it?
– I already had the shortest stack, about 16 bb. For a long time nothing came, finally, I waited for a two-suited hand. Lou Garza [future winner – approx. ed. ] opened from the button, I reraised it. The stacks were very close, any hand could decide the fate of the tournament. I assumed that the opponent might fold preflop, but he called. And I hear in the background how my friends who were rooting for me say: “We need a flop of 223!”. I think to myself: “Damn, this is definitely not necessary.” Well, the flop comes out – A23 rainbow. And I have a jack-high and an SPR of 0.5. I thought I'd bet half my chips and give up, leaving 5 bb to spin up. I start to put forward stacks, they fall over, and I try to collect them. In general, some kind of circus begins. It looked like he had a similar hand and he was like “everything, everything, everything, nope, I fold.” I showed him what I had.
– You had a lot of fans at the final table. Do you like it when people are actively rooting for you?
Well, it's nice anyway. It just so happened for me, there was nothing special to play, so many were able to come. But in general, this can be difficult in Vegas, you can have many friends, but everyone has their own tournaments, so it’s hard to find time.
– I noticed that there were a lot of limps from late positions and from the button in the final round. Is this a default in tournaments?
– I also dabble a little in this strategy, but as I saw the situation, we have shallow stacks, so I tried not to bloat the pot as much as possible. Limping is played with the goal of calling a raise and then playing a hand in position. If you open and get a 3-bet, then the SPR will be very small, if you don’t hit the board, you won’t be able to do anything. Of course, this all needs to be mixed with limping/3-betting from open positions.
Did you limp/3-bet anyone in this tournament?
– In the final table, I limped average hands, so it seems not.
– Is Omaha at the WSOP somehow different from the European series?
– Last year I played a tournament in Barcelona, also for $10,000. The entire Omaha elite gathered there, all the European top regs. The tournament had 100-something entries. And here you sit and realize that perhaps you sat here in vain. And there are a lot of people in Vegas, a lot of American regs who think they know how to play. In reality, they are lost in the first difficult hand. So, despite the buy-in, the field was very good.
– In addition to the series, you also play in other casinos, do you have days off?
– Sunday was the first day off in a month, and that was only because I didn't win the tournament. If I had won, I would have gone to play the $25k. And I busted out and we went to dinner, looked at each other with a backer, and unanimously said: “Tomorrow we skip the $25k.”
It is clear that I won six times more than my previous biggest prize, but at the same time, the expectations before the final table were high, and the line-up was great. We just understood that most likely I would not be able to recover from this in one day. Therefore, it would be -EV to play the $25k. Although after dinner we looked at the line-up and regretted our decision not to play.
How do you reset between tournaments?
– I have quite a lot of experience playing live. In Vegas, of course, everything is as tough as possible. Tournaments often start right in the morning, and if they start in the afternoon, there is usually no lunch break.
I've adjusted myself since the beginning of the series. I wake up at 7-8 in the morning, walk 5 km on the track. Then I lie in the jacuzzi or swim in the pool. I also take food from home with me, because it is not always possible to look for something to eat. Plus, the savings are small, but this is not the main point here.
My backer helped me a lot with the mental component, he takes such things very seriously. You cannot go to play a tournament if you are in a bad mood, for example. I can tell him any day that I want to take three days off, and he will take it perfectly fine. Plus, exercise helps keep you fit.
– Do you have any plans outside the series? Are you going to go somewhere else?
– To be honest, I don't know yet. Last year I went to the Absinthe show. I liked it, but in general, all sorts of concerts and shows are not very interesting to me. I prefer good restaurants.
– What was the most delicious thing you tried at the series?
– Steaks in one of the restaurants in Paris. This year, I haven't gone to expensive places yet.
– How do you like the organization of the WSOP this year?
– During the final table, I didn’t like that the fans yelled during the action, and not even always when their player was in the hand. They were right behind me, shouting and cursing a lot. Psychologically, it didn’t put pressure on me, but that’s me. For someone else, it may be uncomfortable. Shouting and cheering after the hand is okay, but during the game it's overkill. I think the organizers should be more careful about such things.
And everything else is excellent. Sometimes there are issues with dealers, if you are in a bad mood, then it pisses you off a little, but if everything is in a good mood, then you just help them, and it does not bother you. The dealer, especially in limit games, must have a lot of experience. Usually, there is an experienced player at each table who helps the dealer.
By the way, I had a story – one regular tried to deceive me. We played limit Omaha Hi-Lo, and this, firstly, is not really my game, and, secondly, I'm already tired. So this opponent did not deliver half of the big bet, and the dealer did not notice. But other players noticed and then angled him for another half an hour. Then I knocked him out of the tournament, and when he left, the whole table clapped after him.
– He got what he deserved, it turns out. And why was everyone sure that he did it on purpose, and not just a mistake?
– Before that, he had been sitting and captaining for five hours, telling everyone exactly how to bet and how to play. So he knew the game well and could not make a mistake there. It was obvious that he did it deliberately, for which he paid the price.