First Ever Russian Poker Tour Title Claimed by Oleg Suntsov

Oleg Suntsov
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By Jennifer Newell PokerStars seems to be taking over the globe with poker tours in more and more countries and regions each year. But after the amazing success of the PokerStars.com European Poker Tour, then the Latin American Poker Tour and Asian Poker Tour, why not go to the country that is producing some of the hottest tournament players on the scene these days? Thus, the PokerStars.com Russian Poker Tour (RPT) came to be and launched at the end of January 2009. And the first stop on the RPT was much-anticipated and wildly popular among players from Russia and surrounding countries. The tournament series in St. Petersburg was well-attended, and the main event ended up drawing 201 players. Tournament director Thomas Kremser even made a last-minute decision to play the beginning of the event ten-handed due to the high number of registrants. And with those 201 players buying in to the $5K event, the first prize was set at an astounding 10,616,000 rubles, which equated to approximately $300K in U.S. money. For the first RPT event, the numbers were impressive. The field wasn’t so shabby either, with names like Alex Kravchenko, Ivan Demidov, and Alexander Kostritsyn in the mix. U.S. player Vanessa Rousso even made the trek halfway across the world to play in the RPT tournament. Day 1 was crowded, even having to accommodate alternates, but when it was over, only 69 remained. Kravchenko, Demidov, and Rousso were among the survivors, but it was Oleg Suntsov from St. Petersburg in the lead with 85,600 chips. The players who returned on Day 2 were not going to drag out the inevitable. With only 18 set to reach the money, many left the field early in the day, including Rousso and Demidov. Kravchenko found himself looking for a double-up as the money bubble approached, and when play was hand-for-hand with 19 players, he looked down at pocket aces and shoved for his last 50K. Alex Grishuk called with A-2, but everything changed when deuces fell on the turn and the river. Kravchenko became the bubble player, finishing in 19th place. When the field was reduced to just ten players, it stayed that way for about 90 minutes as caution prevailed and the final table was so close. Finally, Mark Vronsky made his all-in move with pocket nines, but the Q-J of another player found help on the board and eliminated Vronksy in tenth place. The final table was then set for the next day, February 1st, as follows: Dumitru Gaina (Moldova) 501,000 Sergey Popuk (Russia) 302,000 Sergey Solntsev (Russia) 256,000 Vadim Markushevsky (Belarus) 256,000 Anatoly Ozhenilok (Russia) 203,000 Bulat Bikmetov (Russia) 181,000 Evgeny Zaytsev (Russia) 178,000 Alex Pantukhin (Russia) 76,000 Oleg Suntsov (Russia) 64,000 Action began without a great deal of aggression, but Evgeny Zaytsev became the first player to put his chips at risk and attempt to make something happen of significance. He did it with pocket jacks, but Bulat Bikmetov called with pocket queens. The board bricked for Zaytsev and sent him out in ninth place with 643,000 rubles. Surprisingly, Dumitru Gaina was unable to keep up his momentum from the day before and lost chips consistently at the final table. After Suntsov doubled through Gaina, the latter pushed all-in post-flop with an open-ended straight draw. It was Vadim Markushevsky who called with the nut flush draw, and the river gave it to him. Gaina was suddenly out, having to accept an eighth place finish and the 965,000 rubles that went with it. Ozhenilok was the next player to make a move, and he did it with the solid A-K suited hand. Bikmetov called with only Q-8, but the board was good to him, with a 8-4-9 flop, then a queen on the turn and another 8 on the river for the full house. Anatoly Ozhenilok couldn’t argue with that and was out in seventh place with 1,287,000 rubles. When Sergey Popuk looked down at pocket aces, he thought it was the best opportunity he’d seen to go for a double-up. And when Alex Pantukhin called with K-Q, his chances looked even better. But the board came K-Q-5-8-7, all in favor of the bigger stack, and Popuk was eliminated in sixth place, which was worth 1,608,000 rubles. Bikmetov couldn’t maintain his chip stack and finally felt forced to move all-in with A-8. Markushevsky was there to call with A-J, and the better hand improved with a jack on the turn and another on the river. Bulat Bikmetov couldn’t beat trips and left in fifth place with 1,930,000 rubles. Sergey Solnstev hadn’t been very active at the table and eventually moved all-in with pocket eights. Markushevsky was again the caller, this time with A-5. An ace fell on the river to give it to the ever-climbing chip leader, pushing Solnstev out in fourth place with 2,380,000 rubles. During three-handed action, it was Pantukhin who took the risk and pushed with pocket sevens, but it was - guess who - Markushevsky with Q-J and the call. He received a jack on the flop, to no one’s surprise, and Alex Pantukhin left the tournament with 3,217,000 rubles for the third place finish. Heads-up play ensued with these chip counts: Vadim Markushevsky 1,200,000 Oleg Suntsov 800,000 While it looked as if Markushevsky was unstoppable, Suntsov used some careful play to slowly chip up. He made his way into the chip lead and never looked back. In the final hand, Markushevsky began with a raise, and when Suntsov called, they saw the 6-9-3 flop. More betting led to the 5 on the turn, at which point Suntsov bet. Markushevsky raised all-in with K-9, but Suntsov called with the dominating pocket queens. The deuce on the river sealed the deal, pushing Vadim Markushevsky out in second place with 5,469,000 rubles for the effort. Oleg Sunstov became the first RPT champion, and for his St. Petersburg victory, he was awarded a PokerStars.com Russian Poker Tour trophy to go along with his 10,616,000 rubles. (Thanks to the PokerStars blog for live updates.)