Poker in Russia - The Demidov Syndrome
When Russian born Ralph Perry made the final three of the 2002 World Series of Poker, few considered any connection between Poker and Russia.
Indeed, given his Americanized name and his many years in the United States, many may not have even realized Perry was Russian. Russian natives were still far more fixated on their chess stars than any Russian poker players.
Poker in Russia
A lot has changed since then. There are now live Russian poker tournaments held on a regular basis, including the Russian Poker Open that Poker Stars set up.
Of course, Russians also have access to the Internet, which enables them to play poker with anyone in the world, at any stakes, any game, any time.
The effects of this are already being felt throughout the poker world. Not unlike the barrage of talented female Russian tennis players emerging over the last decade or so, poker is experiencing a "Russian wave," a consistent flow of talented poker players from Russia.
Russian Stars -- Alex Kravchenko
In 2007, it was Alex Kravchenko. In 1999, Kravchenko had a great run at the Moscow International Tournament Series, which no doubt encouraged him to pursue serious tournament poker. A good thing he did.
Kravchenko went on to cash consistently in numerous tournaments throughout the world, year after year, until 2007, which was truly his breakout year. First, he won a bracelet in the World Series of Poker $1,500 Omaha Hi/Lo event.
He collected several other cashes that year, but none more impressive than his 4th place finish at the main event, won by Jerry Yang, in which he collected a cool million for his efforts.
Russian Stars -- Ivan Demidov
In 2008, it was Ivan Demidov. Ivan, a former professional gamer, had been tearing up the poker world and took that momentum right to the final table of the 2008 WSOP Main Event. He entered the final table 2nd in chips and that's where he ended up, losing a heads up battle to Peter Eastgate and collecting nearly six million dollars for the feat.
In 2009, who knows what other Russian stars will arise? If they are anything like these two, they will be forces that demand recognition.